PARADIGMS OF PASTORAL CARE.
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It is the purpose of this essay to examine three paradigms or
theological images of Pastoral care and comment on their usefulness for the
The three paradigms chosen for this essay are, Jesus
himself, the Shepherd, and Incarnation as a model of pastoral care.
It is hoped that as each paradigm is discussed in
isolation that a clear idea can be gauged about their effectiveness as well as
some of their pitfalls. As a paradigm, Jesus own model is of course without
fault, however because we unlike Jesus have fallen and are unable to 100%
replicate his model, we are left with the task of finding a paradigm of our
own which we can model and in the process become effective Pastoral carers.
Finally each of the paradigms discussed will be compared
to the definition of Pastoral care as laid out by W. Clebsch & C. Jaekle
to give as solid a foundation as possible that they might be worthy of
acceptance by those involved in care, be they professional or laity.
As a paradigm for pastoral ministry what greater model
can there be than that which is the life of Jesus himself. Jesus was first and
foremost, a minister(see
Hebrews 8:2), and as such there was nothing more natural for him than to
exercise his ministry among the many who sort his power to alleviate their
discusses the issues of the Greek word for ministry (diakonia) and sets out how it was enlarged and transformed by
Jesus' own ministry. The term was used of those who execute the commands of
Jesus' model of ministry was characterised by his
authority, his ability to attract people to
himself and his ability to meet people where they were at. People could tell
that he had power, they could see in the way he conducted himself that he was
in control. This is no more clearly seen that in the episode recorded in
Mark's gospel (Mark 1:27) where the people are amazed at his teaching because
it was with authority that he commanded the unclean spirit. In his
introduction to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book "Spiritual Care", Jay
Rochelle expresses his agreement with Bonhoeffer, that the Christian Pastor is
the representative of Jesus' authority and as such, "should be exemplar
Thus in it's practical outworking this can be seen to be an important aspect
for any who would call themselves minister or servant after Christ.
An important point to recognise about Jesus authority was
his own awareness of it. Jesus was aware of his ability to have authority to
forgive sin, to confer that authority to his disciples and his power over the
It is this self awareness that holds the essence of this paradigm for
ministry. Jesus as one who had the authority
just outlined was aware of his own relationship with God. He knew that his
authority was dependent on that relationship and his use of imagery through
out the gospels depicts this dependency. For example in John's gospel Jesus
talks about his dependency on the Father (John 8:28).
For the practical ministry it should be obvious that to
fail to recognise dependence on Christ, (here assuming Christ equals Father
and Son as one) cannot but lead to a sense of inadequacy as one searches for
answers to the spiritual dilemmas that identify Pastoral Care from
Psychological care of a secular nature. Clinebell talks about spiritual growth
as an objective of all caring and counselling, and it being somewhat unique in
the field of those who care at a professional level.
This of course could be extrapolated to cover all care and counselling at all
levels, be it lay or professional. God is the essential element of what the
Christian is about.
Another important characteristic of Jesus ministry is his
concern for people, be that a large group or an individual with individual
In other words, Jesus had compassion or empathy
with those whom he ministered. Jesus often used the shepherd metaphor to
describe his role and it will be discussed later in this essay. The Shepherd
therefore can also stand alone as a paradigm for pastoral ministry.
It was within the context of being a shepherd that Jesus
expressed his compassion in such verses as Matthew 9:36. Further Jesus'
compassion can be seen in Mark 6:34 and Luke 15:20 as well in Mark 1:41 where
he was moved to heal the leper. What good would it do to minister without
compassion, what possible hope could be seen by those who are being ministered
to, if they were unable to sense understanding within the one they had turned
to for help?
This ability to have empathy or as Browning puts it
"to be sensitive" to others, is a direct by-product of Jesus'
awareness of his own inner feelings. Jesus knew a proper expression of all
human emotions and as such, he could cry when the time was appropriate, he
could laugh, feel anger, pain, sorrow, and express love.
