Lecture 01: Introduction to Pastoral Care and Leadership
I have been a pastor for thirty-three years in three different churches in Oregon, The Netherlands and again in Portland, Oregon. My pastoral experience has been in mid-sized to larger churches. So, what I will be sharing really comes from the experience that I have had. I want to merge the subject of care and leadership in this course because pastoral ministry is about care, but it is also about leading; to have one without the other wouldn’t be very healthy. I want to emphasize more on the methodological side of things; this is not so much a pastoral theology course. My bent is also to make sure we think in terms of theologically why we do what we do. We can be too far off on theory and then get so far off on the practicum to the point we don’t have a clear foundation. I will be dealing with a lot of subjects from ministering to people in the hospital to approaching people in a home in regards to sacraments and wedding. Then we will move more into pastoral leadership issues such as leading boards and staff in regards to all of the mechanics associated with that thus being a broad range of things.
II. Theological Framework
A. Theological Nature of Ministry is Service:
So, as mentioned, I want to look at a theological frame as well as an application frame. In a theological frame, there are clear issues for example whether it is the business of the church to do a wedding. Does our theology give us any guidelines? Should the church be in the marrying business? When should someone be baptized; should it be after a lengthy discipleship process? Does church history give us any council; does Scripture give us any hints? What does eschatology say about burial and cremation? People get confused about whether one is legitimate or illegitimate. Is it okay to council divorce where you have a marriage that is dying? What are some guidelines for this? What makes Biblical leadership different from cooperate leadership? Should it look the same? There are a lot of pastors today that see themselves under the expectation of a church as being CEO’s, but is a pastor called to be a CEO? Does God give a clear structure for ministry? How does archaeology relate to issues like ambition or performance? This gives you a flavor of some of the issues that a pastor faces in ministry. But a pastor needs to be sure that they think theologically about these.
There are three core issues in regards to a framework of ministry that are important when one begins to think about ministry. The first issue concerns the very nature of ministry; someone says that they are going into the ministry but what is ministry? For example, if we look at the Greek word translated as ministry, it is a word in the use of Greek is borrowed from the common language of the day. The idea goes back to people waiting on table to doing very mundane things to serve people. This tells us that those who thought about ministry, thought of a good word to use which went back to what ministry should be, service. That is the very nature of the word. This was demonstrated by Christ as said in Mark 10 that I have come not to be served but to serve. In thinking about ministry, it is good to start basically in what the word itself means. It is a commitment to serve God, first of all, and to serve people, not to have people to serve me. This is the nature of the term. It is the chief activity of the church. It was what Paul was called to do to fulfill his ministry. It implies words like submission and humility; this is what we do. So, this is the first core word that we are thinking about and that’s service. So, service is core to understanding this thing called doing pastoral care and leadership. I am doing ministry; I am serving.
A second word that we need to think about is being a shepherd. As someone who is leading ministry; our designation is shepherd. It seems a strange word if you think about it. The term is actually agrarian; we don’t live in an agrarian culture. Andy Stanley some years ago in a leadership journal article questioned whether we needed to change and update our terminology. But what would that be, a coach, a captain; it is hard to find a word. We come back to this word; though it may be perceived to be archaic or culturally irrelevant, it is hard to come up with a better metaphor in talking about ministry; it is a word that does imply leadership and also care. These are the two things that this course is about. God chose to use this term as the overarching metaphor, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, to define leadership. In ancient culture, leaders were called shepherds and this had a bearing on Old Testament text. This is how God has chosen to identify himself. He is the shepherd, the good shepherd as written in Psalm 23 or Psalm 28, Psalm 95 and so many other places in the Old Testament. Moses was trained as a shepherd. It is what Jesus loved to refer himself to as the good shepherd as in John 10:10 or John 21. It is what Peter decided when he spoke to the early church referring to the leadership as those who must shepherd the flock. Paul exhorted the elders at Ephesus when he was with them in Acts 20; he mandated that they must shepherd the people.
B. Theological Nature of a Shepherd:
So the definition of shepherd helps us understand the nature of ministry. It is shepherding and behind that word, there are other words, like protector. So, the very nature of the pastoral task is to protect. It is because our people are under attack; you see this and sense it. They come is wounded and bloodied and muddy, typically after a week. You realize that part of your task is to protect them. Thieves can break in as Jesus warned in John 10. So, we are shepherds of people and we are protectors of people. This is what we should be doing. Part of my protection is pray over the souls of our people. Part of what shepherding implies is providing. People come in hungry and they need to be fed. This is what shepherds do. A real tragedy in a lot of churches today, people are still hungry leaving church. They are thin and lean because they are not being fed. So, this is the essential nature and task of a shepherd. A shepherd also guides and leads; they take people and point the way. In a very visionary way, the church needs to go in a certain direction. You can also bring that shepherding into individual lives where you pray with people and ask God for wisdom in their lives. So, shepherd guide, lead and also clarify mission and visions. This is an essential task of guiding. You ask, what should we be dreaming and why are we here; what is our mission? The vision is where you are going and strategy is asking how we do this. The tactics are who, how and when; these things are part of what shepherds do in guiding and leading.
