teaching 6

FINISHING THE RACE WITH JOY THROUGH A CARING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PASTORS AND MEMBERS

REV. DR SAMUEL S. TAMA

Introduction

Various passages in the Bible especially Apostle Paul’s teachings picture the Christian life as a race or another athletic competition (see 1 Timothy 4:7-8; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1; James. 1:12). In Acts 20:24, Apostle Paul reveals through his words that the race will last as long as life lasts, and that he must not faint in the middle, whatever suffering may be in store. The “joy” would arise from the sense of duty done, or striven to be done. To run the race successfully requires attention, effort, self-denial and perseverance. The race also has a clearly defined finish line we must strive for. The finishing line for Christians including pastors and members alike is to become disciples of Christ who will dwell with Him in His eternal Kingdom. Unlike an athletic competition, the race for the Christian lasts a lifetime. As long as we are alive, we remain in the race. Because we have not finished the race yet, we still have time to push forward in the race and win. In the Christian life, we run the race of faith. We do not strive for the crown that only one can receive. We strive to finish strong and with joy in our faith. God makes us all winners when we cross the line. We get Christ and reign with Him forever. Thus, we all win God by persevering as pastors, leaders and members in faith, and getting to the finish line. This is the ultimate goal of every Christian to finish the race strong, and celebrate with joy the Kingdom of heaven with Christ for eternity.

For the pastors and members to run the race and finish with joy, there must be a caring relationship between both parties. Jesus set for us a perfect example by maintaining a caring relationship with His disciples and His followers. The early church members followed the example set by Him. If we care deeply for our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we will want them to share eternity with us. We will want them to run the race, to trust in Christ, and to reach the finishing line rejoicing in their Saviour. This presentation therefore, examines the value of maintaining a caring relationship between pastors and members in the spiritual race as crucial to our finishing the race with joy. We first explain the concept of pastoral care and caring relationship in Christianity. This is followed by a discourse on pastors’ care of his members, members care of their pastor(s), and the outcome of this caring relationship.

Pastoral Care and Caring Relationship in Christianity

Pastoral care is a difficult concept to define because it is a phenomenon that is both simple and complex. Etymologically, pastoral care has its roots in the teachings and organisation of the Christian church. From the Latin root pascere (to feed) and articulated by the powerful metaphor of the Good Shepherd, pastoral care describes the spiritual and moral sustaining concern of the leader for their flock.   Here we give some definitions of the concept.

  1. Mills L. O defines pastoral care as, “A term that derives from the biblical image of shepherd and refers to the solicitous concern expressed within the religious community for persons in trouble or distress. Historically and within the Christian community, pastoral care is the cure-of-souls tradition” (Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling (DPCC 836). Pastoral care includes all pastoral activities involving teaching, preaching, leading worship, congregational leadership, administration, visiting, supporting and comforting which aim at spiritual healing and growth.
  2. Hunter R. J. describes it as “A broad and inclusive way, to all pastoral work concerned with the support and nurturing of persons and interpersonal relationships, including everyday expressions of care and concern that may occur in the midst of various pasturing activities and relationships” (DPCC 845).
  3. Wayne E. Oates defines it as: “The Christian pastor’s combined fortification and confrontation of persons as persons in times of both emergency crisis and developmental crisis”. Here the pastor is concerned with the care of souls by supporting, and encouraging persons. He/she brings the persons face to face with themselves and with one another during the critical or difficult times of life. This may also include major stages of lives such as birth, baptism, and others.
  4. William A. Clebsch and Charles R. Jaekle consider pastoral care as “The Ministry of Care of Souls, consists of helping acts, done by representative Christian persons, directed toward the healing, sustaining, guiding and reconciling of troubled persons whose troubles arise in the context of ultimate meanings and concerns” (4).

In this presentation we consider pastoral care as encompassing all areas of the pastoral ministry or the practices pastors do to shepherd or care for individuals in their local congregations. For example, some aspects of pastoral care include preaching and teaching the Word of God, showing love in word and deed, as well as willing leadership and service. Other areas include the ministry of care of souls directed at troubled church members through visitation, pastoral counseling, prayer with church members, premarital counseling, weddings, funerals, baby dedications, or similar practices. Pastoral care is generally based on the ideas of the pastor or elder as a shepherd in Scripture. For example, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Arguably, the most famous description of this comes from Psalm 23. In this Psalm, the shepherd leads, guides, feeds, comforts and protects his sheep. The shepherd ensures the eternal security of his sheep.

