What You See is What You Get!

Whether passing by people or engaging in conversation, what we see is what we get. Despite how good people may seem or say they are, the appearance of physical health and material wellness is not to suggest that our lives are free from trials, trouble, and temptation. The point is that many people are carrying burdens, feeling crushed, and facing fears beyond what we fathom. Seriously, we have no idea what many people are dealing with.

Damaged Box_400

The truism “what you see is what you get” also applies to Scripture. Take the following Bible verses for example:

  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22).
  • “My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
  • “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
  • “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:6-8).
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As the church and the body of Christ, do we truly believe that God is greater than all our troubles and concerns? And, if so, do we truly reflect that in the ways we love and care for others?

While the frequency, variety, and severity of our struggles and strongholds vary, if we truly believe the verses above, might it make sense to emphasize, and to equip people to provide emotional support and spiritual encouragement?

“God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.” - Max Lucado

Pain in our lives is not to suggest that God doesn’t care, rather it establishes our need for Jesus! Instead of being who we turn to when all else fails and our strength is gone, Jesus wants to be our Lord and Savior. Despite good intentions, as Christians, we miss the point and do little to help when we fail to provide the type of sustenance and support that offers true life and lasting hope.

The Turkey Conundrum and Care Conflict

Whether a church leader or turkey farmer, it’s natural to look at the numbers, trends, and other key indicators when making decisions and investing resources. For instance, farmers might want to know that 77% of whole turkeys are sold in November. 

It might also be helpful for them to know that for 2016:

  • 244 million turkeys where raised in the United States
  • 51.6 million turkeys were consumed on Thanksgiving day

Do the math, and you get 21% which means approximately one-fifth of the turkeys raised were consumed on Thanksgiving.

Christmas table decoration

So which number is correct – 21% or 77%? Both are true. Herein lies the problem. Data and statistics are misleading and meaningless when we do not understand what the numbers represent.

For example, if your frame of reference is limited to Thanksgiving, it’s easy to believe the 77%. Doing so, however, overlooks the fact that throughout the year, turkey is packaged and sold in ways other than the whole bird (e.g., deli lunch meat, frozen dinners). Likewise, if your context for care is limited to issues commonly associated with care and prayer requests (e.g., health/hospitalization, death/grief), it is easy to overlook the fact that people are encountering all kinds of troubles, temptations, and turmoil.

  • When turkey farmers become more concerned about Thanksgiving than turkey, they are deceived into thinking people consume turkey on one occasion only, and they miss out on the bigger 79% year-round opportunity.
  • When the church becomes more focused on addressing issues than loving people, we are deceived into implementing a task-oriented and programmatic approach that concentrates on specific concerns, and we miss the discipling opportunity (i.e., unity and maturity) which is the heart and soul of the matter. [See James 1and Ephesians 4]

"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us" (1 John 3:23).

Though we may say we love people, based on the standard established by Jesus and expressed throughout the Bible, God surely envisioned more than reducing care to church sponsored programs or relegating the duty to a select group of people.

Based on Jesus’ teachings, we contend that pastor visits and programs should supplement rather than be a substitution for people loving and caring for one another.

Pastor Visits n Programs - 400

Moreover, though fundamental to the Christian faith, the combination of 'good people' and 'good intentions' are not enough. That is because our natural inclinations are almost always inconsistent with God’s plan for people loving and caring for one another. We can help!

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


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?


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?


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

“Go and do” what?

When you read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, on which aspect do you concentrate? 

  • The blatant disregard of the Rabbi and Levite?
  • The disdain between the Jews and Samaritans?
  • The elevation change between Jerusalem and Jericho?
  • Or, the man and the Good Samaritan? 

It does us well to focus on the namesake. Also, for us to "go and do likewise," it is imperative that we understand the Parable, what it teaches, and what's expected. 

Take time to pray about and meditate on the following:


The Good Samaritan
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890).
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (The Netherlands).

