Continuing discussion of Chester and Timmis Total Church: a radical reshaping around gospel and community
Chapter 8 is on pastoral care
This chapter starts with a scenario – a couple talking with a young women who is self-harming. Do they admit they are out of their depth and quickly refer her for professional help? Or do they admit the don’t have a magic cure but are convinced that the best place for her is in a community where she is loved, where God’s word is applied by the Spirit of God into her life?
The authors argue that Christians need to believe that the gospel word and gospel community do not suddenly fail us when it comes to pastoral care. Too often a ‘therapy culture’ takes over and problems and people are ‘farmed out’ to the experts. Not to do so is seen as irresponsible and naive.
The authors are convinced that,
“pastoral care is therefore first and foremost the ability to address the gospel word to the problems of people’s lives”
Scripture is a powerful word to heal broken lives and hearts. God’s word speaks into all of life – the gospel transforms minds and hopes and fears (see Hebrews 4:12). The Spirit is the empowering presence of God in the Christian. If pastoral care is detached from these truths, it can hardly be called Christian. “We can have confidence in the Bible to speak directly and effectively to our circumstances.”
And the gospel community also has a key role in pastoral care:- again taking a stand against the professionalisation of pastoral care, the authors resist the way so much counselling is detached from the gospel community. For it is in community that healing is powerfully effective – a community of love and acceptance, a community of accountability, where selfish and sinful attitudes and actions are exposed.
Like evangelism and discipleship – the authors are arguing for ‘everyday pastoral care’ lived out with gospel intentionality within community. Helping each other with a gospel perspective with our troubles – whether it be greed, pride, low self-esteem, anxiety, lust, envy, fear, hopelessness – God’s word and God’s Spirit through and God’s people provides the best context for growth and healing.
I can see this being a controversial position. I have considerable sympathy with it. What do you reckon?
Are they right to ‘kick back’ against the proliferation of professional counselling within Christian circles? Is it actually a symptom of a lack of confidence and faith in the power of God’s word and God’s Spirit [they don’t say enough about the Spirit] within God’s people? Is the immediate reaction ‘I don’t have anything I can say to this situation’ actually a failure to appreciate that God’s word speaks to all sorts of emotional and pastoral care situations?