Last night a group of us got together to think about how we care for one another in the church. We began by focusing on the fact that pastoral care is not just something we give others; we need to also recognise our need of it. We cannot help feed others unless we ourselves are being fed.
Secondly pastoral care is not one person’s responsibility it is everyone’s responsibility. It happens whenever we teach the bible to others in a way that is applied to real life. But it also happens relationally when we live out our discipleship alongside each other, but it isn’t automatic but intentional.
The Bible assumes we as believers will be engaged in this:
"I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another." Romans 15:14
"Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Cor 13:11
"Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." Col 3:16-17
"Therefore encourage one another with these words." 1 Thess 4:18
"See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebs 3:12-13
Different levels of care:
Everyday/everyone/low level – based on growing relationship with individuals and within the group.
What does it look like and when does it happen? It looks like any number of things here are some: taking in interest in someone, exercising hospitality, texting someone you know has a tough week, asking how someones week has been and how they are spiritually, asking what encouragements there have been.
When does it happen? It can happen any time and any place but here are some we may want to intentional utilise: Sunday at church over coffee, at start/end of home group, whenever we meet up and ask about each others lives, when we open our homes to someone
Medium/more formal level – involves deeper relationships and commitment.
What does it look like and when does it happen? In a 1-2-1/prayer splodge (triplet or group), visit to house, having someone over for a meal, a set accountability relationship, a agreed meeting times
When? It can be part of home group, or regularly, or as and when.
High Level – Is basically crisis care and support.
The difference between care and pastoral care:
However we can be doing these things and it be just care rather than pastoral care. Pastoral care is specifically when we are seeking to bring the Bible and its truths to bear on people’s lives.
In pastoral care we don’t want people to feel better about themselves or their situation but to grasp the gospel and its implications and thus change. That means we must be teaching the bible to people as part of our pastoral care, ‘speaking the truth in love’.
The Bible is our pastoral care manual, because it is realistic about:
• the problems and pressures we face in life (Heat)
• the nature of our hearts and reactions (Heart)
• the solution (Cross)
• the right response of faith (Fruit)
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 we see a good example of the Bibles realism.
Heat: What is the pressure here?
Paul and the team are facing troubles, under pressure beyond what they can bear, despairing of life itself, under death sentence.
Heart: What is the natural hearts response?
(9)self reliance, despair
Cross: What ought we to focus on?
But Paul and co do not give in to the pressure, or respond from sin in their hearts but they respond by grace, recognising God’s character as a God of compassion, the comfort God provides, and the comfort that comes through Christ who has shared in our sufferings.
Fruit: What results flow from a deeper understanding of the gospel?
They rely on God not themselves and are able to comfort others as they have been comforted, and do not loss their hope and despair but are able to live in the light of their hope.
Some basics of pastoral care:
1. Men deal with men, women with women
2. Help people see that factors like other people, upbringing and the stresses and strains of life are not the problem, ultimately our hearts are.
3. Help people see that we underestimate our sinfulness
4. Help people see that we underestimate our new identity in Christ
5. Examine the gospel gap in their living and how they may have filled it with other things.
6. Apply the gospel – not legalism, or activism or pop psychology to their lives.
We then spent some time thinking through some situations, none of these is exhaustive but was simply to get people thinking about the how and when as well as how the gospel can be applied in every situation.
Work through these asking what is the Heat, Heart, Cross, Fruit? What are the right contexts and ways to deal with this person? How is the gospel gap showing itself in their lives? What passages of scripture would it be helpful to look at and why?
1. Mel has a problem with one of her girls, and she begins to open up to you over a coffee, no matter what they try Elle just rebels and refuses to do whatever they say. And it isn’t just in the home, but at church and it is embarrassing. Mel is at the end of her patience and has recently found herself snappy and aggressive towards Elle.
2. Simon has always been career motivated; he was a high flier earning and was well respected in the business community. But then with the downturn he has lost his job and despite having lots of interviews has not got a job. Simon is getting depressed and withdrawing, his wife is working so they are OK financially but he is beginning to be aggressive and resentful towards her.
3. John comes along faithfully to church every Sunday and is very active in lots of areas, if a job needs doing John will volunteer. He is a willing participant in home group but you notice that his answers are always based on what we can do.
4. Holly knocks on your door distraught her best friend finally passed away this morning after a long battle with cancer.
5. Doug confides in you over coffee that he simply can’t stand someone in his home group, in fact he has stopped going so that he doesn’t have to see them. It’s OK in church, he says, because he can just keep out of their way, he asks if he can join your group.