Take the story of Lazarus in
John 11:3, here Jesus expressed his love for a human being, he expressed his
joy that his disciples were not there when Lazarus died (v15), and he wept
over Lazarus (v35). Jesus reacted to each situation with appropriate emotion.
Erickson points out that these emotions along with Jesus' astonishment at both
positive and negative situations mark him as uniquely human.
As a model for practical ministry this is of the utmost
importance, because like the prior point it is these qualities that enable the
effective discharge of the Pastoral office. With out being in touch with their
own emotions the minister/pastor cannot hope to find and identify with those
to whom they work and guide.
From a practical point of view Howard Stone put this in words which are hard
to replicate, "In the name of God I am here for you......., I am a
broken, human expression of that love, but you have my attention and care
while we are together, and my prayers while we are apart."
The minister/pastor must like Christ understand
themselves if they are to be effective.
It can be seen then that Jesus had a relational quality
about him, that was like a magnet to those around him (Mark 1:45). People
sensed his warmth, approach-ability and his non judgemental style.
People came because they sensed that they would be accepted, loved and cared
for without being judged. This is expressed by the type of people who sort him
out, (those who had the most to fear in a world where religion was bound by
it's own rules and regulations) the publicans, the prostitutes and various
numbers of sinners of all descriptions.
Jesus was prepared to talk
with them, he was prepared to deal with their issues, not matter how difficult
it might be. Take for instance the issue of taxes to Caesar, Jesus was not
afraid to take some issues head on when that was the appropriate course of
action. Yet he could express great sensitivity when he confronted the Samaritan
woman at the well. These again would be qualities that an effective
pastoral carer should be able to express. What hope is a carer who fails to
engage their fellow in dialogue or who fails to help them confront life’s
problems and bring them in wholeness.
This then is the model of Christ, a paradigm of empathy,
warmth and genuineness. A practical outworking of love which meets and deals
with the problems of the world with authority, a personal sense of self, an
ability to transpose oneself into another’s
situation and one which through acceptance allows all to feel free to partake
of the grace of God. Jesus sense of ministry then was to bring others to
wholeness and as a result of that see them achieve the ultimate relational
A second paradigm for ministry is the metaphor of the
Shepherd. This is a model that Jesus continually refers to throughout his
ministry. This model could be bought to mind by it's image of courageous
This is not however an image confined to New Testament
times but rather this image has it's roots back in the Old Testament. Psalm 23
for instance recalls the image of God being a shepherd and helper, while in
passages such as 1 Samuel 17 there is the image of a defender as a shepherd
who has rescued the lamb from the clutches of the lion. Seward Hiltner in
"The Christian Shepherd" outlines two helpful characteristics of the
shepherd as concern (or acceptance) and clarification (or judgement).
By his own admission these are not all the characteristics of a shepherd and
the skill of shepherding is not in itself the full function of a person in the
This in a sense brings out one of the major flaws with
this image in today's world. Due in some part to lack of concern or commitment
over the years shepherding has been disassociated by many from the other
aspects of the pastors role. Campbell calls this image a "blank
cheque" on which can now be written the value we wish to give to caring.
Harville Hendricks likewise feels that pastoral care is in need of a new
paradigm, although he is reacting more to the priestly model.
Looking back to the twenty third psalm several internal
images of the shepherd are bought in to acute focus.
Firstly the psalm speaks of a care for individual sheep.
This is the concern talked about by Hiltner, a concern which demonstrates that
the shepherd can express their genuine concern for and acceptance of a person
for who and what they are.
For shepherding to be taking place there has to acceptance of all the
conflicts, negative feelings and sin that live within the one being cared for.
This in practical ministry has the impact like that of Jesus who was not
judgemental, allowing all to come and be ministered to.
