PASTORAL CARE – MORE THAN JUST HELP FOR THE HURTING
Pastoral care is more than simply help for the hurting. It is much more a holistic way of applying the discipleship process. And, indeed, pastoral care is globally the pastoral method integrating diverse aspects of prayerful action through fellowship within the activities of the life of a church. The church, from an interactional viewpoint, might exist to serve the community, but the pastor exists to “to shepherd… to take on the role of guiding, watching over, and protecting the entire flock.”
The church, as a community espousing community for the healing of the individual and the whole, understands that fellowship will deliver more than just help for the hurting. It develops something richer. Similarly, the pastor starts from where people are at. But, like Christ, the pastor is not content to leave them there. The pastor wants to take a person on toward Christ, and to that actual destination – the acquisition of the Holy Spirit through transformation of soul.
The pastor is not there just to pick up the pieces after an accident, albeit that is important work for the pastor to do. It is also important work for the pastor to oversee where it is inappropriate for the pastor to engage in it – e.g. where it crosses a gender or social boundary. The pastor’s ultimate goal must be to see a person believe in Jesus – to embrace their sonship or daughtership to the Father, in Christ.
J.I. Packer says, “God intends the lives of believers to be a reflection and reproduction of Jesus’ own fellowship with himself.” The Father and the incarnate Son were one, and to see the Son was to see the Father. We could hardly imagine a closer unity than between the Father and Jesus. And, because we imagine their relationship to be the perfect reflection and reproduction of their relationship as Father and Son, we ought also to aspire to such intimacy with the Father, through the Holy Spirit. The pastor, therefore, seeks to model intimacy with God in an incarnational ministry where “spirit and matter” coalesce. More than just helping, the pastor embodies the presence of the Holy Spirit. Something alluring is seen through the peace the pastor might exemplify, the love they might convey, and the joy they might exude. The witness of the Holy Spirit through pastoral care is peace and love and joy notwithstanding the struggles of life; a life rising from death to life through Christ, as if through a replication of the baptismal image. The way through to this destination is through time spent together; through lingering. And if the pastor cannot linger with all under their charge, they will equip others to spend time discipling those on a pilgrimage to deeper faith.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Steve Wickham is a Baptist pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling. Steve writes at: http://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com.au/ and http://tribework.blogspot.com.au/
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