Great book on Pastoral Care

While dealing with the various crisis that come up in life and ministry are never easy – I want to share with you all a really good book I have found quite useful in helping address such issues as dealing with situational crisis, suicides, hospital emergencies, illness, death and dying, marriage issues, dealing with mental illness issues along with knowing when to refer someone to professional counseling and so on.  I was introduced to it when I went through an introductory part-time Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) unit to fulfill a counseling requirement for Seminary. 

The book is David K. Switzer’s Pastoral Care Emergencies (Creative Pastoral Care and Counseling) (Ausburg Fortress, 2000).  Switzer writes from a Lutheran perspective but how the issues are presented and the theological basis for pastoral care are hardly objectionable.  He rightly sees pastoral care as both an attitude and an act. It’s not just something we do, it is also based on how we approach the matter.  In essence, pastoral care (or Christ-likness-care as Dave Black puts it) is rooted in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and is the primary expression of what it means to be the Church.  It is an expression of the whole life and purpose of the Christian community.

So, the questions come up, how do we deal with a suicidal person and how can we be one step ahead of them?  How do I relate to a dying person?  How do we comfort the bereaved?  What about mental illnesses and divorce and what do I do when I get to the hospital for a visit or an emergency?  Switzer deals with all this and gives good and useful information for what to do and what not to do, what to say and what not to say.   Really, it’s’ good book and one that any Christian should think about having as a resource for ministering to others.

on the historical Jesus

Nick has reviewed Craig Keener’s The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, and while the review is fine, there is a section that annoys me.  It’s not Nick fault, he may not even realize it but it is something many a shcolar does and I’ll try to explain why it bothers me.  Here is the section:

The Jesus that we can know from our earliest and best sources (the Gospels) was an itinerant preacher/charismatic healer/exorcist/miracle worker who believed himself to have been commissioned by God to bring about Israel’s restoration.  He was an eschatological prophet who taught of a coming kingdom that he believed he would play a significant role in ushering in.  He envisioned his mission at least partly in messianic terms and called for radical discipleship, placing allegiance to him along the lines that were reserved for God alone, hence there is good reason to see continuity between the extremely early emphasis on Jesus’ exalted status and Jesus’ own exalted self-awareness (see esp. chap. 19).  In short, the historical Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus that the Church has traditionally proclaimed.

I guess what bothers me is how the passive past tense is used as though Jesus didn’t really know who he was or what he was doing.  Did not Jesus know who he was and what he was doing from the time he was twelve years old, if not from before time began?   If so, why all the talk about “he believed himself to be…” “He thought he was…” so on and so forth? 

Thought?  Explainations?  Thanks.

Grace and Truth

came through Jesus Christ it says in John 1:17 (v.14 reads he was “full of grace and truth).   I am reading through the Gospel of John in my Greek NT.  I am reading in my UBS edition since it has the section breaks so I read from section to section.  In reading the prologue there is much to think about and reflect on.

I am thankful Jesus came into the world in “grace and truth” or that “grace and truth” came through Jesus.  It seems necessary that grace and truth go together though John seems to contrast this with Moses and the Law.  Not that Moses wasn’t a gracious person, but I am inclined to think the Law wasn’t that gracious.  The Law just showed us the truth but not always in a gracious way – Keener suggests God’s presentation of the Law at Sinai had elments of grace and truth but that it was incomplete – the fullness of that grace and truth came in and through Jesus Christ.

But anyways, it is good that John coupled grace with truth – for often truth is easer to receive when offered with a seasoning of grace (and mercy too).  Jesus is the full embodiment of the Father and exemplifes his character of one who is humble and gentle of heart – one who we know we can go to and receive from because he is “full of grace and truth.”

what say you?

John Stott on Acts 6:5-6

In his book Living Church John Stott writes regarding Acts 6:5-6:

A vital principle is embedded in this incident, which the church urgently needs to re-learn in every generation, namely that “everybody cannot do everything.”  Indeed, everybody is not called to do everything.  Or let me express this principle in three positive statements:

  1. God calls all his people to ministry (diakonia).
  2. God calls different people to different ministries.
  3. God expects those called to the ministry of the word to concentrate on their calling and on no accunt to allow themselves to be distracted by social administration. 

So, I have a question, how do you all think about his last point?  Are there some called to the ministry of the word and that if they are that should be their only focus?  This basically affirms the role of the preaching pastor/elder and that others could or should focus on the social ministries of the church so the teachers can focus on theirs. 