Therefore, the work of a minister is related to that of a shepherd who should take care of his flock and knows their true conditions. Church members are not same in wisdom, level of understanding, growth, maturity, emotion, obedience and strength. Therefore, the goal of pastoral care is: under God, to lead God’s people, by the Word of God’s grace, into eternity with God. A church where a caring relationship exists between the pastor and members is able to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God, takes care of the needs of the members, and builds them to become priests according to the biblical principles of the priesthood of all believers. The members also support the pastoral ministry and the congregation blossoms and with a sense of fulfillment in the ministry.

Ways Pastors Can Care for their Members

For many centuries, people viewed the role of the pastor as a servant caregiver who does the following: Teaching/preaching of traditional doctrine; care-giving, such as visitation, counseling, comforting, and taking care of the needs of people; performing rites of passage, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals; administration, such as taking care of meetings, putting together a bulletin and developing programs for the church and evangelism; and finally, serving as ambassador of the church to the community (Kidder 2009). However, focusing on this traditional role alone makes members to become over dependent on the pastors or leadership.

In our church congregations people have diverse needs. It is therefore important that the pastor provides the needed care for his members as well as make them grow to become priests in biblical sense. Some of the contemporary ways of pastoral care are discussed below.

  1. Pastoral Leadership

The service of pastoral or spiritual leadership was instituted by Christ Himself when He made the apostle Peter the shepherd of the first church, asking him, “Do you love me?” and commanding him, “Feed my sheep.” The pastor must therefore see his leadership as a responsibility entrusted on him by God to the church (John 21:15–19,1 Thessalonians 5:12–13; Hebrews 13:17). It does not come as a result of theological or Seminary degree (Oyeniyi, 2019:128). This leadership is based on trust and on God’s grace and the working of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:1–18; Ephesians 4:7–13; Numbers 11:24–25;1 Samuel 16:14; 2 Corinthians 3:4–6; 4:5).

Leadership is all about rendering selfless service. Essentially, there are different classes of leadership, depending on the prevailing circumstances. Within the body of Christ, the Priest, or Pastor, is expected to be the spiritual leader or under-shepherd of his parishioners or members; while Christ remains the Chief Shepherd, and our true model. A person entrusted with leadership must always let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit. He must remain deeply humble and must honor and respect the body of members. Under no circumstances may he force anything on those around him; he is not placed in this task to control or dominate, but to serve. When Jesus entrusted His church to Peter, He did not give him any rights over the other disciples. Instead He taught: “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (John 14:26; Zechariah 4:6; Numbers 12:3; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12; 1 Peter 5:3; 2 Timothy 2:24–26; Matthew 20:25–28).It is servant leadership that is exemplary in nature (John 13:1-17; 1Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1: 5-9). There is effective communication. Nehemiah was able to accomplish his task of rebuilding Jerusalem wall because of effective communication (Nehemiah 1ff).

  1. Feeding of God’s sheep

The primary method of pastoral care instructed by Christ was the three-fold command Jesus gave Peter to “feed my sheep” in John 21:15-17. Paul gave his final words to the church leaders from Ephesus, he urged, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Peter follows Jesus’ example and the same instruction in his first pastoral letter to the elders of the churches of Asia Minor to: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2). Clearly, the job of the shepherds of God’s people is to provide them with the pure milk of the Word of God so they can move on to the meat and solid food of the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:12-14). Pastoral ministry of preaching and teaching the Word of God should be primarily care provided by the pastors. Feeding their members with the Word of God is very important. Only then can pastors declare, as Peter did, their love for the Lord Jesus.

Good teaching and preaching are both necessary for the church to grow in the faith and knowledge of the Word so the body of Christ can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ [and] To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” (2nd Peter 3:18). It also ensures that members are protected from harmful ways through warning against false teachings.

3. Genuine Love Relationship

While He was on earth, Jesus Christ set the perfect example in His genuine love relationship with people. Though He was superior to His disciples, He treated them as equals. He was kind to them and felt their needs. To do ministry well, we need to emulate Jesus who did not only love people, but liked them. We need to give our hearts to them (Gavin Ortlund, 2018). The love relationship demonstrated by Jesus Christ was personal (Luke 10:1; Mark 3:14), deepening (Galatians 6:2), supportive (Acts 20:35), and faith building (Hebrews 3:12-13). Love and affection should be a part of pastoral ministry. It was for Paul: “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8); “. . . being affectionately desirous of you . . . because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 1:8.). Rick Warren (2012) stated that “Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view”.

