Church leaders: here are five biblical themes that speak to pastoral care in your church

Why should you be aiming to cultivate a caring atmosphere in your church, where love, care and encouragement are part of the DNA?

Here are five biblical themes that are relevant:

What Scripture says about the nature of human beings.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to observe the complexities and paradoxes of human beings: if you don’t see any in yourself, you may be looking in the wrong mirror! While it is presumptuous to outline a biblical anthropology in just a few lines in a blog, here are three important things the Bible says about us and the complexity of the human condition:

  • As a bearer of the divine image, every person is worthy of being treated with respect and dignity.
  • As a fallen sinner, every person is in need of redemption.
  • As someone who lives in a broken world, every person is in need of care.

What Scripture says about the ministry of Jesus

As the Good Shepherd*, Jesus and his ministry model what biblical pastoral care looks like. We observe the attention given to those who would otherwise be ignored, his compassion for those in need, his welcome to those who has fallen by the moral wayside. There is his gentle, but firm confrontation of the woman at the well and his interaction with and restoration of Peter on the beach.

What Scripture says about the importance of love.

  • That God is love reminds us that not only does he define it, but those who have his life are also to display it. It’s no accident that the Law could be summed up in the commands to love God and to love neighbour.
  • We also note the significance of love both in the teaching and in the life of Jesus.
  • Two key NT passages underline the significance of love in the outworking of Christian character. It is the first of the fruit of the Spirit and we are told that, without it, we are nothing.

What Scripture says about the nature of the church.

Not only are there specific gifts of mercy that are intended to be at work in the body, but the body analogy reminds us that when one part suffers, the whole suffers and when one part is honoured, the whole rejoices.

What Scripture says about the goal of the Christian life.

Once again, at the risk of oversimplification, here are two key elements:

  • People need to come to Christ and believe in him
  • People need to grow in Christ and become like him.

You probably want to describe the first one as evangelism and the second as discipleship or some such word, but how do these two considerations fit into the practice of pastoral care in church life? It’s possible to short-circuit the caring process by being insensitive or by an unskilful and inappropriate use of a Bible verse, but it’s also possible to lose sight of these two goals.

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What do you think? What other aspects of biblical teaching would you include? How might all of this work out in practice?

*I’ll aim to blog about the biblical motif of the shepherd another day.

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