Yep…its hot. Heat plus myself being Scottish (used to the cold) and a few stone over what I should be, isn’t a good combination for me. So…I get myself a big fan, stay in as much as I possibly can and do a power of thinking (which is always dangerous! :o))
I’ve been reflecting on pastoral care. I’ve often said that I am not naturally or spiritually gifted as a pastor in the biblical sense. When you take Ephesians 4 ministries and stick one on me, pastor is not the first one you come up with by a long shot. As I said a few posts ago, I’ve made certain stands with regards to ‘pastoring’ but more especially with regards to so called ‘pastoral visitation’ that have proved unpopular which is not surprising considering the current context of The Salvation Army in these days.
Yet, as I said, in spite of not being your ‘sit down and have a random chat about nothing’ sort of level of pastoral care person, pastoral care is very much at my heart in the sense that my soldier’s freedom is always in my mind, their faith and its development is always high on my list.
The thing is that we have a church culture that isn’t open about the things of God in a lot of circumstances. I have a lovely little book by William Booth on my desk, written in 1881 which has a very stark section on pastoral care. He outlines that the peripheries of corps life, community gossip and idle chatter are not best profitable and he encourages direct conversation about the spiritual life of the person you’re visiting.
Now, thats the kind of pastoral care that, actually, I perform rather well in. Don’t ask me, ask those I’ve ‘pastored.’ Its not that you don’t have a desire to understand people’s situations or that you’re not interested in their wider family, or their views on corps life…its just that pastoral care is not about that in a biblical sense. Those sort of relationships are the ones that are built in the context of community…and the vast majority of people in church don’t rate community very high up on their agenda. This is why we have people threatened at the idea of a Ward System (the Army version of cells). Its too ‘in yer face’, involving levels of sharing, accountability, openness and …believe it or not…relationship!
I still maintain that it is still impossible for an officer or an officer couple, even in a corps the size of ours (58 soldiers, 13 adherents, 9 junior soldiers and a few handfuls of ‘friends’to be effectively discipling and ‘pastoring’ every person. Of course, there is always that level of responsibility to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be pastored and discipled, but that doesn’t mean that you must do it yoruself. I also believe that officers who hoard pastoral work to themselves are selling their people short of ministry.
Pastoring and discipleship can’t be separated I think. The more people are discipled, the less they need someone to come and pick up the pieces of their life for them. Why? Because growing and maturing faith is able to meet the challenges of life. Plain and simple.
The irony of delegating pastoral care, utilising others, is that its taboo in current Salvation Army culture. Its seen as evasion of responsibility rather than exercising responsibility. Thankfully we are on the road to seeing shared pastoral care as a reality. Whether it will work will depend on people’s willingness to be open to it and on their ability to look at something afresh. Therein lies the challenge of leadership!
So…that is my heat induced thoughts on that topic!