The twenty third psalm goes onto talk about a shepherd
giving rest, provision of daily sustenance, encouragement, guidance,
instruction and security. All qualities necessary for the proper administering
of a pastoral care role. These very qualities are all expressed in one term,
Leader. It is the role of the shepherd to lead, for it is by following the
shepherd that the sheep find that they are provided for. An important note
here is that the shepherd leads rather than drives the flock. Jesus claimed
the title Good Shepherd in John 10 and quotes Zechariah's prophecy of the
smitten shepherd so that he could speak of his own death.
It is unfortunate that history has not served this image
well as Hiltner and Campbell have picked up. Hiltner as stated earlier sees
shepherding as only part of the pastoral role, with organisation and
communication being it's compliments. Yet the New and Old Testament model of
shepherding clearly embraced all the facets of the pastoral office.
Take for instance the extended use of the shepherd in Ezekiel 34. It can also
be seen from psalm twenty three that clearly organising and communicating with the flock where important parts of the shepherds task.
There is a warning here for any who would down play the
role of shepherd.
Taylor feels that all those who tend the flock will ultimately fail unless,
“they honestly try to follow the pattern of the God Shepherd as set by Jesus
Jeremiah 25:34-38 tells of the harsh punishment that will be metered out to
those who fail.
Another criticism of the paradigm of the shepherd
and it's implication for practical ministry is that it creates
dependency. Those who are following, in time become dependent on the shepherd
and cannot function adequately without them. The negative aspect of this is
that the shepherd is seen as having all wisdom and knowledge, while the flock
is seen as naive or stupid.
In his book "Ministry in the Church", Paul Bernier looks at the
historical progression of the office of Pastor/Minister/Bishop. He on several
occasions points to the gradual break down of the shepherd paradigm over
history and like Campbell he concludes there is a need to capture a new image
of Pastoral Care.
He looks at the need within the church to reintegrate the laity into pastoral
giving sense of shared responsibility rather than using a hired agent only
(Pastor). This is a reaction to the negative aspects mentioned a moment ago.
It can be seen then that this biblical paradigm for
pastoral care has been transformed by history in our understanding of it.
Hence as a stand alone model in today's world it is found to come up somewhat
short. It is the opinion of this author that this is not a fault with the
image itself but rather with our application of it.
A third paradigm for pastoral ministry is that of
incarnation. This image of Pastoral care has many faces, however it’s
essence lies in that the pastoral carer sees themselves taking with them the
presence of Christ into each pastoral situation.
Likewise the incarnational model of Pastoral care is characterised by the
taking of care to those in need, rather than waiting for them to seek help.
The use of incarnational theology identifies the caregiver with Christ and as
such serves to combine the paradigm of shepherd and paradigm of Jesus himself.
Exponents of this type of pastoral care see their own
presence in any situation as embodying the presence of Christ into that
This embodying means that the carer literally becomes the means of grace to
those whom they care. This personal identification with Christ adds both power
and credibility to the carer’s presence. The care giver then becomes the
mediator of God’s presence,
and this leads to one of the first difficulties with this particular paradigm.
Herbert Anderson in his article on, Incarnation as a Paradigm for pastoral
care rightly points out that sometimes God uses absence as part of his
methodology of strengthening his people. If then the presence of God is
present whenever the carer is present, then the only time God is absent is
when the carer is absent.
This raises another issue which bears in today’s world
some thought. There are many who work in Christian ministry who have little or
indirect links with the church. Take for instance those who serve in a
hospital chaplaincy role or those who work within the welfare portion of our
society. If the incarnation of Christ is not through the church alone then
incarnational pastoral care allows these pastoral carers a legitimacy which
breaks the bounds of ecclesiastical barriers.
Anderson sees a danger here: “Incarnation as identification is in danger of
becoming a privatistic approach to faith and ministry that is not consistent
with the corporate image of the body of Christ from Scripture”.