What say you?

on the nature of incarnational ministry

as I understand it.  (warning: somewhat long post)

Someone in our congregation is new to this idea of incarnational ministry as a way of living the Christian life as followers of Jesus Christ.  He had some questions since he had never heard of it before so I gave him a couple of books I have to see if they could help and then he shared with me via email that the books were helpful and that he is learning more about it.  He also shared a link with me that expresses concern at the use of the term incarnational ministry in a way that empites its theological meaning.  He also shared with me a quote from E.M Bounds on prayer (I put the quote in the commets section to save space). 

My response is as follows:

Thanks for the note and the link.  Glad you found the books somewhat helpful. 

Please know that it is not our intent nor our desire to promote incarnational ministry in a manner that undermines the gospel message or in a way that creates an either or situation of sharing the gospel or being incarnational.  I believe the Lord calls us to be incarnational for the sake of the gospel (evangelism is the goal, incarnational ministry is the vehicle) – or that we may have opportunity to tell people about the story of Jesus and the freedom and new life they can have in him. 

While I understand the cautious nature of the link you sent me, and the concerns it has with regards to how it sees incarnational ministry being promoted in some circles, my main concern would be that while not all believers promote incarnational ministry in the same manner – at the heart of promoting such Christianity is provided the opportunity to promote and share the gospel with people newer and more creative ways, in particular through social engagement and the concept of community and relationships.  The days of Josh McDowell’ “evidence that demands a verdict” style evangelism is past – people want relationships.  McDowell’s materials are still very useful and needed, but they have to be utilized through personal relationships (i.e., incarnational ministry).  Most people don’t get saved because of convincing intellectual or logical arguments, they get saved because of relationships.  Does that make sense?

This can lead to one area I might disagree with E.M. Bounds.  While Bounds provides good devotional material, his writings reveal his social and cultural context, primarily his background in the Holiness movement of the early 20th century (which is where we Pentecostals come from) and the things going on at that time (increase in industrialism (thus use of the term factory and that he’s for it but then against it; and possible concerns with the social gospel message of that time – thus the argument to not focus much on performing deeds of charity or acts of mercy). 

I think we do need to perform acts of mercy and deeds of charity for the sake of the gospel – or for the opportunity to share the gospel (the goal is evangelism; deeds of mercy the vehicle to that sharing of the gospel).  Instead of worrying about a social gospel issue, I tend to follow Aimee Semple McPherson’s idea of emphasizing the social implications of the gospel – the gospel itself has social, cultural, and ethical implications (she spearheaded the largest and most influential food bank and commissary during the Great Depression – she become the go to person during that time).  It should affect how we live in the world and influence it toward gospel understanding. 

This leads to the other area I might differ with Bounds, is that I don’t think the church is a factory for producing righteous people.  Only the Holy Spirit makes people righteous and that by the blood of Jesus and through the effecting of sanctification.  Instead, I tend to see the church like a hospital where broken and hurting people are able to come to the cross and find healing and redemption though Christ.   

Then, as born again Christians they are able to love incarnational lives with the unchurched to point them to Christ.  So the Church then is a lighthouse, a hospital, a garbage dump of sorts instead of a factory.

Here is something Jerry (my father-in-law, a retired chaplain) said:  If we are only seen as a factory we have done a poor job  in producing the type of righteous person who can go out into the world with an incarnational ministry.  The problem as I see it; the “righteous people“ we produce are either hypocrites or unequipped to impact our modern day culture with incarnational ministry.

So, I hope that helps some in understanding basically where we are coming from in our approach to ministry (still growing and developing obviously as we’ve only been at this two years so far). 


NT Greek verse(s) of the day

Εὐχαριστοῦμεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ πάντων ὑμῶν μνείαν ποιούμενοι ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν ἡμῶν, ἀδιαλείπτως  μνημονεύοντες ὑμῶν

 τοῦ ἔργου τῆς πίστεως καὶ τοῦ κόπου τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ τῆς ὑπομονῆς τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ θεοῦ

 καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, εἰδότες, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ [τοῦ] θεοῦ, τὴν ἐκλογὴν ὑμῶν, ὅτι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν οὐκ ἐγενήθη εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν

λόγῳ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν δυνάμει καὶ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ [ἐν] πληροφορίᾳ πολλῇ, καθὼς οἴδατε οἷοι ἐγενήθημεν [ἐν] ὑμῖν δι᾽ ὑμᾶς.

Where is it?  What does it say?  Was it too easy?  Let me know.