What is Pastoral Care?
Pastoral Care is an important ministry within the church body but the name may be a bit deceiving. The activities are to care for one another, or as Christ our Lord has commanded us, we are to love one another. Both Pastoral Care and obedience to the command of Christ is to engage in acts of love and compassion that are focused on the needs of others.
I will share a few quick, true stories that illustrate the ministry of Pastoral Care. Keep in mind that these activities are not for the Pastor alone, nor the staff, nor those in the ministry. The stories here should be a part of the normal Christian life. As Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
The Death Bed
A call was received from a woman who was bringing her father into her home for hospice care. Though he had heard the gospel of salvation numerous times, he was not a born again believer. He was now asking to talk to someone and she placed the call.
The visits were ninety minutes to two hours twice per week for the most part. The first couple of meetings were simply pleasant get acquainted chats. Once common ground was found, the dialogue became more personal. It was obvious that the man had a great deal of anxiety and it was time to probe deeper. Indeed there were regrets and unforgiveness of many forms; to others, from others and of self. The man was tearful as the topics were discussed.
The man learned of real forgiveness and the source of it being Jesus Christ. About three weeks into the visits he prayed and surrendered himself to Christ and sought forgiveness. The transformation was seen more and more with each visit. His salvation was now as obvious as his anxiety had been in the beginning. He was more peaceful and more open to meaningful discussion. He was able to confront and deal with the issues that had plagued him.
The love of Christ had been put on display for the man to see. His daughter and son-in-law took him into their home and served him as best they could. He was fully aware of the burden that he was placing upon them. The visitor was faithful to come, to listen and to share the truth with him. A friendship and trust was established. He first made it through the holidays and then to his birthday before his passing. The man, the family, and the visitor were now able to rejoice with thanksgiving in what had transpired.
There is a man who went through two weeks of constant and intense pain. I maintained contact with him and I was fully aware of all that he was experiencing during his endurance of this debilitating disease. He is a member of a vibrant church body that prides itself on caring about the needs of one another. He is active in a number of roles and knows a large number of the members of the church which he attends.
The question that I had during that span of time was, “Where are the members of this loving, caring congregation?” The question in my mind was one of curiosity, not judgment. Other than the involvement of immediate family members, the church seemed to miss the boat in this case. The man had made the issue known through prayer requests to the church, posts on his Facebook page and direct communication to a dozen members of the congregation.
The response in my opinion seems disappointing. The response from his point of view was saddening. Apart from communications that he instigated during the two week period, there was nearly no one who reached out in compassion or empathy. His pastor communicated via email a few times that the prayer request was indeed a matter of prayer. One fellow congregant inquired through a short text conversation as to his condition and progress. Beyond these occurrences were a small number of comments in reaction to the Facebook posts.
Anyone who is homebound for an extended period of time greatly appreciates someone reaching out in concern and taking even five minutes to care for him or her. Without Pastoral Care as an active ministry, curiosity about a church family could cross over to become judgmental. We need to care for one another with care and empathy.
Many instances arise in all of our lives when receiving a simple phone call would do wonders in the lifting of our spirits. All that is needed is the courage to dial a number, ask for the correct person and then ask simply, “How can I pray for you?” This question works well in person or on the phone. It asks for a specific answer and it often opens a person up to a needed conversation opportunity.
We need not have the right answer or the correct words. We need to be willing to listen and to care. A moment of prayer in preparation is good which is simply to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the words to say, the words that the person needs to hear. It is amazing how frequently the person will respond at a later time stating how timely the words were for him or her.
We need to make it a point to contact someone when the Lord brings someone to mind. It is often the time that someone needs to be lifted up, even if we do not know what the person is dealing with in his or her life. Show the love and care of Christ to one another in this simple way.
Make it a Lifestyle
The idea of ministering one to another is not a function solely relegated to the pastoral staff. Loving one another is the mandate of Christianity. These and other encounters are part of living the Christian life. How often do we pick up a phone to make personal contact to encourage someone other than our close friend? Are we willing to take the time to visit someone?
Our personal lives are so filled with activities and things that we have no margin. It is in the margin that we are free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. These are the treasures that we store up in heaven, where moth and rust does not corrupt. We need to leave margin in our lives, for this is where some of greatest blessings await us. And not only our blessings, but greater still, the blessings we extend to others.