二○一九年二月二日／二月三日 Click here for English version
The Word and Spiritual Care
Rev Lawrence Chan
What is a pastor's job? This is no interrogation. It is something a pastor needs to reflect on before the Word in order to refocus on God. Such a question is not just for those called into pastoral ministry. It should also be raised by the congregation. All who belong to Christ and those called into pastoral ministry are parts of the same body, each performing its duty to build up one another and maturing together to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. In pastor/congregation relationship, it will benefit both parties spiritually if church members know what the most important pastoral duty is.
Reformation theologian John Calvin has said: "Wherever we see the Word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence…" No one will deny that a core pastoral duty is proclamation of the Word. Proclaiming the Word is not preaching what the congregation likes to hear, what appeals to the ear or what sounds great. Rather, it is to honestly convey the gospel – the law that makes people recognize their sin and repent, and in doing so receive freedom and divine help in their lives. In listening to the Word, grace is given to us through the law and the gospel. The gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is also good news that continually helps disciples.
Nevertheless, human hearts can harden because of hidden sins and unwillingness to repent. People may only hear grace and further indulge in sin. They are not hearing the gospel correctly and are refusing the teaching of the law to do good. Therefore, a major ministry of pastors and church leaders is "spiritual care." Dietrich Bonhoeffer has differentiated between spiritual care and spiritual direction. While the former starts with proclaiming the Word of God, the latter is practiced by two persons on the same plane with one of them temporarily putting oneself under the other's guidance. In spiritual care, the pastor asks and listens to the personal spirituality as expressed by the believer. He acts in accordance with the Word of God. He helps the believer face the sin to be revealed so that grace will not be distorted. Therefore, spiritual care is a special kind of preaching. It takes place in life exchanges. It lets people encounter God rather than just casually receiving information about God and spirituality.
Dear brothers and sisters, admitting sin must precede the receipt of grace. Admitting sin not only frees us from guilty feeling and burden. It also enables us to correctly hear the gospel and receive salvation and help. Therefore, please pray for your pastors so that in preaching and spiritual care, they can correctly handle the Word of truth and both you and them can stand beneath the living Word of God, be freed by the same gospel and interrogated by the same law. Please pray also for yourselves. Pray that God will help you listen to the law and the gospel and receive direction to do good as well as lead a life that is truly free. Pastors should faithfully carry out their duties knowing that effective execution of duties does not come until we surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit and the Word. May God help us.