But is the Church emulating this? Are today’s church leaders and pastors exhibiting this wonderful relationship between the Master and His followers? Are the shepherds truly leading their flocks with genuine love, sincerity of purpose and tenderness? How do we do it? Here are some ways we can show love to our members.

i). Show interest in your members and their families

ii). Celebrate evidences of God’s grace and blessings on your members. As a pastor, it is easy to focus on all the problems. So we should be deliberate to look for, notice, talk about, and celebrate the good things God is doing in His people’s lives.

iii). Visit your members at home or their work places

iv). Pray for your members regularly

v). Give your members the opportunity to serve you.

vi). See your members through God’s eyes. Show no partiality (James 2:1-9)

vii). Memorize your members’ names

viii). Personally greet people before and after service

God is calling pastors to relationships of love in their churches that are personal, deepening, supportive and faith-building. He wants our lives to be so woven together with people—not all people (that is impossible) but some people—that we can touch each other as persons at a fairly deep level, and support each other when the burdens are heavy, and build each other’s faith in future grace by showing the supremacy of the love of God in Jesus Christ.

4. Care and support (Meeting the needs of People or Members)

Pastoral care consists of helping acts which may include care, support and counseling, done by pastors, directed at church members or people who are facing challenges and realities of life. This care is aimed at provision of healing, sustaining, guiding, reconciling and nurturing of persons whose troubles and concerns arise in the context of daily interactions.

i). Healing

This is a pastoral care function that aims to overcome some impairment by restoring a person to wholeness and by leading them to advance beyond their previous condition (Clebsch and Jaekle 1967). It consists of bounding up wounds, repairing damages that have been done emotionally or restoring the condition that has been lost (Ayodele 2017). This could be achieved through prayers, counseling or deliverance. Jesus Himself engaged in deliverance ministry (Luke 4:18-19; Matthew 4:23; Luke 13:10-13).

ii). Sustaining 

This is care aimed at helping a hurting person to endure and to transcend a circumstance in which restoration to their former condition or recuperation from their malady is either impossible or so remote as to seem improbable. The sustaining ministry is based on the fact that even when circumstances in this life and mortal body are destroyed, there is a final eternal fulfillment. This type of care includes preservation, consolation, consolidation and redemption (Clebsch and Jaekle 1967). This could be achieved through prayers and counseling. For example, when Paul discovered that the thorn in his flesh could not heal, he learned to depend on the grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

iii). Guiding

This is spiritual direction given by pastoral care giver towards assisting perplexed persons to make confident choices between alternative courses of thought and action, when such choices are viewed as affecting the present and the future state of human wholeness. This is common in educational counseling, marriage and family counseling and vocational guidance (Ayodele, 2017).

iv). Reconciling

This means seeking to re-establish broken relationships between man and fellow man and between man and God. This helps alienated persons to establish or renew proper and fruitful relationship with each other or with God. Historically, reconciling has employed two modes – forgiveness and discipline. 

v). Nurturing

This is the day to day care given to church members to enable them to develop their potentialities throughout the life journey with all its valleys, peaks, and plateaus (Clinebell, 1984). Nurturing and guiding are the pastoral care functions in which education and counseling are most intertwined. Pastoral function of nurturing involves teaching the Word of God to address human problems. The Bibles addresses every aspect of human life (2 Timothy.3:16-17). This may be achieved through Bible study, organizing conferences, seminars, retreats and discipleship classes (Ayodele, 1967).

Jesus met people’s needs in diverse ways. Ellen G. White (1942) commented about Christ’s method as follows:

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”

Christ’s method builds relationships and meets needs. The first thing Jesus did was to mingle with people, desiring their good. By doing so, He touched their hearts. The second thing Jesus did was to show sympathy for them. The way He did this was that He met them at their daily vocations and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. The third thing that He did was to win their confidence. When we build a relationship, when the needs are met, and when the heart is touched, then we bid people to follow Jesus (Kidder, 2009).