Part of a shepherd’s task is to exercise authority. This is what shepherds do. Our people need someone who represent and reflect the power of God. This is an essential task also; it is often abused but part of exercising authority is to maintain the peace. It is to call people out when they need to be called out; to call sin out when it needs to be called out. This is to remind people that we have come out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light. This is all about authority mentioned in Colossians 1:13. Certainly, part of the shepherding task is to extend care and to help people when they go through hurt, both physical and emotional or spiritual. So, when we think about this task of caring and ministry, it is about service, identity; it is about what we do. We are shepherds who shepherd. There is another essential word that we need to mention. This all happens in what we call the church. It is always important that we understand the nature of the church; what it is and what it isn’t. It isn’t strictly cooperation or business; it isn’t for profit. Neither is it a club; it is something very unique. Those who lead the church need to understand what the church is.
C. Nature of the Church:
1. The Church is a Community: The church is a community of souls; it isn’t a group of individuals. Too often in our western culture; in our very individualistic culture, we approach it as a lot of individuals with each coming to meet their own needs. Sometimes peaching and get focused on the individual. In order to truly serve and shepherd, a pastor has to speak to cooperate; to the body. They have to preach to the body as a whole. They need to remind people that what they are doing, they are doing together. This is because of the individualism that is out there. So, it is brothers and sisters who have been baptized and in cooperated into the body of Christ. We are a family; Ephesians 1:5 tells us this. We have been brought into this ego system of inter-connectedness. When we do this work of pastoring, I realize that I come to serve, I come as a shepherd and I work in this community of souls.
2. The Church is a Reconciled Community: This is a community that is also a reconciled community. This goes back to the Gospel as we have been reconciled. The church should be perceived as an experiencing reconciled community. It should be the place where people come to get right with God and to get right with each other. All too often, it is the place where people fight. It is the very antithesis of this where people come and grow in their estrangement when we should be growing in an intimacy. So the very nature of ministry, a shepherd has to see that the church is a community of souls and he must fight for reconciliation.
3. The Church is a Missional Community: The church is also a missional community. It is a community of souls, a reconciled community and a missional community. Therefore, a pastor’s task in this definition of church is to see this as a place that is very intentional. We are not just drifting and going through the motions. I main work is not to turn on the light or even preach a sermon. My task is to lead this community to be very intentional as in missional and purposeful. So, we come in this intention to be the body of Christ that complements one another. A big part of our task is to bring people together. The church is not just people sitting in rows with the pastor up front speaking; it is people who gather along with the pastor with each complimenting one another with their gifts. This is what it should be; this is the very nature of the church. So, understanding ministry means that I had better understand what the church is. This is how Paul describes the church in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12; it is a body that comes together that compliments one another. If the church is really healthy, led by a servant who is shepherding and understands the church; then what this means is that we gather together with someone with the gift of mercy ministering to someone who is hurting and who needs mercy. Someone with the gift of wisdom is helping someone over here in terms of a decision that they need to make. Then someone with the gift of serving is helping someone who just needs to help someone in their move. A pastor with his gifts of teaching or leading is helping to shepherd the whole body. So, this is what it should look like, instead of a more passive audience. As I reflect back over my past 30 years of pastoring, I think I encouraged too much passivity. I think I felt trapped in this model. Instead of saying to people we have gathered here together intentionally; we are on a mission and we are all in this.
The church is defined as the bride of Christ. This gives the pastor a sense of what he is called to do. Paul refers to the church as the bridge of Christ in Ephesians 5. There is another passage that is often overlooked is 2nd Corinthians 11 where Paul in the metaphor sees himself as the one who is called to present the bride to the groom. In a sense that is a pastoral task; the pastor’s mission is to help adorn and equip and beautify the bride, so to speak in order to present to the groom one day. It is like a father who has nurtured and protected and shepherded and cared and instructed his daughter. He then walked down the aisle and presents his daughter to the groom. This is a metaphor Paul picks up on and says that this is the nature of church. It is what pastors do. It is also like a priesthood; Peter defines the church this way in 1st Peter 2. So, if we are a priesthood as in believer priests, we are all living stones working together to build the church. This also speaks of the church as a sacred place; it is a holy place where we show reverence. And a pastor must model that by he carries himself and how he approaches the Word of God and people. Sometimes in our casualness, we have lost something of the sacred; sometimes even in our dress and the way we approach things. We forget that the church is a royal priesthood as Peter puts it. This says something about dignity. It tells us that one of our primary tasks in gathering is to worship God. This is all definitional I know. We are sort of laying the framework to do ministry which is this act of service. I tell seminary students that they are in servant school. If you don’t want to be a servant, please find something else to do. We are learning how to be shepherds in this school and how to work in this context called the church. We need to understand these things if we are going to be effective and caring and if we are going to lead.
