Pastoral care is a very important part of the nurturing, growth and perfection of Christian lives. The concept of pastoral care in the New Apostolic Church, is clearly defined in Chapter 12:4 of the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church and provides for interesting insights.
In terms of this chapter, “The objective of pastoral care is to support our neighbour on the path that leads to redemption from sin and death, and into the image of Christ”.
In a meeting of ministers, Chief Apostle Schneider talked about his conception of pastoral care.
1) Pastoral care is about supporting members without attempting to provide answers for everything.
“One of the cornerstones of pastoral care is of course to help those who are experiencing tests and difficulties. That does not mean, however, that we have to find an explanation for the misfortune that has struck the members,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said. “Often there are just no explanations why this brother or this sister are affected by a diversity and others not.” He mentioned an example: “If we were to say: this sister has died because she was needed in the beyond, then someone could ask: why is she needed and another sister not?”
If one reflects on this a little deeper, one will realize how little sense such an attempt at an explanation makes. “It is cheap comfort,” the Chief Apostle said, hoping to provoke some serious thought. “We are not here to give explanations. We are here to support the members.”
2) Pastoral care is about helping the members when needed and being there for them always.
“The best example for pastoral care is the Good Samaritan,” the Chief Apostle said. “He did not lecture the man who had fallen among the thieves. He did not tell him, ‘If you had stayed in Jerusalem, this would not have happened!’” The Good Samaritan simply helped him. In fact, he proved to be quite persistent. He even saw to it that the man was cared for as long as he needed it. The Chief Apostle stressed: “ This is what makes pastoral care so important: helping the members when needed and being there for them always.”
3) Pastoral care means listening, encouraging, praying
“The accounts of Jesus’ conduct allow us to understand the significance of pastoral care. Without regard for the person, He turned to sinners and allowed them to feel His love. He listened, helped, comforted, counseled, admonished, strengthened, prayed, and taught.” This is how the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church sums it up in a nutshell in a chapter dedicated to pastoral care (Catechism 12.4).
Already two thousand years ago Apostle Paul wrote: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12: 4−7).
Being close to the neighbour and helping him, these are the important characteristics of true pastoral counseling. Pastoral care is primarily done by ministers in the congregations. The ministers must not act on account of their own faculties, but follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The minister is an example for the congregation. The following applies to him: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2: 3). His commission goes beyond fostering fellowship; he is to provide soul care. This is how it is described in the Vision and Mission statements of the New Apostolic Church.
4) Pastoral care is something for the whole congregation.
“Pastoral care is also the task of the entire congregation. This also relates to practical help in life. Here the words apply: ‘… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’ (Matthew 25: 35−36).
Extracted and adapted from an article published by Oliver Rütten in nac.today, the official news magazine of the New Apostolic Church International (NACI)
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