God has always used his people to accomplish his purposes. From the garden to Noah to Israel to the disciples, God has used his people as his primary vehicle for proclaiming his glory and working out his plan of redemption. This means that for us, the greatest resource our churches possess is not technology or wealth, but people — image bearers of God.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease
One of the most disappointing conversations I have on a regular basis is the discussion of pastoral care within large churches. Sadly, many churches that grow over a couple hundred members get overwhelmed with pastoral care, which often leads to neglect. Either that or they define pastoral care as a passive response to the most needy, and ignore their responsibility to the bulk of the church.
The assumption that most people are doing just fine leaves average members and attendees basically to fend for themselves. The church is a messy place full of sin and suffering. And not only does the church need pastoral care, but also this responsibility comes with leadership in the church. As a pastor, I take seriously the fact that I will give an account for the flock entrusted to me by Jesus.
We need a better way to care for the church.
Drowning in a Sea of Problems
Moses faced a similar problem when he was pastor of Israel. As Israel grew, Moses got in the habit of sitting on the judgment seat and settling disputes for the whole nation. He would sit there day and night with no end to the counsel. Have you ever felt that way, drowning in a sea of never-ending problems?
Thankfully, Moses’ stepfather Jethro witnessed the chaos. He took Moses aside and gave him some advice. He didn’t tell him to ignore the needs of the people. What he told him to do was to entrust the oversight of the tribes to trustworthy men who had the capacity to oversee tens, hundreds, and thousands. What he was doing was establishing a system for pastoral care.
Central to this "Jethro Principle" and important to our topic is that they found a way to ensure pastoral care for everyone.
Community: Caring For One Another
Community groups are not merely Bible studies or social groups, but they provide an opportunity for the ongoing growth and care of the church. When done well, this allows a church to grow to any size and still provide pastoral care for all its members.
By entrusting delegated authority to community group leaders and neighborhood pastors (coaches) you can ensure that every member is being cared for, and is caring for others.
At Sojourn, this means that community groups are the primary vehicle for care in the church. We still provide one-on-one counseling for cases that require it, but we want the majority of that care to take place as the church loves one another and lives out the gospel together.
Our goal is to be a people who wrestle daily with the gospel and its implications in our lives. We have been called and equipped through the Holy Spirit to minister to one another with the life-giving Word of God. Therefore, we leverage community groups as a place to wrestle with and repent of sin, and to walk with one another through trials and victories.
In this way we are being the church to one another.
What is your church doing to leverage community for the sake of pastoral care?