12 months…12 ministries PASTORAL CARE (#5)
BY PETER BIGGS
Each month we will focus on one of these 12 areas of church ministry:
•DISCIPLESHIP •WORSHIP •PREACHING •EVANGELISM •PASTORAL CARE •SERVING the poor •HEALING & DELIVERANCE •CHILDRENS Ministry •YOUTH MINISTRY •SENIORS Ministry •MENS & WOMENS Ministries • ADMINISTRATION
Many current studies show loneliness to be epidemic. Jim Gaetes meets many patients in hospital, some facing huge health challenges, with no one in their lives. No one will visit – they may die alone…God cares. The church has so many resources – called and gifted people with love and wisdom. People who visit the shut ins, share the burdens of loss and grief. Or help us find the Lord on the road, escaping destructive behaviours. At another level ‘Pastoral Care’ imparts blessing, meaning and encouragement at the ‘milestones’ in life. Births, baptisms, marriage, and death. May this small glimpse of God’s provision for us encouage you to be a receiver and a giver of HIS care. PB
Life’s a journey
In his classic Christian book ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ John Bunyan describes a person named Christian travelling the road toward heaven. He encounters various terrains and meets different travelling companions. Usually they join him on the road at critical times.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come…” we sing.
Every person’s life contains challenges. Stuff happens – perhaps out of the blue – with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes it’s wounds from our childhood that beset us.
Health will break down at some time – period. Sometimes our mental and emotional health can fail. Debt and finances flounder, the marriage is languishing, work is so stressful. Any of these issues can and do frequently result in fear and anxiety then weariness and depression. Fixes are not easy to see…
At such times it is not uncommon for us to compound these negative states by ‘medicating’ them.
Activities such as porn use, alcohol, drugs and excessive materialism give us a temporary rush only to bring their own additional negative consequences, sometimes completely eclipsing the original cause for doing them.
A main agenda of those helping people with addiction recovery is to uncover the original reasons they started using.
Discerning the three enemies
The purpose of these articles is to describe the means God uses to join us on the the road with timely help. Care can be as simple as a neighbour bringing a casserole around after mom died. Genuine caring is not the sole domain of Christians! However here we describe the specific care that comes from God – sometimes directly by His Spirit or via those called and gifted by Him.
Threaded through the rational reasons for our malaise are what the scriptures describe as us wrestling. All cannot be rationally explained, it is a spiritual reality:
• our sinful nature (Galatians 5:16-18)
• the world (and it’s allure – 1 John 2:15-29)
• the demonic (arrows of the evil one – Ephesians 6). Sometimes discerning these things is not hard, a temptation, such as lust we may recognise.
Other times there are factors in our lives that hold us in a kind of bondage. We may be ignorant of this. Love of money was such a thing for the rich young ruler, who had lived ‘righteously’ but was blind to his primary issue. Jesus discerned this.
Luke 18: 22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
We all need other’s eyes
There are important 50/50 kinds of choices (with real consequences) we face, such as which job to take, which college or program to take, even who to marry… The caring eyes of another (likely an Elder) can be invaluable at such times.
Perhaps there is chronic failure in an area that no amount of self recrimination and repentance seems to work (indicating an as yet undiscerned deeper issue).
It is common to be able to genuinely discern issues in others (as therapists do daily)
and yet be hopelessly unable to be objective about ourselves.
So many people have no one who cares…
Veteran Pastor and now Chaplain at Chilliwack Hospital is Jim Gaetz. He typifies the timeliness and importance of ‘pastoral ministry’ more than most…
“Once a week I especially focus on the Psych ward where people will line up to talk to me. Many are depressed and suicidal,” he says. Gaetz’s usual opening line when approaching the patient is, ‘Hi I’m Jim, a chaplain. I’m just stopping by to make sure you’re not worried or scared.’
Not surprisingly most patients do not say ‘I’m fine’. “People just open up”, says Gaetz.
“Just today a man told me that he’d just heard that he has pancreatic cancer and probably only has weeks to live. Lots have a faith background but have drifted. Facing eternity they want to connect with God.”
Asked how often these kinds conversations happen, Gaetz responds, “well, I’d have to say at least twice every week.”
A number of patients ask me to pray with them. I find that there are lots of lonely people.They have no one, no one who cares. Perhaps from out of town, perhaps kids have moved away and so many dropped out of church, so there’s no support or visits from anyone.” Although dealing with some tragic situations, on a personal level Gaetz is not weighed down. “I never leave depressed,” he says, “I leave grateful to God for enabling me to be there.”
‘Hi I’m Jim, a chaplain. I’m just stopping by to make sure you’re not worried or scared.’