D. This is Our Mission. A missional community is not only internal but it is to prepare people to go out and share the Gospel and win a lost world. I think of the mission of the church in four different ways. The church has a mission to go after truth and to respond to truth and what we think of worship which is a response to revelation. So, perusing revelation truth and responding to it. The third mission of the church is to love one another. The fourth mission is to share our faith and win lost people. Every church ultimately has those four tasks; that is the mission. So, the church is a community of souls, a reconciled community and a missional community. Pastors need to be attentive to those three definitions of the church. So, in summary, these are some foundational pieces in order to get our definitions right. Pastors are shepherds; they serve and lead this thing called the church. We will begin with pastoral care in our next lecture, talking particularly on the care of the soul.
A. Culture of Involvement vs passivity: Is there something you do to structure your service as to the programs you organize to communicate a model of involvement rather than passivity?
Well, we have been so programmed to passivity, it isn’t easy to transform overnight. I think it is a full process that begins with all of us being on the same page of understanding this. Ephesians 4:11-13 is one of the most important texts today, more relevant than most for the church. It says that God has given church gifted leaders, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints. So, too often churches have this mentality that they are hiring the pastor to do the ministry. He is in the ministry; I have a job over here and I teach in a school I do this or that. So, this is what we pay pastors to do. That creates a passive environment. Theologically, it starts with helping the people to understand their identity. They are called to do the work of service. My task as a pastor to equip; this is a term that goes back to mending. This is like a doctor putting a bone in place. In secular Greek, it is used in terms of mending nets. This is our task as shepherds; we serve by equipping and caring and then do the work of ministry. It isn’t that the pastors don’t do ministry; we all do this ministry together. I find that most churches don’t really get this. I think the second thing once we clarify our identity; part of my equipping you is to make sure that we all understand our gifts. If we are going to do this effectively, how can we if we don’t understand how God has gifted us? Again, I find that Christians don’t realize that they have gifts. They don’t really know what gifts they have. So, they often work in areas that they really don’t fit into and that aren’t them.
So, once they begin to understand their giftedness, I then think the third thing the church needs to do is to release people for the job. So, if a person has a gift of mercy, I want to move them from passivity to activity. This can take on a number of dimensions. It might mean going to the hospital because they might be able to do a far better job than I can. I know that there are always people who are hurting. It could be giving people permission to pray for those people, especial those people who have a gift of mercy. These people would count it a great privilege to minister to you and pray for healing. I think the task that the church has is to help people understand their gift and figure out how it looks like unleashed. This is not just during the week but also when the church body comes together. That is where there has to be a lot of creativity. I think a pastor has to model this by engaging people when he preaches. He isn’t asking questions that he already knows the answers to but questions that engage people to get them thinking. Why do you think Jesus responded this way? There is no clear right or wrong answer. Why do you think the text goes this way? So, passivity moving to activity is to get people actively thinking and pondering. If somebody came in today and sat next to you and said that they don’t know what the church is? Why do you people gather? Would you know how to answer that question? I think part of the pastoral task is to make people feel uncomfortable in a good way.
It is to get people living out the one another’s because that isn’t passivity but instead it is activity. I go back over a list here; we are called to be a body that loves one another as stated in 1st John 4. Let’s think about what that looks like and perhaps that is where we dialogue with the people. For example, to greet one another as Christ greeted us. There is some real theology to think through here. It isn’t as simple as we think. How about provoking one another; there is a Biblical place for provoking. That is part of creating an active environment. This doesn’t mean to aggravate others but we can provoke others by asking whether a person’s walk with the Lord closer now than last year. This is intended to get people thinking. What is keeping that from happening? Submitting to one another and bearing one another’s burdens; this is all about moving from passivity to activity. We need to train people to go from passivity to activity. What about hospitality? Over the last twenty or so years, people are much more private; they no longer invite people into their homes like they used to. We have become passive even in our homes. What if everybody in the church determined that their homes were completely open for visitors several times a year?