Day: August 21, 2009

guiding and pastoral care

Our thinking about guidance is often focussed on decision-making (as reflected, for example, in the titles of popular Christian¬†books on guidance —¬†Decision-making and the Will of God, etc). And this is natural and obvious enough.

It’s often precisely in the moment of decision (or at least in the moments leading up to the moment of decision) that we reach out for guidance and advice. Similarly, when offering guidance, it’s typically when people are making decisions that we feel most useful, and can help provide some sense of direction and equipment for navigating through decisions.


Mention of such ‘equipment’ — the moral and spiritual equivalent of sextants, maps, charts and compasses — highlights a problem with this focus on decision-making as the chief moment of guidance. As far as I can see, there are two key aspects of this:

  1. It’s usually not the most effective time to be equipping to make decisions well (ie. in ways that centre on Jesus and his promises for our lives and futures).
  2. Neither is giving particularly effective in these times (I don’t know if you’ve ever met someone who’s nominally seeking advice who it turns out has pretty much already decided and it simply canvassing different opinion until he or she finds someone who agrees with them?).

This is where the kind of approach adopted in Guidance and the Voice of God seems fruitful. The fact that decisions matter is affirmed. But the decisions we normally prioritise are up-ended, such that — at least when matters of godliness aren’t directly at stake — decisions about (i) how to serve God (e.g., matters of character and church), (ii) where to live, and (iii) what job to get are tackled in that order — rather than the reverse.

This can be tremendously liberating, especially if it frees us from anxiety over decisions that seem important (e.g., what job to take) but turn out to be less important than how we’re going to honour God in our workplace and in not being swallowed up by our job.

Helping people develop habits of honouring God should be what Christian guidance is all about.