A practical application of the Scriptures to the relationship between a minister of the Gospel and the people for whose spiritual well-being he is responsible. It is theology because it deals with the things of God and His Word. It is pastoral, because it relates to a pastor and his people.
The basic precepts of pastoral theology are found in the New Testament. Paul addressed the elders of the Ephesian church at Miletus in words that showed his compassion and concern for the people and his own personal commitment to Christ and His service. This vital relationship between pastor and people is further emphasized in Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus. Details of organization and administration are given, but interwoven with them are solemn warnings and appeals that the minister's chief concern is the cultivation of mature Christian character in himself and his people.
The importance of this branch of theology is recognized by every denomination in the Christian Church, and every training college for ministers has a department of pastoral or practical theology. As a rule, pastoral theology embraces training in the art of preaching and the science of homiletics, but the main emphasis is on the character of the pastor and the care of souls. This care is exercised in different ways, such as visitation in homes for the discussion of spiritual problems, or personal interviews in the minister's home or in the office at the church. In recent years there has been a greater emphasis on psychology as an aid to pastoral care. Many larger churches have widened the scope of their pastoral concern by appointing chaplains for industry, schools, and colleges.