Day: August 13, 2009

how can pastoral care be distinctively Christian?


A wise one once gave me this piece of advice: ‘Remember you’re a creature as well as a Christian’.

There’s something profoundly right and helpful about this, isn’t there? It can be easy to answer the call of Christian discipleship by becoming more and more deeply embedded in church-related things — signing up for more rosters, spending ever greater amounts of time and effort (and money) on activities and programmes with other Christians, etc.

In this way, our vision of the Christian life can become narrower and narrower. And things like hobbies and rest can drop off the edge.

In the pastoral care literature a number of different ‘functions’ of pastoral care have been identified which try to help us care holistically about people — care about them as creatures as well as Christians.

I’d like us to explore the following six generally agreed upon ‘functions’ together:

  1. Healing
  2. Guiding
  3. Sustaining
  4. Reconciling
  5. Nurturing
  6. Liberating

To pre-empt a little, I’ve heard it suggested that we can baptise one or more of them in order to render pastoral care distinctively Christian — reconciliation, guidance or maybe even liberation would be solid candidates. But surely the gospel speaks to us in all of our creaturely and not just our narrowly Christian — or (institutional) ‘churchy’ — reality. The announcement of the achievement of God in our Lord Jesus Christ tells us how to be (thoroughly) human!

So the big question I want to probe is, How can the exercise of these functions be distinctively Christian? What shape and texture will pastoral care have if it’s not only to be expansive and holistic but also thoroughly informed by the gospel?