As mentioned earlier there are other faces to this
paradigm of pastoral care. Incarnational Pastoral care is used extensively by
those in Urban Mission and Mission to indigenous peoples. Floyd McClung in his
talks about the story of Catherine Booth and how she won the admiration of
many for her Incarnational approach to ministry. McClung points out that
Catherine with her life declared the words of John 1:14. The Word had become
flesh and dwelt among those to whom they were ministering to. Catherine like
so many others had embodied the heart of the Gospel message,
she had in obedience to Christ’s command Incarnated herself into the culture
where she was to work, and pastorally cared for the lost of Paris.
As a paradigm for pastoral ministry this is today one of
the most effective forms of taking the care of God to his people. When the
Paradigm that is represented by Jesus’ ministry was discussed earlier it was
noted that one of the goals of Jesus was to Incarnate or place himself within
the person’s situation to whom he ministered. Be that of course an
individual or a group, Jesus by his very presence was the Incarnation of God.
McClung states, “The Christian presence that is
divorced from the example of the Lord Jesus is not Christian”.
This may be to some a bit of overkill, but as the paradigms of both Jesus and
the Shepherd are examined it can be extrapolated that if the Pastoral Carer
fails to meet those to whom they wish to care, at their place of need, then
they can be of little or no use to those people.
As a Pastoral Carer, it is possible to live a life that
is not incarnational,
however as a model, Jesus has given the examples of his own life and has
himself embraced the title of the Good Shepherd. This means that the Pastoral
Carer has like the Shepherd, the need to be with the flock day and night. To
be an effective paradigm for pastoral ministry any image needs to embrace this
essential element. Incarnation is becoming one with the people.
Harriet Hill takes an honest look at this type of
ministry in a mission context (to indigenous peoples) and points out that
there are areas where carers cannot cross the cultural boundaries.
The secret lies in knowing and understanding one’s own limitations, in the
same way that Christ did.
As has become obvious there has been some discourse over
recent time as to the necessity for finding or rediscovering a new paradigm
for pastoral care. Both Campbell an Donald Messer
devote entire books to this very subject while others such as Hendricks are
active journalistically. Hendricks
suggests that any model should contain those elements found in the definition
of Pastoral care given by W. Clebsch & C. Jaekle.
To finally assess the effectiveness of these three
paradigms let them stand against the four elements of Pastoral Care mentioned
by Clebsch and Jaekle and be judged. Thus applying these to the three
paradigms of ministry covered here, that of Jesus, Shepherd and Incarnation,
it should be possible to draw together both their individual and corporate
value for effective ministry.
Looking firstly at Healing, it is immediately obvious
that Jesus came to heal both Spiritually and Physically. The Shepherds role is
to by continual care of the flock, heal
any sickness that might be contracted, and thirdly, Incarnation of the carers
presence into pastoral situations bring the healing presence of God. All three
paradigm satisfy this element of Pastoral Care.
Secondly the element of Sustaining is by nature
commensurate with the model of Jesus. Jesus came to sustain those to whom he
ministered, as per the example of the spiritual feeding he gave through his
words and the physical feeding he gave to those involved in the feeding of the
four thousand in Mark chapter eight. The Shepherd is by definition some one
who is responsible for sustaining his flock and again it can be seen why Jesus
claimed this title for himself. The Incarnational model of ministry, because
it leads to the imputing of Christ into the caring situation has also the
potential to sustain.
Thirdly all three paradigms are about guiding people to
Christ and hence ultimately to God. Jesus become the guiding light of the
world, the Shepherd is forever a guide to his flock, and those involved in an
in-carnational model of ministry are attempting to bring both of the former
onto the stage of life.
Finally, the element of reconciliation is again to
be found with each of the three paradigms. Jesus reconciled people to
God, the shepherd reconciled the lost to the herd and to himself and because
the incarnational model is a reflection of both Jesus and the Shepherd its
purpose is to embody the tasks of both.
In conclusion it must be said that each of these
paradigms are not only exemplar models of how the Pastoral Carer can carry out
their ministry but that they if taken together, provide a most effective means
by which a Pastoral Carer can emulate the ultimate Carer, God himself.
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