Pastoral Role in the Discipleship Model

“The pastoral role in the discipleship model is a function of leadership, not chaplaincy. 
One of the great tragedies of the chaplaincy model is that it sets pastors up for failure. 
No matter how committed pastors may be, there is simply no way they can always be present in times of need. Times of crisis come when the family or individual least expects them. 
Pastors are often not immediately available or may be so exhausted or so pressed for time that, 
even when they are available, they are not entirely there”. 
Michael W. Foss
“What is needed in today’s context are not pastors who ‘do’ ministry but pastors who, 
from the wellspring of their own spirituality, ‘lead’ others in the doing of ministry.” 
Michael W. Foss
“When they found Him, they told Him, ‘Everyone’s looking for You!’ 
He replied, ‘Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages, so that I can preach there too. That’s why I’ve come.” 
Mark 1:37-38 (Common English Bible)
     Pay close attention to what is happening in Mark’s Gospel.  The previous day, Jesus exhausted Himself providing pastoral care to increasingly large numbers of people.  Isn’t it true that when you are handing out what people want, they seem to show-up in large numbers?  Well, Jesus finally had to call a day a day.  He was depleted.  Jesus went to bed.  Early the next morning, the crowds returned for more.  The disciples went looking for Jesus who rose early for prayer.  When they found Him, they told Jesus, “Everyone’s looking for You!”  That was the short way of saying, “Come back and continue giving away the good stuff that You were handing-out yesterday.  Everyone loves You for it!”
     Trouble is, Jesus didn’t feel He had to meet people’s expectations of Him.  Jesus never lost focus of His primary purpose – to expand the God movement that was underway in the world.  Yes, He performed miracles, healing and administered pastoral care the previous day.  Yet, all of that was simply to provide a glimpse of the power of the God movement – not its purpose.  The people tried to harness the power of the movement for themselves, to take care of their wants and needs.  Jesus saw that and refused to go back.  “Let’s head in the other direction,” Jesus said to the disciples.  Essentially, Jesus was saying that His purpose was evangelism, not caring for the flock already gathered.
     The Bible teaches that the church is charged – or commissioned – to continue the ministry of Jesus.  That means the church continues with the same guiding purpose that directed Jesus, the expansion of the God movement.  And the book of Ephesians teaches that pastors of local churches are to lead the movement with their own congregations.  The practical dimension of this is that pastors are not to be chaplains.  Chaplains go back to the gathering large crowds.  Jesus did not.
      Naturally, people need prayer, pastoral care and encouragement.  Life’s journey sometimes becomes difficult.  But what scripture teaches in Exodus 18, Acts 6 and Ephesians 4, along with so many other places, is that pastoral care is to come primarily from the people of God to the people of God.  Pastors are to lead; people are to care for one another.
     This notion may not find favor among some people.  It simply doesn’t fit their idea of what a pastor should be and do.  Jesus was placed on a cross because of the same thing; people expected something different from a Messiah.  As someone once said to me, “Some people will not allow the Bible to interfere with what they believe the pastor should do.”  Pastors that capitulate to the people’s desire will find that they have become chaplains to dying churches.  God simply will not bless any design for ministry that is not God’s own.    
     Make no mistake, Jesus did some pastoral care.  And it is reasonable that any pastor will provide some pastoral care as well.  But the pastor will do so within a larger system or network of people.  Additionally, larger churches such as First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach are fortunate to have the financial resources to have additional pastors who direct the pastoral care of the church.  Even then, however, it is unfaithful to the scriptures for any associate pastor to assume all the care responsibilities.  Faithful leadership by these associate pastors is to “equip” church members for an expansive program of care.  Stephen Ministry is one way that this is done.  As congregations search the scriptures, embrace God’s blueprint for the church, and surrender false and selfish notions of what they expect from the church’s leadership, an unnatural power is released.  That power is simply God being God in the church and among a faithful people.

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