Pastoral care (05): with and without a ministry
Who can provide pastoral care? Here are some thoughts on the motivation, passion, and ministerial mandate behind pastoral care, and the fact that everyone can be active in it.
“One cannot provide pastoral care from behind the altar. You have to be close to the sick and suffering,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider pointed out in a divine service in Buenos Aires in Argentina in April 2016. And you don’t need to be a Deacon, a Priest, or an Apostle to get close to the members. Anybody can do it.
Fostering fellowship by offering pastoral care is a call that applies to all New Apostolic Christians. The Vision and Mission statements of the New Apostolic Church address both the pleasant aspects—the feeling at home and sharing in the fellowship—as well as the agenda of the Church: the alignment with Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the gospel, and pastoral care. Pastoral care is an essential part of Christian life.
A task for the whole congregation
“Labour in love” was the 2014 motto. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider expounded Galatians 6: 2 at the time: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This is not only addressed to the ministers, he said at the time, but applies to the entire congregation. All activities, everything that is done in a congregation and in the Church as a whole, should be based on love for God and the neighbour. This love must be there, it must be applied.
“Pastoral care is the task of the entire congregation,” it says in chapter 12.4 of the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church (CNAC). “This also relates to practical help in life. Here the words apply: ‘... for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’” (Matthew 25: 35–36).
Alleviating the need of others
To be prepared to share the concerns and burdens of others, in other words, those things that make them suffer and that make them weary and cautious is what showing love and care for the neighbour means. “The needs of my brothers and sisters are also my needs!” Chief Apostle Schneider points out. This awareness is independent of ministry and mandate. It is something that we feel in our heart, in our soul, which then becomes active. That means that pastoral care does not require a mandate or an assignment from on high.
As a matter of fact, this is something that Christians across the globe prove every day in the most diverse ways. This work is not only the job of ecclesial aid organisations or is manifested in congregational or district charity projects. It is also demonstrated in the living faith of each individual: being there for one’s neighbour, perceiving his or her need, and alleviating it.
Tending the flock of Christ
Based on the words of Jesus: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. ... My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10: 11, 27–28), ministers do this kind of work “willingly and eagerly (1 Peter 5: 2–4)”, we read in chapter 12.4 of the Catechism.
Deacons, Priests, and Apostles do not only provide practical help but have the mandate to care for the flock of Christ and prepare it for the return of Jesus Christ. So pastoral care does not only involve the practical aspects of everyday life but also matters of faith. The perfect example for pastoral care is Jesus Christ; He wants to save everyone, to lose no one, and He never loses sight of eternal life.
Everyone is called
There are few terms that involve so much and are so broadly conceived as pastoral care. Pastoral care does not only mean special care in an emergency or a crisis, nor is it soul care that is exclusively done by full-time ministers or other ministers. Pastoral care is something that is often found in normal, everyday situations—far from the spectacular. It is almost imperceptible. Pastoral care is listening, praying, empathising, and giving active help. Pastoral care is the concern and care for the eternal life of the soul.
Everyone can be active in this!
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