  1. Jesus tells us, the man was attacked by robbers and left naked, beaten, and half dead (Luke 10:30). Knowing that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a), could it be that the man embodies each of us?
  2. Knowing that “There is only One who is good” (Matthew 19:17), could it be that the Good Samaritan represents Jesus? After all, didn’t Jesus come so that we might have life and have it to the full? (John 10:10b)
  3. Just as the Son of Man had to be lifted up (John 3:14), could it be that bandaging and cleansing the man’s wounds, lifting him up, and bearing his weight is symbolic of what Jesus wants to do for each of us?
  4. Jesus then brings the man to the Inn. Could it be that the Inn represents the church, a birthing place (Matthew 1:23, John 3:3) where people are to be cared for and nourished by the Word of God, and that is central to the maturation process?
  5. Notice how the story ends telling us Jesus paid the price and that He will return. Could it be that the Parable is the Gospel message? Might Jesus be communicating how vitally important it is for the church, the body of Christ, to spiritually care for one another? (See Romans 15:1-6, Galatians 6:2 and 1 Peter 5:7)
  6. Though the story ended, the Parable concludes with Jesus saying we are to go and show mercy. It might be helpful to think of mercy as clemency. Showing mercy is our opportunity to help people discover and delight in the freedom and fullness of life that is found only in Jesus.

As we grapple with the pressures of the world and face trials of various kinds, many people within our churches are feeling anything but alive. “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right” (James 2:8). If we love, we care. It’s the heartbeat of the Christ faith.

Providing Emotional and Spiritual Support

While health care professionals focus on the physical and psychological needs of people [patients], it is vitally important for the church to address the emotional and spiritual needs. When coming along side people who are encountering difficult life situations and struggles, they want to feel that there is an awareness of and appreciation for their feelings and circumstances. Additionally, people do not want to be criticized, fixed, or feel as though they are being judged. It is when there is a genuine sense of caring that people become increasingly willing to open up.

Two men in living room talking

Though emotional needs and spiritual needs are considered to be distinct and separate from one another, research has shown that in many ways they are interrelated. While both encompass a search for meaning and hope, spirituality goes farther to include religious practices and seeking the peace and presence of God. In fact, when people’s emotional and spiritual needs are not adequately addressed, anger, depression, feelings of hopelessness, negative emotions and stress amplify our feelings of separation from God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Additionally, there are increased health risks and greater potential to experience health complications. So what are some of the benefits of emotional and spiritual care?

  • Deeper relationships and spiritual growth
  • A sense of connectedness
  • Improved quality of life
  • Enhanced emotional coping and psychosocial functioning
  • Improved emotional and functional adjustment
  • Decreased anxiety
  • And more

A challenge for Christians and the church, however, is that the combination of ‘good intentions’ and ‘good people’ doesn’t inevitably equate to loving and caring for people as Jesus commands. In other words, without a concerted effort, a clear sense of purpose, and solid biblically-based training, expressions of care are naturally secular and void of any spiritual support and encouragement. CARE may be the ultimate discipling opportunity as difficult life circumstances are where the proverbial rubber meets the road and faith becomes real. Don’t miss the discipling opportunity!

Creatures of Habit – The Easter Ham

It is fascinating to think of the many things we do without ever giving consideration as to why. As the following story points out, we often do the things we do for no other reason than it's the way we always have.

     As Donna was in the kitchen preparing the Easter ham, her husband asked, “Why do you always cut off the ends of the ham?”

     Donna paused for a moment and then responded, “That’s a good question. I’ve always cut off the ends of the ham because that’s the way my mother did it.”

Canned Ham

    With her curiosity peeked, Donna called her mother and asked why. Her mother replied with a similar sense of intrigue, “That’s the way my mother always did it.”

     Donna then called her grandmother, mentioned cutting off the ends of the ham and being perplexed as to why. Her grandmother broke out into laughter. Once she gained her composure, she answered, "Because the pan was too small." 

     Needless to say, Donna never cut off the ends of the ham again.

Caring ministry is not about tasks to be completed; rather it is about people to be loved. Similar to the ham story, church leaders often acknowledge that before joining our program, they had not given much consideration to caring ministry. Before you cut off the ends of the ham, take the time to reflect on what the Bible teaches us about caring for one another and what caring entails. Also, it may be wise to take time and explore the biblical basis of your current caring efforts.

Things that Really Matter

I’m sorry, friend, I let you down
I always thought we’d get around
to talkin’ ‘bout the things that really matter.

I had this plan to take it slow––
give you a change to get to know
the messenger before you heard the message.

It seems like every chance you had
to serve me well and make me glad,
you did just that and more to me and others.

An open door, your friendly smile,
a free dessert, and all the while
I waited for a chance to share my Jesus.

So many times I meant to say,
friend, you are His, He is the way
to know just why you’re here and where you’re going.

But now I’m left with deep regret
that I let fear and logic get
the best of me, and so my tongue fell silent.

Today your life slipped from your grasp––
I’ll never have the chance to ask
If you were His and He was your…forever.

But thanks to you I’m not the same––
I pray the next time, I will name
the One who knows the things that really matter.

By Tim Dommer - Used with permission.