Pastoral Care – something to talk about.

sheepRecently I had the chance to observe the pastoral care provided by a non-denominational church in my area.  The situation was brutal and filled with grief, so certainly pastoral care was warranted.  In came the preacher’s wife (one of their “ministers”) because the main pastor was in a meeting.  She met with the folks who were affected and talked to them for about two minutes.  They did not pray.  She did not read from a Bible.  She ended the conversation by telling them to “text her with how things are going”.

This is a far cry from Christian care for the soul.  No means of grace.  Not even a prayer.  Not even time spent to show concern.  I have often wondered how the big “flash in the pan” non-denominational churches will deal with real life situations involving death and suffering.  I got to see it – they don’t deal with it.  No big screen, “relevant” sermon series, or rock band can prepare one for faithfully undergoing the inevitable horror that comes from this life.  There is just not enough “upper” to bring up those folks who are in the pit.

Lutherans have a long tradition of pastoral care.  Pastors are known for making visits both regularly and in emergency cases.  They show care by both by “showing up” but even more by “showing up with Jesus”.  They bring Christ to the situation.  Baptism, Absolution, the Word, the Supper all become tools of pastoral care, ways in which the person is cared for.  Prayer based upon the Scriptures begs God to be present.  Psalms speak to all conditions of life in this fallen world.  These things take time, and pastors bring them to souls in distress.  That is pastoral care.

My point is this is that this is a feather in the cap of Lutherans.  I understand that many other Christian pastors provide spiritual care (and often ably so), but my point is that this is a great thing among Lutherans.  And being a great point, it should come to mind in terms of evangelism.  Often the most earnest efforts at becoming more “evangelistic” or “missional” as some now say it begin with a premise that what we have is not good enough and must change.  I would argue in many cases this is simply untrue and violates the 8th Commandment in relation to the congregation’s reputation.  Instead, an approach to evangelism of speaking well of the congregation is proper and good.  Pastoral care is one of those areas I believe that can be very helpful.  Folks can speak up about how the congregation cared for them, how the pastor visited and spent time, sharing the Word with them.   Works of service from congregation members also can quickly become something note-worthy when talking about the congregation to outsiders.  This of course sets folks up to want to be a part of something like the congregation that cares for them.  An invitation to church is always appropriate as it is there that the Lord does miraculous things through His means of grace.  Help the outsider see and remark “those Lutherans, how well they care for one another” or “those Lutheran pastors sure do care for their people”.

In this way, a true gem of the Lutheran church is used in a godly way to encourage others to be a part of something that actually cares for them.  Face it, all of the flash in the pan stuff is creating a sea of wounded and half-eaten souls that are sick to death of the shallows and so weary of the constant need to be happy and “up”.  These folks need to be cared for as souls long abused by merchants of death and its teachings.  So speak up about good pastoral care centered in God’s Word and focused squarely on the human body and soul.

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Pastoral Care – something to talk about. — 9 Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    Thanks for an excellent post on a subject that both pastors and laymen in Lutheran churches often take for granted. I think we all have stories to share, but I think it helps to explain why some denominations are different in this area today.

    ROMAN CATHOLIC – When I was in Oak Park, Illinois back in the 1990s, I served one parish of about 200 members; the neighboring priest served one parish of about 3000-4000 members.

    This past month in the Evansville diocese (Indiana) it was announced that all the Roman parishes are doubling-up, i.e., one priest has to cover two parishes, because there are not enough priests to go around.

    The Roman priests today really don’t have the time, between covering so many masses, official acts, and hearing confession to go visit the sick, infirm, elderly, and dying. There are even fewer monks or nuns available, so lay deacons have to do it, if any. The American priests are just overwhelmed!

    AMERICAN EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTS – The tradition in these churches is on the minister as a preacher and evangelist and prayer-master. They really don’t have a tradition of the minister as a pastor per se like we do; although I think some of their seminaries are moving in that direction. You could say that their minister’s “playbook” is different that way.

    LUTHERANS – follow the practice of the ancient and medieval churches in the matter of pastoral care, where the visitation of the “sick” and infirm is part of a pastor’s regular duties. The Concordia Seminary professor John Fritz talked about it in one chapter of his classic Pastoral Theology as privatseelsorge.

    Johann Gerhard in his On the Ministry: Part Two in Theological Commonplaces XXVI/2 (St Louis: CPH< 2012), p. 138-139 (sect. 289) states that "care of the poor and the visitation of the sick" is #7 among the seven most important duties of ministers. He writes "The visitation of the sick had to be commended to the minister of the church for this reason: because they especially must be lifted up by the comfort of the Gospel and armed against the terror of death." Then he quotes the church constitution of Electoral Saxony (1580) at length on this topic. As I have said before, you can purchase Gerhard's dogmatics today in English at: http://www.cph.org

    So the visitation of the sick is especially called for when there is some fear of death or the possibility thereof, for the reasons he states. Gerhard wrote, by the way, an excellent little book, Handbook of Consolations, tr. Carl L. Beckwith (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009). It’s subtitle is: “For the Fears and Trials that Oppress Us in the Struggle with Death.” I have learned many things from this little book about how the threat of death, disaster, or dangers, can afflict the soul and how the pastor can provide Gospel to those particular needs.

