The phrase and practice of pastoral care has been largely corrupted by our therapy culture and an introspective church. It has been sabotaged by unhealthy and unbiblical expectation. Instead of dynamic listening for the shepherd and embracing movement, it has become preoccupied with settling the sheep and safeguarding against disruption. It knows little of the unpredictability Jesus promised those led by the Spirit.
Yet, pastoral care at its best involves helping people surrender their yes to the ongoing movement and ministry of Jesus; encouraging and enabling them to live in sustained abandonment to the mission and movement of God. Effective pastoral care leads people beyond themselves and introduces them to an encounter with Jesus that catalyses greater spiritual health and growth.
Somehow, we've reduced pastoral care to something akin to helping believers feel good in bad times.
This misses scripture by too much and often ignores culture altogether.
Biblically functioning, culturally transforming pastoral care leads people beyond this moment in their lives into God's movement FOR their lives. Such an approach rarely gets the applause of men but it does advance the life of God in man.
Consider Luke 9:59-60
Jesus said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
In a time of great personal loss and crisis, Jesus doesn't counsel or comfort the man, instead he challenges him towards outward focus, and then… he leaves him!
On the surface it looks like Jesus wasn't there for the man, when the man needed him most; it looks like he chose mission above compassion. He calls the man from his moment of pain into a movement for change. And yet it is inconceivable that the good shepherd did not care. Perhaps Jesus knew that authentic pastoral care leads people to live beyond themselves and their loss.
What if we elevated people from pastoral projects to pastoral partners?
What if we did more than pastor the individual?
What if, together with broken people we set about our Father's business of pastoring the city and leading it into life?
We might just find ourselves caught up in a movement that leads us beyond therapy and into transformation.