Christian Missions and Pastoral Care

Christian Missions seems so opposite to Pastoral Care. Christian Missions is usually linked with proclamation and apologetics. Pastoral Care is more tied to listening and eductive learning. Christian Missions usually seeks to change others. Pastoral Care is usually more focused on empowering others to change themselves— or at least understand themselves better.

But there are a lot of areas where Christian Missions overlap with Pastoral Care. I have written on this before. However, there are clear areas of overlap.

Missionary Member Care. This one is obvious. MMC is, in many ways, pastoral care for missionaries.

Interreligious Dialogue. This is less obvious. However, living in a pluralistic world, with many cultures having a worldview that is decidedly not Christian, the ability to understand, learn, and build relationships with those of other faiths is critical. Incompetence to do IRD is likely to lead to incompetence in engaging with people of other cultures.

Christian Missions. Okay, this is a bit funny. I am suggesting that Christian Missions exists completely within the bounds of Pastoral Care. Perhaps this is a bit much. However, I would suggest reading the book, CROSS-CULTURAL SERVANTHOOD: SERVING THE WORLD IN CHRISTLIKE HUMILITY by Duane Elmer (IVP Books, 2006).

Much like books on Servant Leadership books that have popularized a radically different view of leadership, “Cross-cultural Servanthood” makes the case that the Servant model is ideal for Missionaries (especially in the context of cross-cultural settings, at least in the context of the book). I believe that the book makes a strong case that Servanthood is the ideal, most effective, best way to serve as a missionary.

Fine… but when one reads the book on what it means to be a servant missionary, the book reads like a Pastoral Care book. Consider the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that did a study as to who is most effective in serving overseas (cross-culturally). The three top things were found to be (described in pages 96 and 97 of Elmer’s :

  1. “… Ability to initiate and sustain interpersonal relationships with the local people.”
  2. “… A strong sense of self-identity, which allowed people to be real with each other.”
  3. “… Positive, realistic predeparture expectations.”

If one looks at these three— the first two are very much tied to Pastoral Care and Counseling. Perhaps the third one isn’t, but definitely the first two fit.

Back when I was going to seminary, I focused on missions courses while my wife focused on pastoral care courses. I think that as a couple, that worked out well. However, I later found the need to try to “catch up” in the pastoral care area. In retrospect, pastoral care is vital to missions, and I was disadvantaged with the presumption that pastoral care did not have much to do with Missions.

Take away: While language learning is important (I wish I had taken it more seriously), as are the skills of contextualization, Pastoral Care and Counseling## is probably the next most important thing in Christian Missions.

##Pastoral Care and Counseling here does NOT refer to formulas of counseling, or of verse-bombing. I am referring the the art of Pastoral Theology and Care that has been passed down from the Original founders of the church, through church history until today. Sadly, Pastoral Care has been messed with on both sides— those who have most to an overly secular model, and those who have embraced a Biblicist (arguably SUB-Biblical) model.

Other Links:

7 Rules of Pastoral Conversation

Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions, Part 1

Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions, Part 2

Resolving Pastoral Care and Missions, Part 3

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