When describing the need for careful oversight of a congregation people often think of the example of Richard Baxter. Baxter is of course a good example, and I have fairly frequently referred to Baxter in posts on this blog. However, we must not think Baxter originated the idea of regular, systematic visitation of one’s congregation.
Theodore Beza, in his Life of Calvin, describes some developments in the pastoral ministry in Geneva in 1550:
“It was determined that the ministers should at a certain season of the year, attended by an elder and a deacon, go round all the wards of the city, to instruct the people, and examine every individual briefly as to his faith. This they were to do, not only in sermons … but also in each house and family. It is scarcely credible how great benefit ensued” (trans. Henry Beveridge)