Being a recipient
Pastoral Care needs a giver and a receiver. Often the receiver seeks it out, but not always. Pride or trust issues may inhibit our being honest. Our individualistic culture has diminished respect for such roles as Pastor, even parents.
Trust is a huge component. A wise leader once said, ‘Never trust a leader who doesn’t have a limp’ – by this meaning some- one you sense has experienced brokenness and will have mer- cy and love.
The last thing we need is to suffer the pain of a judgemental response. Or having bared our heart, not feel like the pastoral person really got it – with them just going on about themselves!
“Never trust a leader who doesn’t have a limp”
FIVE PASTORAL CARE roles
The local church (along with the wider church) has people gifted and called by God to serve us in various capacities. The New Testament lists these gifts,
Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (emphasis mine)
There is a variety – a range of Pastoral Care giftings. Each have significant differences and are complementary. The calling they have bears fruit. They also carry a measure of responsibility and authority.
all pastoral care givers are excellent listeners
For more on the art of listening: www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-lessons-in-good-listening
1. The Pastor (could be likened to a G.P. of care)
Not all people with leadership – often with the title ‘Pastor’ are pastoral. Frequently especially when leading larger congregations their gifting is one of preaching&teaching + imparting overall vision & strategy. Your ‘Pastor’ is not just your friend, but a person who carries a God given, congregational acknowledged authority to ‘speak into your life’ – it might be an Associate Pastor, or a homegroup leader.
Pastors are generalists, and God has called and equipped them in soul care. They have a responsibility for the flock, to guide them well.
Pastoral care comes from a gift of mercy, and is easily felt. True wisdom for others comes first from love.
Facing a big decision? Just heard of a major health challenge? Defeated and discouraged?
In faith, make an appointment with your Pastor who may be a homegroup leader or an Associate Pastor. Go and expect God will speak through them. Listen for that one thing that grabs you.
The multibly gifted and pastorally insightful Rick Warren has vision for Saddleback Church: “It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance and encouragement.” They have an extensive and free counselling ministry.
2. The Counsellor (a ‘consultant’)
Counselling is helpful in addressing acute need. In an ideal world it would be available as part of a local church’s ministry.
Peace Portal Alliance Church in South Surrey is a large church that has developed a community counselling resource – Peace Portal Counselling Centre. Susie Lang- Gould is the Director and a Registered Clinical Counsellor
(RCC). She is also part of the church leadership team. “Our counsellors are all qualified RCCs who are Christians. If a client asks for prayer we certainly can respond and indeed we do pray for our clients who happen to be
mostly people of faith.”
As the church deals with people, many of whom have complex emotional challenges Lang-Gould also sees the Centre as a resource for the Pastors of the church, sometimes helping with mental health issues, as well as helping clients to access other specific resources outside the church. “I think of churches who don’t have this,” she says. “It would be hard.”
3. The encourager
An often overlooked but biblically listed gift is that of encouragement. Romans 12:8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. Some believers are especially gifted in encouragement.
Again in Pilgrims Progress (the metaphor for the Chris- tian journey through life), Christian encounters timely travelling companions, named Faithful, Mercy and Hopeful. Such people can help us see the cup as half full. They my help us count our present blessings and remember God’s past faithfulness.
4. The mentor/coach
This is usually a highly skilled person. Their input might be through a book or a seminar, but even within the local church some people are able to be life coaches to others. Helping them set SMART goals, challenging, exhorting and teaching.
5. The Spiritual Director
The recipient of spiritual direction is often meeting regulary with their Spiritual Director to discern the presence and purposes of God on the journey through life. Kathy Kiesser, Associate Pastor at The Tapestry Church in Richmond comments on reasons people seek out Spiritual Direction, “well there are the tough questions, such as ‘where is God? I’ve got Cancer’ but there can be a restlessness, a dissatisfaction, they want something deeper.”
“It is walking alongside a person,” she says.
For more information about Spiritual Direction go to: soulstream.org
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. can be a very problematic verse, and although true may feel more like a cliche!
However one has to add in the ‘over time’ element. The Spiritual Director may help with this perspective, and discern things God may be doing in the present in light of this. They may also bring hope that the present challenges will be an important time for a future ministry.
Hebrews 12:11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (emphasis mine)
John 15:2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
This is likely not the first thing one thinks of when suffering.
A Pastor may certainly have one or more of these callings, but likely more for crises not an ongoing maintenance way.
A healthy distrust of one’s objectivity
To summerize, a disciple of Jesus is a humble learner. God has provided for the lessons life brings. We need a healthy distrust of our own hearts.
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things.
Romans 7:15-25 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.