Preaching and Pastoral Care (2)

DOES ANYONE CARE ABOUT PASTORAL CARE?

Pastoral care is caring for people and caring about people. It is not that those who are ‘in sin’ need pastoral care and those who are not ‘in sin’ do not. Pastoral care is much bigger than addressing sin in people’s lives, though all too often this seems to be the only starting point and the main focus. It certainly is for Pattison, who says that pastoral care is directed towards the elimination and relief of sin.

Neither is it that those who are sick need pastoral care and that those who are well do not. Everyone needs to be loved and cared for, and perhaps any concise definition of pastoral care is too rigid for comfort. Pastoral care is caring for people in the same way that Jesus did and still does, is it not?

According to Stott, “A good shepherd’s care of his sheep is four-fold – feeding, guiding (because sheep easily go astray), guarding (against predatory wolves) and healing (binding up the wounds of the injured). And all four of these activities are aspects of the ministry of the Word.”

With Stott, my personal plea for the church is that we treat them as real people with real questions; that we grapple in our sermons with real issues; that we build bridges into the real world in which they live and love, work and play, laugh and weep, struggle and suffer, grow old and die. As Stott says, “We have to provoke them to think about their life in all its moods, to challenge them to make Jesus Christ the Lord of every area of it, and to demonstrate His contemporary relevance.”

Here, then, is the cornerstone of pastoral care: making Jesus relevant to people. Prime maintains that “The call to shepherd God’s people and to teach them his Word is a special calling because of its strategic and unique importance for the spiritual well-being of Christ’s flock.” Forsyth says that “It is that word that the preacher must bring to the people; it is in that word that he himself must live.”

All too often Evangelicals pride themselves on a right understanding of the gospel, yet what they preach and how they live are often in contradiction, that according to Tidball. Gibbs agrees and says that “Those who turn to Christianity and churches seeking truth and meaning have left empty-handed, confused by the apparent inability of Christians themselves to implement the principles they profess.” True pastoral care requires a life of Godly integrity. Stronger than that, it demands it.

True preaching presupposes a Church, and not merely a public; and wherever the Church idea fades into that of being a mere religious club or association you have a decay in preaching, that according to Forsyth. If preaching is no longer considered relevant or helpful by the world, the problem lies with the church – not the world. To focus on the world’s reaction to preaching is to focus only on the symptom, for the illness is in the church.

THE MARRIAGE OF PREACHING AND PASTORAL CARE

Stott says that “Preaching and pastoral care go together like a right and left hand, or a right and left foot. One without the other is an imbalance. When we proclaim the Gospel, we must go on to unfold its ethical implications, and when we teach Christian behaviour we must lay its Gospel foundations.” He continues: “The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. It is people who communicate primarily, not words or ideas.”

Gibbs addresses the issue of how and why Christians expect people to “come to church”. “Churches cannot stand apart from society and invite people come to them on their terms. Rather, churches must go to people where they are and communicate in terms that will make sense to them, addressing the issues that shape their lives and speaking their language.”

Therefore, does Stott say that “We who are called to be Christian preachers today should do all we can to help the congregation to grow out of dependence on borrowed slogans and ill-considered clichés, and instead to develop their ability to distinguish between truth and error, good and evil.”

According to Prime, preaching and pastoral care belong together. “Preaching and pastoral care help each other. When we preach to those we know well, and whose situations we understand, we apply God’s truth more relevantly, almost unconsciously.” Dr John Goldingay wrote that he was increasingly struck by the way Scripture itself relates its message to the lives of those to whom it is addressed; and by the diversity in the ways in which it does so. The apostle Paul characteristically addressed specific congregations with specific needs, and made the concrete application of the message quite explicit.

The New Testament uses more than thirty verbs to denote the activity of preaching, according to Runia. “Yet preaching is not a simple repetition of the message of Scripture,” he says, but “it must be addressed to people in their concrete historical situation. Without relevance there is no sermon, for a sermon is God’s relevant word for his church today.”

This is the marriage of preaching and pastoral care. The love that preaches values other persons as worthy ends in themselves, that according to Baker, and the pattern and inspiration for the marriage of preaching and pastoral care are found in Jesus Christ.