Christian pastoral care
Humans undergo social challenges that may result in psychological problems, and as a result, they need the care to go through these challenges. As such, apart from psychological counseling, there is also pastoral care. Christian pastoral care is commonly believed to be a relationship and an encounter where the Church and the religious content are clear and made as a part of the counseling process. A clergy is, in most cases, the pastoral counselor, and he represents the church. The religious dimension is often the concern in this relationship. Also, Christian pastoral care and the general counseling process in this approach require that a person establish a relationship with God and engage in prayer. In other words, one has to undertake these two religious rituals when in pastoral care. These rituals are believed to strengthen the religious experience, which is a part of the counseling service. The relationship created in every encounter rests upon the counselee and their person and between others and God. This idea can be found in the New Testament book of Matthew 22:37-39, where the greatest command is given, which is love. The relationship that emerges from the commandment of love is also clarified in the book of Leviticus 19:18. These are thus the starting point in this counseling for most authors. The love relationships that are known often may be destructive and harmful. However, pastoral care is known to help people overcome false relationships. Unlike the other forms of pastoral care and approaches to counseling based on scientific approaches, Christian pastoral care is founded on the Bible, love and freedom, and responsibility.
The foundation of Christian Pastoral care
The first basic foundation of pastoral care is the Bible. The connection between pastoral care and the bible can be seen through understanding and interpreting the word. The word under study here is pastoral care. Thus the main word is a pastor, and this word is a Latin word meaning shepherd. Thus pastoral ministry can be understood as a ministry on shepherding the people of God. According to Carmody (1990), this is a leadership idea that uses a shepherd to describe those Christian leaders. The main idea is that this word describes the duties and responsibilities of Christian leaders. This idea starts with God because Christians believe that God is the good shepherd leading His sheep whenever he wants them to go. Arguably, the book of Psalms 23 gives a perfect description of God as the shepherd who leads, feeds, guides and comfort, and protects his sheep. The shepherd ensures that his sheep have eternal security.
The shepherd image is also used when referring to the leader of Israel’s community in the Bible. The leaders of the Israelites in the Bible were mainly prophets, kings, and judges. These leaders were expected to feed, comfort, guide, and protect the Israelites. This they were to do through teaching them the word of God and living exemplary lives. In Ezekiel 34:7–11, the shepherd failed in his roles, and instead of leading the sheep, the shepherd destroyed the sheep. God then was displeased and decided that he Himself would replace the earthly shepherd. Once He is in control, he will save the sheep and provide for them. In the same book of Ezekiel, in chapter 34:23-24, God promised a new shepherd called the Messiah. In the New Testament, the Messiah appears in the form of Jesus Christ. Therefore, pastoral care is founded in the Bible, where the Pastor is considered the shepherd.
The foundation of love
Love is a key foundation to pastoral care, and as Agılkaya-Sahin (2016) states, the Christian commandment of love does not limit the love to Christian only. According to Biblical teachings, love must be given even to non-Christians. What makes this love unique, as described, is that it overlooks all the social boundaries, and as such, the Christians are required to show love to even those who are their enemies, those who are of other religions and social status. According to the Christian context, love can be shown by looking at every individual as a neighbor. In other words, according to Christian teachings, a neighbor is any individual who is suffering or in need.
Characteristically, through the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he gave his commandment of love and the importance of helping people in need (Luke 10:29–37). In the book of James 2:9, emphasis on neighborly love is made, and in this case, the Christians are required to show their love to others without bias. Love in this part of the Bible is considered a royal commandment. Therefore, it is the duty of a pastor and every Christian leader to help those in need. In this case, offering pastoral care is one way of responding to people’s emotional and psychological needs.
While love should be shown to every individual, Christian love emphasizes the need to love a person’s enemies. Jesus, in his teachings, spoke about this and insisted that “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44–45). According to this understanding, love is crucial in pastoral care since it guides the shepherd to lead his sheep. It is important to know that according to Christianity, leadership does not only remain with the Christian community. Christian leaders are also leaders to others in the community. They should thus live exemplary lives. For this reason, the pastor should show care to all individuals. This argument supports the assertion that pastoral care is founded on the love that should guide the entire process. Notably, pastoral care should be offered to everyone who needs it.
Freedom and responsibility
It is stated above that pastoral care is founded on the love they should show to everyone. As such, pastoral care should be given to everyone who needs it. Pastoral care is founded on freedom and responsibility, which means a Christian leader is a servant to all. Freedom in Christianity was first made clear during the Reformation. Luther anchored the free forgiveness of sins to their responsibility as Christians. He called this The Freedom of the Christian man. Thus a Christian is a perfectly free lord to everyone around him but subject to no one. Thus a Christian is a servant whose duty is to serve everyone. Through this ideology by Luther, Luther’s theme of Christian vocation was very central during the Reformation. This freedom and responsibility were then applied to the entire Christian community. This connects well with the idea of love as discussed above because Christians have the responsibility for their neighbors and the whole world. They have the responsibility of praying for them, showing help to the needy, and ensuring peace. The
Reformers Luther and Calvin emphasized that Christian service should not be limited to the religious sphere. Still, they should also be seen in the day-to-day relationship with neighbors, family, marriage, politics, and even work. This extension thus guides Christian Pastoral care because it shows that pastoral care should not be limited to the Christian community. Also, Christian Pastoral care should focus on matters of religion and other areas touching on human life. As such, love rooted in faith that compels others to serve became an important part of the 20th century Christian ideology. It is through love that a shepherd can guide the sheep. Similarly, it is through love that pastors can offer the best pastoral care.