Notice the progressive steps that Christ took in witnessing: He started by mingling with people and ended up calling them to be disciples. A pastor can perform the roles discussed above only when he has a strong and working relationship with the Father who provides him with the spiritual strength to do so.

Ways Church Members Can Care for their Pastors

In the Baptist denomination, the lay persons (non-clergy) or members are an essential part of the mission and ministry of the church – and those of us in the pews (lay people, deacons, retired pastors, etc.) can do a lot to support the spiritual, emotional, and physical health of our pastors. Some ways members can care for their pastors are stated below.

i). Follow his leadership

If the church believes that God has called the pastor to preach and teach the Word of God, then the congregation has the responsibility to listen carefully and submit, unless he teaches error. The Holy Spirit urges Christians to submit to the teaching of the Word. This encourages the leadership to joyfully minister. Many godly leaders have been discouraged because the hearers ignored the teaching of the Word of God. Submitting to your pastor may be difficult. But you’ll bring joy to his heart—and to yours—if you fall under his godly leadership. The Bible in Hebrews instructs as follows:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

A direct correlation exists between your obedience and your elders’ joy. Work hard to submit—gladly, not begrudgingly—to their leadership. It’s your Savior’s means of providing spiritual oversight to your soul (Shawn 2016).

ii). Pray for and with him

The qualifications of being a pastor as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:7–9 are very high. Much is also expected from pastors. Pastors need prayer every day. Not only are they bombarded with menial administrative tasks that steal their time, they are assaulted with temptations such as pride, laziness, and lust, among other things. We ought to pray for their perseverance in remaining qualified—which includes being “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2).

Further, pray with your pastors. Seek them out. Their hearts are as heavy as yours. And there is no greater joy than knowing the people of God are praying for you.

iii). Share with your pastor how God is blessing and growing you through his ministry

One of the greatest joys a pastor receives is hearing his members tell him how they are being refined. It is so encouraging to hear what they are learning and how the Lord is growing them. Notice Paul’s response to hearing from a previous congregation:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:6–7)

This report brought great comfort and strength to Paul. Paul felt elated and fulfilled. And it will rejuvenate your pastors to hear about your growth in the Lord.

iv). Care for your Pastor financially

A church should care for her pastor financially. Pastors typically make little money. Your pastor may even require emergency food supply, though he would never tell you. The pastor is not called to shepherd the flock of God for the purpose of financial gain (1 Peter 5:1–4). But if your pastor is not being paid generously, his mind and heart will likely be divided. Jesus set the example by accepting financial support from people during His ministry. Doctor Luke records the following for us in his gospel.

. . . and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means Luke 8:2-3 (NASB).

And on one occasion the Apostle Paul willingly received financial support and indicated that God was well-pleased with such a gift. And on another occasion he encouraged people to give.

But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God Philippians 4:18 (NASB)

Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 1 Corinthians 9:10-11 (NASB)

Apostle Paul also, in his letter to Timothy admonished him as follows:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and “the laborer deserves his wages.” (1 Timothy 5:17–18)

Financial support should include a regular salary and benefits. In some churches, the benefits include medical expenses, a book allowance, sometimes education, retirement, and even a life insurance policy. The Bible never tells us which ones to include. But a pastor should be paid close to the average salary of those in his congregation. In some churches, the senior pastor is paid very large amounts of money. While the Bible does not condemn this, it is hard to justify very large amounts when those who give to the church make less. The church is not a business. This statement is contrary to the modern view in some churches. But God is not interested in His church being run as a business. A business is interested in how many people come, how much money they receive, the latest program, and new ideas. God is interested in the depth of the ministry and not how many attend the church. God wants our focus on spiritual growth and holiness and not on money or numbers. God is interested in the work of His Spirit rather than new programs that discount the work of the Spirit.

v). Honor and Respect your Pastor

There’s honor in being called by God and we are to give honor to whom honor is due. Pastors are not better than anyone else, but respect is to be given for the office and calling. By showing respect for the pastor and church, we also show respect for God. God says the man of God should be honored not because they are better than everyone, but because of their calling.

