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Pastoral Care Essential

I am increasingly concerned that guys who are earnest to reclaim the importance of biblical proclamation are losing sight of the importance of pastoral care. Increasingly I hear of guys who think their only role is to fill the pulpit and that they should not be bothered with other things. This is simply not the biblical model. How can we adequately oversee the souls of our people- in preparation for God holding us accountable (Heb 13:17)- if we are not involved in their lives on a regular basis? No doubt people are over-reacting to examples where pastors did much visiting but no real preaching. Let us not answer with the opposite extreme, however. Of course, if we do not provide biblical instruction we are not truly pastoring. But, you cannot adequately preach to people with whom you have no or little contact. The New Testament does not refer to our office as “preacher” but with three terms:
Elder- stressing spiritual maturity
Pastor- stressing the shepherding aspect
Overseer- again stressing the oversight and care of the congregation
Let us not think that “oversight” here would focus on “oversight” of the budget, building, etc. These did not exist then. The concern here is the oversight and shepherding of the people. Preaching is one aspect of that.

This “preaching removed from pastoring” does not emerge from the Reformation. I have previously posted on Martin Luther’s comments on the necessity of deep, practical love for one’s people. Let me then point to the example of the other key figure in the Reformation, John Calvin. Whether or not one agrees with Calvin, he is a key figure in the Reformation and a significant proponent of the centrality of expositional preaching. Some even view him as austere, removed and perhaps too academic. However, in the brief biography written by Theodore Beza, Calvin’s close personal friend and successor, mention is made of the time when the plague severely struck Geneva. Beza writes:

At that time the custom in Geneva was, to send those suffering by the plague to an hospital outside the city. The assistance of a steady and careful pastor was required. The greater part declined from fear of infection.

Beza notes then that three pastors including Calvin volunteered. One was chosen and he then refused to go in fear. Calvin greatly desired to serve in this way, but the other leadership intervened to keep him from going. In spite of the fact that Calvin was regarded as the leading theologian and the most published scholar in the region, he did not use that as a reason to absent himself from the daily care of his people. The pastor’s heart yearns to care for his people. The heart that seeks to avoid the people in order to do other things is the heart not of the pastor but of the hireling.

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