Part 1 of 3: What is Pastoral Care?
Jesus is a shepherd to His people – He is the Good Shepherd, Great Shepherd, and Chief Shepherd. This shepherd imagery gives a clear vision of His comprehensive care for His people to know them, feed them, lead them and protect them. So, it would only make sense that He would use the same metaphor to describe those He calls to lead and care for His flock. Under the headship of Jesus, our elders at Greenbriar Church are the primary overseers and shepherds (pastors) of His church.
To verify both of these realities, we can observe in Acts 20 that Paul called the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet with him. He told them the Holy Spirit made them ‘overseers’ to ‘shepherd’ [GK poimainein which is the word we get ‘pastor’ from] the Church of God, (Acts 20:17-18,28). Another great way to describe elders/pastors is simply “servant leaders.” Elders lovingly lead and give oversight, not to lord their authority over God’s people, but to humbly serve them in truth in love. The first place we find the notion of a servant leader is from Jesus Himself, who said that “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mat 20:28 ESV).
How do pastors serve the church in leadership? By shepherding “the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:2 ESV). Paul says something similarly to the elders at Ephesus, commanding them to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood,” (Acts 20:28 ESV). The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd the flock of God.
So how does a shepherd (pastor) care for the flock? We can define “shepherding care” this way: Pastors exercise Shepherding Care in the local church by knowing, feeding, leading and protecting the flock through oversight and personal relationships. Let’s take a look at how Shepherding Care takes place through oversight and personal relationships in the four categories of knowing, feeding, leading and protecting.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)
Pastors have been tasked to keep watch over the souls of the flock. That is a tremendous responsibility and one that we do not take lightly. As a matter of fact, one of the main reasons we have created a comprehensive shepherding plan is because of the weight of this passage. We will be held accountable for how we care for God’s flock. For us to shepherd well, we first must know our partners.
Knowing by Oversight
Knowing requires the elders/pastors to be able to identify the sheep for whom they are accountable to the Lord. The best way for us to know who we are spiritually responsible for is to distinguish between the guests and partners of our church. We have designed our partnership experience for this reason. Those who sign covenants to partner with the Greenbriar Church family are who we are accountable to before the Lord. In this partnership process, not only do we discover who we are spiritually responsible for, but we also get to know you by hearing your story. We want to know that you have been converted and that you are on a path to discipleship.
Knowing by Personal Relationship
We will be contacting our partners on a consistent, deliberate basis each year to check on your overall spiritual health. On these calls, will pray with you, answer questions, or address any concerns you may have. However, the primary responsibility we have is to make sure discipleship is thriving in your life. Your assigned pastor will email you in advance to set up a time for you (and your family) to get together either via phone or in person. Making hospital visits, caring for families during a crisis, and any other pastoral care for our partners will also be considered “knowing by personal relationship.”
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep,” (John 21:17 ESV).
It is the responsibility of every pastor to make sure the sheep are well nourished through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
Feeding through Oversight
Our Sunday morning gathering is a time not only for corporate worship but also to learn more about the Word. Our sermons are intentional and well thought out in advance. We address current, relevant issues by teaching how the Gospel speaks to us about them. We also teach verse by verse through a couple of books of the Bible each year. Sermon series campaigns are yet another way we strive to feed the flock.
Feeding through Personal Relationship
One of our primary objectives for our personal meetings with partners is to ask how you are doing in the area of discipleship. We believe that if a partner is growing in being a better disciple (learning, following, and reproducing) of Jesus Christ, then he/she will certainly be healthier. Therefore, most of our personal meeting with you will be centered on how their discipleship is increasing.
Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:3 ESV)
Pastors do not drive sheep; they lead sheep. The best way to lead is by example.
Leading by Oversight
By regularly and clearly stating our vision, we are helping to lead our flock to make disciples and plant churches. We share our vision through teaching, partnership experience, small groups, creativity and art, and a whole slew of different ways. Our aim is to be examples in living out our God-given vision for others to see.
Leading by Personal Relationship
We practice church discipline for the purpose of a sinning partner’s repentance and restoration so that they may flourish and glorify God. We also help lead others through giving counsel and helping them find ongoing counseling if necessary.
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (Acts 20:29 ESV)
The world is always preaching powerful sermons about how you’re to live your life. However, it’s a shepherd’s job to share truth in love to protect the sheep from false teaching.
Protecting by Oversight
We are always teaching truth each Sunday and creating safe environments through small groups for you to hear the truth and be protected by false doctrine and beliefs. We tackle tough topics through preaching and writing, and we are constantly pointing people toward Jesus!
Protecting by Personal Relationship
We say hard things by speaking the truth in love. Instead of letting things fly under the radar to avoid confrontation, we embrace opportunities to speak truth to our partners. This is love. Hate is not saying anything if we thought someone was heading for a cliff. However, we love our partners and want to see them thrive rather than be destroyed by sin. We also desire to protect the innocent who don’t have fathers or husbands. We protect the widows and orphans from crafty people who want to exploit them. Another way we protect is a continual commitment to pray for each partner.
We ask you to be patient with us as we strive to serve you to the best of our ability. Each elder has the full-time job of leading his own family and also working to provide for his family. Shepherding Care is not easy especially in a busy culture, but it is worth it in the long run for all involved.