Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Ron's Pastoral Care 5) The changing order

Ron gave analysis about the current state of pastoral care in churches. There is much that I agree with but my experiences since lead me to a further conclusion (which I shall tack on at the end!)
1.  The old order changes.
By long tradition pastoral care has been seen as the pastor's task. Visiting the sick and lonely, comforting the dying and the bereaved, counselling the troubled, a reconciler in conflict, preparing couples for marriage, welcoming newcomers, instructing new converts, spotting fresh talent.  A second pastor may have been added to the team but the pattern has remained the same. 

In stable societies and churches of limited size the pattern may seem to have worked. But the old order is changing for two main reasons:

i) In our contemporary unstable society, losing so much of its moral and natural support structures, it is manifestly impossible for one (or two) pastors to have all the time or ability to meet all the needs.  An unrealistic, and therefore unwise and unfair expectation, leading to disappointment and frustration.

ii) The New Testament has a much better pattern.
Jesus called twelve 'to be with him and to be sent out' Mark 3:14
Paul urges Timothy as leader of a church to teach others who will teach others 2 Tim 2:1
'One another' is a key NT phrase speaking of shared life and love as a mark of the community of believers and its witness to the world.
Vine and branches in John 15 is a vivid image of that shared life: fruitfulness, the Father's glory, is that 'you love one another as I have loved you' (V.12)
Pastoral care is not a straight line from pastor to people but an open network of the whole community.  No-one is exempt from the responsibility of loving others.

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