Care Ministry

Month: November 2017

Humanitarian efforts: Are they enough?

From raging floods and forest fires to senseless acts such as 9/11 and the recent riots, no one is immune from trouble. Regardless of the specific instances and our individual differences, when tragedy strikes, it is certainly nice to see people coming together and rallying around those in need. While kindness and generosity are core tenets of citizenship and humanity, as the church we must ask ourselves, are they enough?

Humanitarian efforts play a vital role in meeting basic needs and sustaining lives. However, as our Kingdom Care framework indicates, Jesus expects more than good deeds and temporary relief. Knowing that people often read and interpret the story of the Sheep and the Goats literally, we elaborate on Matthew 25:41-43 to highlight the importance of providing spiritual support.

New International Version

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Our interpretation/explanation

41 “Then he will say to the goats, shoo. For denying my love and disobeying my commands, your destiny is the eternal fire.
42 For I was spiritually hungry, but you did not share Jesus with me. I was rebellious and parched, but you did not show me the way of life everlasting.
43 I was not part of the church, and you did not acknowledge me and help me get connected. I needed to be made righteous and holy, but you did not disciple and teach me. I was living in darkness and enslaved to my sin, but you neither loved nor cared for me as your neighbor.’

As the church, our primary concern is saving souls. Whereas being kind and generous may be sufficient for the secular world, discipling and teaching must be our foremost expressions and currency for loving people. Additionally, while the lives impacted and the path of destruction are undeniable when the storms are catastrophic, let’s be careful not to overlook those among us who are facing less apparent storms of life.

Many people are suffering in silence with no help in sight. Regardless of their situations and our intentions, we lead others astray when we fail to provide the type of sustenance and support that offers true life and lasting hope. Moreover, a kindred spirit is no substitute for experiencing the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

CARE: Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary?

A question we often ask is, “Do you view care as a primary, secondary, or tertiary ministry?” We find pastors are often quick to indicate ‘primary,’ regardless of how caring ministry is addressed at their church. Based on the standard set forth by Jesus and echoed throughout Scripture, we agree that the command to love people is a clear indication that care is a primary aspect of ministry.

The aim of this article is to distinguish between how caring tends to be represented at each of the different levels and to challenge church leaders to embrace a biblically-based discipling model of care. As you read the following summaries, consider which best reflects how your church addresses care (aka. congregational or pastoral care).

Christian Cross

TERTIARY –

Caring ministry is commonly regarded as a necessity and handled by paid staff. At this level, care is typically pastor-centric, and the approach to caring tends to be episodic and reactive. Knowing that many people expect pastors to be available 24x7 “in case of an emergency,” the role and responsibility for caring are often handled by the pastor on-call. Designating a staff member or having a part-time or retired pastor devoted to visiting people who are in the hospital, homebound, or reside in a nursing home may be normal for churches with a disproportionately high percentage of older congregants or people facing health challenges. Another example of care at the tertiary level is sending cards to people at set intervals (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries) and when needs arise (e.g., get well, sympathy).

Despite being established to function as the body of Christ, could it be that the comment – “We pay people to do that” – reflects a generally held belief and fosters a pastoral oriented approach to caring?

SECONDARY –

At this level, caring tends to be programmatic and task-oriented. Though people within the congregation may volunteer and serve in a specific and limited capacity, expressions of care tend to reflect specific issues (e.g., addictions, cancer, divorce, grief), and be managed by a staff member who oversees the various offerings and personally responds to many requests. Similar to a vending machine, care is often synonymous with self-service: request what you want when you want it. In other words, at the secondary level, churches strive to meet care needs by presenting people with options such as submitting a care/prayer request or participating in a class or support group. Some churches also have ministries that respond when an opportunity is discovered (e.g., meals, prayer quilts/shawls, Stephen Ministry). A few notable challenges with this approach include:

  • It is incumbent on people to acknowledge their circumstances and concerns.
  • We expect people to request assistance and know what type of help they need.
  • Emotional and spiritual support are frequent under-represented.

Could it be that the type of love Jesus is referring to is not that which is limited to designated volunteers, managed using to-do lists, or measured quantitatively?

PRIMARY –

To grasp what care entails, we first must understand what love requires. Throughout Scripture, we are repeatedly commanded and reminded to love God and love people. In fact, Jesus tells us to love as He loved (John 13:34-35). Given that Jesus loved us to death, He undoubtedly paints a picture of people loving and caring for one another in ways that are relational, sacrificial, and which focus on spiritual growth. Keep in mind that whenever Jesus fed, healed, or showed mercy, truth was proclaimed, and faith was the heart of the matter. While secondary and tertiary expressions may be a supplement, pastor visits, programs, and practical support are no substitute for people loving and caring for one another. Moreover, caring is not about tasks to be completed or problems to be solved; it’s about people to be loved.

Caring God’s way reflects abundant blessings, fosters deeper relationships, and is mutually beneficial.

A challenge to genuinely loving and caring for people is that our natural human tendencies are inconsistent with Godly wisdom and Jesus' teachings. As such, to care well there is often as much for people to learn as there is for them to unlearn. Until Christians are equipped and embrace the core biblical principles of loving for one another, caring is sure to be relegated to pastors and reduced to programs.

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ” (Colossians 2:2).

Care Ministry advocates caring as a primary aspect of ministry and resources churches to advance a discipling model of care that is founded and grounded in Scripture. We provide the framework (See Triangle diagram), tools, training, and support that churches need to engage and equip people to love and care for one another in ways that advance the mission of the church and make a Kingdom difference.

kingdom care_discipling triangle