This is slightly related to a previous post in which I wrote about the need for us pastors to act like we hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and actually use them to bind and loose sins. Chemnitz in the same book that I mentioned earlier talks about the binding and loosing of sins in both a general and an individual sense. Sins are bound in general when through preaching they are rebuked and repentance is preached. They are loosed in a general way when the Gospel is preached, when the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all. But, as Chemnitz notes, the general application is sometimes not enough for someone whose heart is hard and does not hear the Law applying to himself, or in the case of the loosing key, someone who still concludes that there is another verdict awaiting him in heaven other than the one that he just heard in the sermon. For these, Chemnitz says, the binding and loosing keys must be applied in an individual way, so as to bring about the desired effect. The unrepentant sinner must have his sins brought before his eyes in such a way that he cannot but conclude that this word is applying to him. And through the individual application of the loosing key, the frightened sinner must be told that his forgiveness is just as valid in heaven also before God.
All of this is to say that our job is not done when we have merely preached a decent sermon and administered Holy Communion. There is a need to approach individuals who have fallen away, or who are still not certain of their forgiveness, and to preach to them in an individual way. I have been able to to this to some extent, but not as much as I would like. Here is the challenge, and no doubt everyone has grappled with this: it is so difficult to find people at home, difficult to find a good time to approach people, because usually this has to be done in the evenings or on weekends. A pastor’s family has to be flexible in this regard I think, realizing that his “hours” might not be completely normal, that he may have to run out to someone’s house on a Sunday afternoon, or a Saturday morning, or evening a weekday evening to bring the word of repentance or the word of forgiveness to them, or both depending on the situation. The bottom line is that there is more to the Ministry than Sunday sermons. Any suggestions or advice on when or how to approach people who need to have the Law or the Gospel applied to them individually?