What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates
Brown, Daniel James. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (p. 235). Penguin Publishing Group.
I’ve just finished teaching a new masters level class at Fuller PM504: Pastoral Care. The course explored the work of discipleship in the context of a local congregation, often through the very mundane and routine life of a community of faith. It is a journey of moving people from Sickness to Healing AND From Immaturity to Maturity AND from being Settled to being Sent. It is creating an ecology of caring and of transformation and of mission with the ultimate goal of seeing people being formed into the image of Christ (discipleship), in the context of the local church (community) on mission (missio Dei).
In our work discovering what it means to be engaged in pastoral care, we spent a good deal of time looking at the life of the Apostle Paul. I was amazed in our study of how vulnerable Paul was toward local congregations. I often image Paul as the brash, take no prisoners, warrior apostle, infiltrating the empire with the gospel. And while Paul certainly had apostolic passions and goals, he also had a caring and nurturing side: “harmonizing with others; opened his heart.” Some examples:
- 1 Thess 2:7ff. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
- Galatians 4:19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
- 2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
- 2 Corinthians 3:1-3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
- 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
- 2 Corinthians 7:2-4 Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. 4 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
This is the role that pastors must take in their work in the local congregation, helping to move a people towards Healing, Maturity, and Mission. It is the work of encouraging discipling, caring and sending. As Pope Francis says: it is pastoral ministry in a missionary key (Pope Francis The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium (p. 21).) Ministry emerges out of the relational, and often in very ordinary, routine, but certainly intentional ways. Pastors open their hearts and lives to others.
Eugene Peterson describes it this way: In the mess of work and sin, of families and neighborhoods, my task was to pray and give direction and encourage that lived quality of the gospel—patiently, locally, and personally. Patiently: I would stay with these people; there are no quick or easy ways to do this. Locally: I would embrace the conditions of this place—economics, weather, culture, schools, whatever—so that there would be nothing abstract or piously idealized about what I was doing. Personally: I would know them, know their names, know their homes, know their families, know their work—but I would not pry, I would not treat them as a cause or a project, I would treat them with dignity. Peterson, Eugene H. The Pastor: A Memoir (p. 247). HarperOne.