What makes Christian Pastoral Care distinct?
Christian Pastoral care and pastoral care, in general, have similarities and differences. These similarities and differences exist in their historical evolution as well as their nature or approaches. Christian pastoral care is founded primarily on religion and religious teachings as well as ethical conviction. Pastoral care in counseling has its origin from clinical praxis like behaviorism and psychoanalysis. The present-day models of Christian pastoral care and pastoral care in counseling have undergone a remarkable revolution over time. Thus, Woldemichael et al. (2013) has emphasized that the object of Christian Pastoral care is founded on the teachings of Jesus. It is worth noting that Christian pastoral care is also understood to be the process of helping the people of God. To Christians, Jesus is the healer of the body and the spirit. The spiritual healing that Jesus gives is believed to bring peace and help in the reconciliation of relationships. Reconciliation, in this case, can be viewed from different angles where the angle is reconciliation between people and God and another angle is reconciliation between people themselves.
The advent of formalized pastoral care is similar in history to Christian pastoral care because they were both developed millennia ago. The Greek pioneers and other experts in psychology had already developed an idea of pastoral care. One notable thing that Woldemichael et al. (2013) have stated is that pastoral care in psychology is somehow recent and may have matured and become recognized in the recent century. On the other hand, Christian pastoral care is a practice that has lasted for the past two millennia. This was an approach used as primary care during Christian services for the church community. Even when psychology started in the 19th century, Christian pastoral care had already existed.
The most remarkable difference between Christian pastoral care and pastoral care used in counseling is their foundation. As already seen in the explanation above, Christian pastoral care is founded on religion, characterized by Biblical teachings, love, freedom, and responsibility. The main aim is to connect individuals with God through faith. Also, in this practice, there are rituals such as prayers that accompany the approach. On the other hand, pastoral care in counseling is different because it is based on scientific approaches. Even though it involves helping people cope with marriage and issues, it does not need faith (Magezi, 2019). Pastoral care in counseling tending to separate religious matters from psychological approaches is a subject for debate in the Western community. Christian pastoral care is influenced by faith and is very inclusive and almost looks flexible is a matter of concern, and I believed it to make it less effective. Overall, there is also a difference because one applies science while another applies faith and religious teachings.
Pastoral care, in general, is the act of giving emotional, spiritual, and social support. This approach has a Christian perspective to it. The Christian perspective holds that these emotional, spiritual, and social support should be given based on religious teachings. Therefore, pastoral care is founded on Christian religious approaches like the Bible. The Bible commands Christian leaders to offer social, emotional, and spiritual care. As indicated in the discussion above, pastors are seen as shepherds whose roles are to feet, care for, and protect the sheep. Therefore, pastoral care is required by the Bible, it is a responsibility of the clergy, and it is necessary for the Christian community. Pastoral care is founded on love, which means that the clergy should offer care because of his love for the believers and should also use love as the anchor in this approach. Finally, this approach holds that pastoral care is founded on freedom and responsibility. In other words, the pastor is a servant who is free due to the forgiveness of since and thus has a responsibility to care for the believers. Christians, in general, should care for the rest of the world since it is their responsibility. Thus the contrast between pastoral care and Christian pastoral care is that the latter is influenced by religion. It is also based on faith. On the other hand, pastoral care is based on psychology, and scientific approaches like psychotherapy influence it.
Agılkaya-Sahin, Z. (2016). Theoretical Foundations of Pastoral Care in Christian Tradition. Spiritual Psychology and Counseling, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.12738/spc.2016.1.0002
Carmody, J. (1990). Spirituality (Roman Catholic Tradition). In Rodney J. Hunter (Ed.), Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, (pp. 1223-1225). Nashville, TN: Abingdon.
Gau, J. V. (2000). The Gestalt of Emptiness/Receptivity: Christian Spirituality and Psychotherapy. Journal of Pastoral Care, 54(4), 403-409
Magezi, V. (2019). History and developments of pastoral care in Africa: A survey and proposition for effective contextual pastoral caregiving. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, 75(4). https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5423
King James Bible. (2017). Cambridge University Press. (Original work published 1769)
Woldemichael, M., Broesterhuizen, M., & Liègeois, A. (2013). Christian Pastoral Care and Psychotherapy: A Need for Theoretical Clarity. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling: Advancing Theory and Professional Practice Through Scholarly And Reflective Publications, 67(4), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1177/154230501306700406