Romans 13:7 says, “Render, therefore to all their due, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, and honor to whom honor.” Hebrews 5:4 says, “No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.” Hebrews 5:1 says ministers are “taken from among men” who have the potential for failure just like the rest of us. When a judge enters a courtroom all rise to their feet. Why? This is because it is expected and demanded.

vi). Loyalty and Faithfulness

What a blessing faithful and loyal people are to a ministry. The sad thing is there are fewer faithful people in a typical church than those who are not. Scripture gives every indication that it has been this way from the beginning. In Ephesians 1:1, Paul addresses the Ephesians as “the saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

In most churches, twenty percent of the members carry the entire burden of the ministry. The only way a pastor can accomplish what God called him to do is to have faithful and loyal people behind him. He can’t do it alone. Psalm 12:1 says, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.” Some church members talk a good talk but are not there when the church needs them. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a faithful man?” Proverbs 20:25 also says false declarations end up being a snare both spiritually and in the natural realm. “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vow.”

How often have you made a commitment to the church and failed to follow through? Your pastor is depending on you. James 5:12 says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no, no.” This includes your support during good times and bad. Many people are faithful, dedicated and loyal when things are going well in the church, but when things get hard, they’re gone. What about when accusations are being hurled at your pastor? Do you stand firm in their defense? They need you whether what is being said is false, true or partially true. If you will be loyal and stand with them alongside God, you will have His support.

Isaiah 54:17 says, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper. And every tongue that rises up against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness (vindication) is from Me, declares the Lord.” God will deal with anyone who comes against His servant. Let’s always stand behind God’s servants in full support. God promises His blessing will be upon all those who are faithful. Proverbs 28:20 says, “A faithful man will abound with blessing.” The blessing will be there, just continue to stand firm behind your pastor through the rough times as well as the good. God will take care of anything that needs to be dealt with (Gary Linton, 2019).

A member can perform the roles discussed above only when he has a strong and working relationship with the Father who provides him with the spiritual strength to do so.

Conclusion

The church—the body of Christ—was created by God to be just that—a body, a family of brothers and sisters in Christ who encourage and support one another to live and love like Jesus. While He was on earth, Jesus Christ set the perfect example in leadership. Though He was superior to His disciples, He treated them as equals. He was kind to them and felt their needs. There was a time He even washed their feet, a classical symbol of humility. No pastor will succeed in his ministry without the support and care by his members. A healthy Christian community is one in which people know that they are loved, visitors are welcome and young and old alike are valued and feel safe. The care that both pastors and members offer, both at times of crisis and in everyday life is an active proclamation of God’s love in Christ and for the entire world. What is more, the Bible does not say that only pastors can take care of people. God always blesses churches that take care of their pastors. He cannot bless those that do not. Let us properly care for the men and women God has sent to watch over us. When we all engage in this caring relationship the ministry will be a joy to everyone as we will all end with joy. For the pastors and members to run the race and finish with joy, there must be a caring relationship between both parties. Jesus set for us a perfect example by maintaining a caring relationship with His disciples and His followers. The early church members followed the example set by Him. If we care deeply for our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we will want them to share eternity with us. We will want them to run the race, to keep trusting in Christ, and to reach the finishing line rejoicing in their Saviour. The “joy” would arise from the sense of duty done, or striven to be done. Let us all strive to run the race together and finish with joy.

References

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Gary, L. (2019), “A Church’s Responsibility to Its Pastor” Ministry maker, https://www.ministrymaker.com/churchs-responsibility-to-its-pastor

Hunter, R. J. (1990), Gen. Ed. “Pastoral Care”, Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Nashville: Abingdon Press.

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Kidder, J. (2009), “The Biblical Role of the Pastor”, Ministry Magazine https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2009/04/the-biblical-role-of-the-pastor

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Oyedele, S. O., (2011), Principles and Practice of Pastoral Care and Counseling; Ogbomoso: Amazing Grace Publication

Oyeniyi, R. M. (2019), Shepherding the Shepherd: A Discipleship Manual for Gospel Ministers; Ibadan: Baptist Press

Piper, J., (1995), “The Value of Relationships”, Desiring God; https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-value-of-relationships.

Rick, W., (2012), “Four Ways A Pastor Can Show Love”, https://pastors.com/the-pastor-must-be-loving/

Ryle, J. C., “The Christian Race, Grace Gems”; https://www.gracegems.org/24/Ryle_christian_race.htm

Shawn, W., “7 Ways to Care for Your Pastor”, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) U.S. Edition; https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/7-ways-to-care-for-your-pastor/

 White, G. E., The Ministry of Healing, Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press.

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