If you have been serving as a pastor for a while, you probably have humorous and heart-warming pastoral care stories. Here’s one of mine: when the nurses finally allowed me to enter the recovery room to see Edith Coe, I wasn’t prepared for what I would hear. Edith was a wonderful, elderly lady in our church. She had lost her beloved husband, Evans, a few years before, and she had successfully survived a serious surgery.
Even through all of her struggles, she retained her feisty, tenacious spirit. You never knew exactly what she would say; she was refreshing. Standing at the foot of the bed, I said, “Edith, it’s me, Pastor Bob. They tell me you did real well.” Through squinty eyes and exhibiting a shocked expression, all she said was, “Whoa! You’ve gained weight!” I’m not sure if Edith was astute or anesthetized. I chose to believe that the anesthesia was clouding her vision.
True pastoral care though, is more than just a list of ministerial activities that effective women and men provide in the parish. When pastors examine the example of pastoral care that Jesus provided, we are reminded of why we accepted the magnificent call in the first place. Jesus came to his new parish with great determination and was even greeted with singing angel choirs. But he did more than just come: HE BECAME.
HE BECAME FLESH (John 1:14). He became one of them. He identified with his people. He wore their clothes, lived in their neighborhood, and ate their food. Does your congregation see you as one of them?
HE BECAME POOR (2 Cor. 8:9). Isaiah’s great pronouncement: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (Isa. 61:1, NIV) is emphasized by Jesus in Matthew 11:5 when he says of his ministry, “The good news is proclaimed to the poor” (NIV). Perhaps Jesus is reminding us of something we have forgotten: our greatest audience and opportunity for effective ministry may be among the poor of our society. Jesus became poor, totally identifying with the people whom he longed to reach.
HE BECAME OBEDIENT TO DEATH (Phil. 2:8). Jesus did not just come to his new assignment—that would have been just a career. He was on a mission—a mission that his Father had planted in his heart. Jesus was not visiting for a season. He moved in, stayed, and died. The ministry of pastoral care is incarnational ministry. It is not only coming; it is becoming. It is being willing to expend one’s energy and very life for those already in the parish and those surrounding the parish.
Why would you move to the church where you serve and adapt to their style and standard of living? Why? I can think of only one reason: because the Father has sent you on a mission to be his hands and feet to reach hurting and broken people for Christ.
Pleased with the prospects,
USA/Canada Regional Director