Pastoral Care from the Pulpit /not small groups

The pulpit is a place to dispense pastoral care, in fact it is the primary place to dispense pastoral care.  There is this tendency to segregate pastoral care, and pulpit ministry into two separate areas of the pastoral call.  The standard sentiment seems to be that the pulpit is for preaching the gospel, and the visitation or counseling session is for pastoral care.

There are probably a myriad of reasons this dichotomy of preaching/pastoral care has arisen, but I believe the number one reason is that we have come to believe that the Sunday sermon is the primary evangelistic tool of the church.  Most pastors seem to buy into this; the fundamentalist pastor builds his message around saving the lost soul that ventured into a pew, the Church growth guy builds his message around some principles for a better life complete with some cute stories and a joke or two to get them to come back next week, and the missional pastor spends his pulpit time inviting people to participate in social justice or the great commission with his congregation. In all three of the aforementioned examples the sermon is used with the intent of getting the uninvolved, unchurched, or unsaved into the flock.  What is the problem with this?  The problem is that the very covenant community, which happens to be involved, churched, and saved, is never the intended audience of their pastor.  The sheep get neglected in favor of 'potential' sheep.  Now the clever pastors believe they have found a way around this, and that way is small/home/cell group ministry.  The idea is that the pastor cannot preach in such a manner that his faithful will grow, because for them to grow the depth of his sermon would be too much for the 'unchurched'.  So to address the problem the pastor recommends that his faithful sheep go to the small groups to grow and to be cared for.  Sounds great right? Wrong!

I am not anti small group by any means, but I am sick of hearing the "that's wear the real growth happens" line brought out by pastors who have neglected feeding the sheep on Sundays.  In most cases the leaders of small groups who are called to 'facilitate' discussion, and have no theological training and have not been selected by a process that evaluates their qualifications as pastors.  Yes I said their qualifications as pastors!  If we are going to make the small group the primary place where people are pastored, should not their leaders meet the biblical criterion of a pastor?  Do you see the problem?  The sheep are left to whoever is willing to volunteer their home to lead, while potential sheep not yet of the flock get lead by the pastor, the one who has a calling on his life to lead the sheep!  It's all backwards.  Pastors, we are to care for the flock, so that the flock can go healthily into the world with the Gospel to the lost, unchurched, dechurched, or whatever current cliche you drag out when referring to people without Christ.

I do believe in doing visitations as a pastor, especially to the sick.  Yet what is it that you bring to them?  The good news of Christ, who lived, suffered, died, and rose FOR THEM.  That is what pastoral care is all about, bringing the Law and Gospel into the various dark, difficult places where people are.  While visitation is for the individual, Sunday morning is a visitation so to speak for the covenant community, and that is how it should be treated.  We should enter the pulpit with care of the congregation of our Lord as our first concern!  Our goal should be to bring Law and Gospel to the sheep for their health and edification, leaving them emboldened by grace to go into the world.  I will leave the lost to the small groups... but the pulpit ministry is for the sheep.

That was a bit rantish, but think about it.


Altman family said...


I couldn't agree with you more on your blog regarding the role of the pastor and feeding the sheep from the pulpit and true pastoral care. Dick Altman

Lazaro said...

Jay, can you by chance clarify what you mean by pastor? Please include verses that clearly define the 'work' or 'intent' of God gifting them to the 'church'. Think if we start there, we can avoid unnecessary banter that we probably already agree on.:)

Jay Miklovic said...

Hey Lazaro

I would first look at Ephesians 4:11-16 and see that the entire leadership structure of the church has it focus internally on the equipping of the saints for ministry, and to bring the body to a place where it builds itself up in love. Of course it does this with Christ as its head and sovereign. The Ephesians 4:11-16 text is critical to understanding the purpose not only of the pastoral (Shepherd) role but that of all other leaders whom God has given to the church.

The role of the pastor is distinct from the other roles, but it's purpose is the same, and it is inward to the church body, that the church body would be outward into the world. Essentially it is a 'care' role.

Of course to get a more detailed pastoral description we go to 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. In 1 Timothy 1:5 we see what the primary "Aim" of the pastor is to be.

1 Timothy 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

We know that a pure heart is the product of grace, as is the good conscience and sincere faith. It is a gospel ministry of pastoral care. Feeding people the Gospel that they would not be distracted by arguments regarding foolishness (looking at the context around vs 5 gives the detail.)

Again in 1 Tim 5:17 Timothy is charged to give Elders double honor, especially those who teach and preach... why? because their function is critical in the building up of the body of believers.

The point is that the pastor (shepherd) is to function in a role that is above all other things a caring role for the sheep. Whether it is how he preaches, or how he honors others who serve in various teaching and preaching roles, the function is that of pastoral care.

I can elaborate more with more scripture later if you would like, but hopefully this is adequate to your question.

Lazaro said...

Think we are looking at 'pastor' from different perspectives. You seem to take the 'church model' of tradition we have grown up in. Yet if we look at Acts model of meeting house to house, it's hard to downplay the impact of a shepherd interacting intimately with the sheep. Not only leading the flock to water/food, but tending and guarding the flock from predators. I have seen this function 'work' in Acts model, but never in modern 'churchianity'. Hard to be intimate and truly care for those mostly only known on Sunday!

Jay Miklovic said...

Lazaro, first let me say that the pastor/shepherd is responsible for the church in more ways than just word and sacrament, do misunderstand me there. I certainly do not see pulpit ministry as the only pastoral care, but it is in that category.

As far as the 'Acts Model' you cite, I think it is important to see the church in Acts in an evolving stage (please don't read this a post modern statement, its not). Obviously when 3000 are added, they don't just all plop down on the couch in your living room.

Moreover in acts we do see the creation of councils and a structured church beginning to emerge.

Acts is the narrative of the church and certainly we pull doctrine from Acts, but the primary function of Acts is not doctrinal instruction it is a historical narrative account of the early church. If we want to see the doctrine behind the early church movement we go to the Epistles, they give us the 'model' so to speak.

I could give you the entire history of a company like Microsoft without ever touching their management structure, hiring practices, and employee handbook. You would not use the historical account however as a means of duplicating their work. You would use the internal documents for structures and such. I know it is a very secular example, but it gives understanding to the different function between the Epistles and the narratives.