Reforming the Pastoral Care of the Church -- By: Thomas N. Smith

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:1 (Winter 1992)
Article: Reforming the Pastoral Care of the Church
Author: Thomas N. Smith

Reforming the Pastoral Care of the Church

Thomas N. Smith

It is a matter of regular surprise to me that people do not think of Paul as a pastor. An apostle, yes. A missionary, yes. A church-planter, yes. But not a pastor.

Now this may reveal a good many things, but one thing it surely discloses is the fact that we all tend to read the New Testament in a wooden and mechanical fashion. We assume much in our reading, and these assumptions often blind us to the spirit of what we read.

The spirit of all that Paul writes, and all that Luke records of his acts, is supremely pastoral. That is to say, it is concerned with the care of God’s flock, the church. The “care of the churches” (cf. 2 Cor. 11:28) is the burden of burdens to the apostle to the Gentiles. And the essence of that burden, as Paul understood it, as he relieved himself of it, is contained in the words of 2 Corinthians 1:24:

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.”

In these few choice words, we have everything that Paul regards as vital, as essential to what he calls “taking care of the church of God.”

In these words, we are confronted, first of all, with the deterrent which Paul imposed upon himself in the care of the churches. “Not that we lord it over your faith...”

In speaking thus, Paul is in complete harmony with the rest of the New Testament. Lordship in the New Testament writings belongs to only One, the true and living God who has disclosed Himself in Jesus Christ. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” said Jesus in commissioning His apostles. It was this lesson of Lordship and servanthood that the original disciples had such difficulty in understanding and evidencing in their own interpretational relationships (cf. for example Matthew 20:20–28 and John 13:1–17). That this issue continued to be a burning one is apparent, for we see later New Testament documents

addressing it as well. ( 3 John 9, 10) The source of the problem is not hard to discover. It is pride, the origin of original sin. It is such pride that would usurp the rights and prerogatives of God Himself.

Thus, Paul in the same Corinthian letter (cf. 2 Cor. 4:5) can describe his ministry in these te...

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