Worship starts with God


“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!'” (Luke 1:39-45)

When I grew up in church, I was taught that God was the starting point of the worship. Our gatherings began with God’s invitation (call to worship) to which we responded with silent prayer. God announced His blessing to which we responded with an AMEN and a praise song. The rest of the service went on like that: God speaks, we respond.

This pattern is, I believe, rooted in both creation and in our own DNA. This world, and humans, were designed to respond to God’s gracious self-disclosure. As we experience God’s greatness or goodness, that experience provokes a response within us: wow, thank You, awesome, yikes, oh my, etc. Continue reading ‘Worship starts with God’ »

Seeing Jesus! (#2)



“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:42-45)

Seeing Jesus! (1)



“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:42-45)

Pastoral Care in the Church (4)



BUILDING SOMETHING GOOD WILL TAKE TIME
Developing effective pastoral care in the church is somewhat like the challenge Jesus faced when He came to earth and needed to raise up missional leaders for His kingdom movement. His approach was to prayerfully select a few potential leaders and fully invest Himself in them, training them to become the leaders they needed to be. This model of equipping disciples to be leaders is the basis for leadership in the church in general. I would also use this model for raising up pastoral care leaders in the church.

This will take time. We cannot just design a complete model and implement it. In the beginning we may not have enough people willing to serve in pastoral care. Some may not realize their gifts. Some may have been burned in previous pastoral roles. Some may lack confidence. Most will need training. We cannot rush this. Better to start with a few and do the job well, rather than push people before they are ready. Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (4)’ »

Pastoral Care in the Church (3)



INTRODUCING THE HOME VISIT
Our church tradition has long encouraged the ‘home visit’ as a model of pastoral care. According to the original church order (it is changed today): ‘Pastoral Care shall be exercised over all the members of the congregation. The minister of the Word and the elders shall conduct annual home visitation.’ Family or house visitation was when teams of two elders would personally visit the home of a church member or family to discuss the spiritual vitality of their Christian life and the life of the church. A home visit was intended to strengthen the spiritual lives of the congregation, to challenge their worship and witness or service, and to promote and encourage the fellowship or communion of the saints in the church.

BENEFITS OF THE HOME VISIT
The home visit could be very positive and encouraging to both the family and the church — when it was led by gifted Elders, when it was well-received by the members, and when the relationship between church and family was positive. Under these conditions, the home visit had some benefits, such as: Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (3)’ »

Pastoral Care in the Church (2)


EARLY CHURCH METHODS OF PASTORAL CARE
We do not know all of the ways that the early church cared for God’s sheep (Acts 20:28). But we do catch a glimpse of some of their methods. In the first decades after Pentecost, pastoral care had to evolve with the expansion of the church. With the explosion of growth on Pentecost, a pattern of care and sharing emerged. Along with their mutual worship, learning and fellowship, they also shared resources so that everyone’s needs were met (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37). When a concern was raised about the Greek widows being overlooked, the apostles put in place a “care team” of qualified disciples to look after the food distribution (Acts 6:1-6). The church leaders were urged to teach and equip disciples in the Jesus Way, and also to discipline those who were straying away from Jesus (1 Corinthians 5). The churches took up benevolence offerings to help other churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-7,18-20). Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (2)’ »

Pastoral Care in the Church (1)


RETHINKING PASTORAL CARE
If you’ve been raised in the church, you’ve heard of ‘pastoral care’. Most often the term is associated with the work of the ‘pastor’, the ordained leader in the church. Sometimes it is also connected to the work of the elders, also ordained leaders in the church. My conviction is that we have narrowed the meaning and impact of pastoral care by limiting it to the pastor(s) or to the annual visit of the elders in the church.  I want to expand how we think about pastoral care in the church, to make it more comprehensive and more effective.

THE MEANING OF PASTORAL CARE
The root meaning of the word pastor goes back to the Greek word ‘poimen’ meaning shepherd. This word was one of three words used by the early church to describe the church leaders: elders (prebyteros), overseers (episkopos) and shepherds (poimen). These three words were interchangeable, different ways of describing the person and their position/task in the church. Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (1)’ »

Leadership in the early church (6)



1) The early church worked out their leadership based on the mission and method of Jesus.
2) The elders were the pastors in the early church.
3) The elders managed the tasks they were responsible for through delegation.
4)The elders delegated ministry to all disciples, also known as servants (diakonos, deacons).
5) The elders both provided and delegated the task of pastoral care.

6) All of the elders (leaders) and deacons (workers) were ordained (commissioned) with prayer and the laying on of hands.
The word ‘ordination’ is a big word for many churches. It carries a sense of ‘something special’ or ‘something other’ for the person that is ordained. Although my tradition does not see ordination as a sacrament, it sometimes feels like some people do see it as special power conferred only to a select group of special people in the church.

In the OT prophets (1 Kings 19:16), priests (Exodus 40:15) and kings (1 Kings 1:34) were anointed, sometimes with consecrated oil (Exodus 30:22-33). This would have been their ‘ordination’, ‘official appointment’ or ‘commissioning’. They were marked as ‘the Lord’s anointed’, the ones chosen by God to serve His purpose in their assigned task. The messiah (anointed in Hebrew = mashiach, in Greek = christos) was the Lord’s anointed, chosen to fulfill His ultimate redemption purpose. Continue reading ‘Leadership in the early church (6)’ »

Leadership in the early church (5)



1) The early church worked out their leadership based on the mission and method of Jesus.
2) The elders were the pastors in the early church.
3) The elders managed the tasks they were responsible for through delegation.
4)The elders delegated ministry to all disciples, also known as servants (diakonos, deacons).

5) The elders both provided and delegated the task of pastoral care.

The task of pastoral care is best understood in light of the meaning of ‘pastor’, which is ‘shepherd’. As we have seen the elders were the appointed shepherds in the church. In this sense, each elder was to be called ‘Pastor’, not just one of them. As shepherds, they were responsible for the sheep, and for everything relating to the sheep. This involved both exercising ‘shepherding care’ and delegating it. In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles/Elders visiting new believers as well as counseling, comforting, disciplining, healing and teaching existing believers. But we also see them delegating care to ‘servants’ in the church (Acts 6:1-7). There was no sharp separation between spiritual care and practical care; both were an important part of general pastoral care.

If we look at relevant passages that speak to the task of leaders as shepherds, we see their work includes: Continue reading ‘Leadership in the early church (5)’ »

Leadership in the early church (4)



1) The early church worked out their leadership based on the mission and method of Jesus.
2) The elders were the pastors in the early church.
3) The elders managed the tasks they were responsible for through delegation.

4)The elders delegated ministry to all disciples, also known as servants (diakonos, deacons).

According to Ephesians 4:11-13, the task of the church leaders/elders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers) was to equip the Lord’s people for works of service. The word for ‘service’ here is ‘diakonias’, from which we get ‘deacon’. One of the Latin words for serving is ‘ministro’, from which we get the word ‘minister’. Originally all members were called to be ministers and deacons (servants), training as disciples to serve in the mission of the church. There were specific assignments to which disciples were commissioned. Continue reading ‘Leadership in the early church (4)’ »