Five Principles of Community-Based, Gospel-Centered Mutual Care

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission give five principles of community-based, gospel-centered, mutual pastoral care that are very helpful in answering the question, “What does everyday pastoral care look like?” And just as a preface, “pastoral care is not the sole responsibility of pastors anymore than evangelism is the sole responsibility of evangelists” (69). Pastors seek to equip the body to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12) so that the expectation and responsibility of pastoring and shepherding does not fall exclusively on the shoulders of pastors, but rather the whole congregation is tasked with carrying out this wonderful privilege.

We pastor one another in everyday life.

  • What is the biblical model for teaching and discipleship? Deuteronomy tells us we teach our children when they’re sitting down, walking by the way, lying down and when they rise (Deut 6:4-7). In other words, we teach and disciple in and throughout everyday life. How did Jesus teach and disciple? He was always about his Father’s work – around a meal, through crises, on the road, reflecting on events, etc. In other words, he taught and discipled in and throughout everyday life. “The context for pastoral care and discipleship is everyday life” and “as you share your lives with people, they will see how you live in all sorts of areas and see Christian living modeled – or see Christian grace modeled when you fail to live as you should!” (66).

We pastor one another in community.

  • “The God-given context for pastoral care is the church community, not the counselor’s office or the therapy session of even the minister’s study. There may be a place for some of these from time to time, but the primary location for pastoral care is the Christian community. Change is a community project” (69).

We pastor one another over a lifetime.

  • As sin runs deeps in each of our hearts, it necessarily means that oftentimes pastoral care is complicated, and we need to be reminded that change takes place over a lifetime.  We should resist the notion and unhelpful expectation of immediate change. “We cannot expect to have a conversation with someone that ‘sorts him out.’ Even if you bring a measure of understanding to a situation, changing the affections of the heart and the habits of behavior will take time” (70). Additionally, “because sin is deep-seated, we need a daily dose of truth, love, encouragement, and exhortation. Because temptation is a daily challenge, we need daily to be brought back to the beauties of the gospel” (71).

We pastor one another with grace.

  • Everyday pastoral care means living out the “one-anothers” in Scripture from a deep well of grace. “If you do not pastor people out of a strong sense of God’s grace – both to you and to them – then you will leave them feeling condemned, but there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). If you leave people feeling condemned, then something has gone horribly wrong in your pastoral care. Self-righteous people make bad pastors. At best they create legalists in their own image; at worst they leave people crushed” (72).

We pastor one another with the good news.

  • By “good news” we mean the declaration that Christ has come, lived a perfect life, died a death that we should have died, and did so for the sins of the world, and rose victoriously over sin and death via the resurrection (1 Cor 15:1-4). We do not pastor with good advice, positive thinking or the simple objective of bringing about reform in people’s lives. Reform may lead to an improved life behaviorally speaking, but our aim is much higher: reconciliation with their Creator that changes hearts (74).

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