    Thanks Pastor Scheer for reminding us pastors of our call to this duty, and for reminding Lutheran laymen that these services are available and are one of the many areas at which Lutherans can claim some advantage over other churches.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. two things…first I appreciate the notations by Dr. Noland…Fritz was a secondary reading in my Pastoral Theology Classes, but it was so filled with good stuff and timeless wisdom that most of us read the whole piece. The second thing is that the older I get the less critical I am of others style or practice. I dont know what I don’t know. So I try to err on being kind….I try…

  3. Shorthand

    When you’re too sick to come to church, Pastor brings church to you.

    For shut-ins and the sick I often use this phrase because they find comfort, of course in the word and sacrament, but I will emphasize, after forgiveness, the importance of bringing the body of Christ, the church to their home, their hospital room, their hospice ward, their nursing home, etc.

    The angels and archangels along with the one holy christian and apostolic church are present in the midst of the beeping machines, the bandages, the smell of urine, the tears and groans of pain, suffering, and death all around. Heaven comes in the forgiveness of sins in the midst of our sinful world. Victory is given when it feels like defeat. Peace is given, in the midst of the war against “cancer.” Confidence in the resurrected Jesus is here in the depressing gloom of incontinence, vomit and catheter change.

    It’s the truth of faith in Christ vs. the tragic results of the lie of Satan-your paying for your sins, dying and dead. The lonely parishioner’s faith clings to the gift of the victory over sin, death and the devil, even if our life in the world is telling us something opposite.

    This (body and blood) tastes like bread and wine, but it is the present of Jesus on earth giving you the forgiveness you need. It is heaven brought to earth. It is still the gathering of the saints, those who died in faith and those who still fight the good fight from church singing (saying) holy holy holy together with the Lamb’s flag of victory.

  4. @Mark Sell #3
    When you’re too sick to come to church, Pastor brings church to you.

    Exactly!

    This (body and blood) tastes like bread and wine, but it is the present of Jesus on earth giving you the forgiveness you need.

    I’m glad you said this, too. In the May issue of the “new” LW the first “letter” insisted that the Lutheran belief is that the Sacrament of the Altar does NOT convey the forgiveness of sins. It was a repeated assertion, and a very “Reformed” point of view.
    I looked in vain for a correction from the Editor.

    I hope I was not the only person who pointed out that there should have been one, citing Jesus’s words, recorded in the Small Catechism.

  5. One thing I wonder about re: people that stay away from the supper,yet are perfectly able to go to Walmart, restaurants, etc. When contacted by the pastor, “Would you like me to bring you communion?” the answer is, “No, I’ll take it at church” but they never show up.

    What is it about folks not contacting their pastor and saying, “I really miss the Lord’s Supper, where have you been?!”

    I’m not complaining, just offering an observation of a sad fact that seems prevalent these days.

  6. @wineonthevines #5
    valid observation … the vanity of going after the pleasures of our Old Adam, and the low-view/non-catechized of the Eucharist. No wonder, Dr. Luther wrote in the intro of the Small Catechism that we should read and re-read this small instructional book all our lives (and even memorize) lest we should forget … the only exception is if one happens to be a Chuch Doctor (aka Augustine, Ambrose, Capadocian Fathers, those guys …).

  7. Great article. My daughter is dating a fine young man who goes to the “happy” church as they call it. A reformed church that teaches a person MUST be happy all the time. She said the church service doesnt not have a sermon, no law and Gospel, no Lords Prayer, or Apostle’s Creed….it just has lessons on how to be happy and then they sing happy songs. My daugther, growing up in a traditional Lutheran church, sees the difference. My church is a solid Lutheran church. We are blessed to have a pastor who feeds us the pure spiritual milk of Jesus Christ!

  8. And don’t underestimate the importance of bringing the sacrament! About fifteen years ago I was very ill, first in the hospital, then at home for a couple of months. Our pastor, who was a very nice man, visited me in the hospital and again a few times after I got home, but he never brought me communion. We prayed before he left each time, but mostly he just came to visit. I was too muddled at the time to ASK him to bring communion, but I also shouldn’t have needed to.

  9. @Binny #7
    Great article. My daughter is dating a fine young man who goes to the “happy” church as they call it.

    And will he come to her church? Appreciate it? Join it for its own sake, not just go through the exercise in order to marry her?

    “revfisk” said in one video I remember that it was best not even to date someone who believed differently. You are setting yourself up for grief, sooner or later.

    “revfisk” is right.

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