Tag Archives: Pastoral Care

Whatsa mattah wid you Galatians?

I guess I just didn’t get it. I just started reading the epistle to the Galatians again and just realized how much grief and aggravation Paul had to deal with. Paul gave both of these churches the straight scoop and both of them just kind of gratuitously blew him off. I guess I need to give both churches a little slack. There wasn’t a lot of history, writing/teaching, they were just getting Paul. Having said that Paul certainly was in a position to know what he was talking about. Sure both churches couldn’t readily know that, however. They chose to give a lot of others a platform and seemed to exercise little if any discernment as to whether the others were for real or pretty much making it up. Seems that they should have known they were not getting the correct story.

Having said that, I can readily identify with Paul. Here Paul is giving them the straight story and, as we see with many “churches” today, seemed to think that this was more in terms with what they liked/didn’t like, versus who here is really giving us the consistent narrative of God’s word. They all seemed to agree that it was about Jesus, but…. the others seemed to ignore the Christ’s full atonement of all sin and, like most other Christian churches today, seemed to tie it to the things that were still necessary. Jesus’ sacrifice was good and got you up to the finish line, but then, well you just had to add a little to it to push you over the line of salvation.

Yes, we have the consumer mentality, not so much what is right, what I need, but what I like, make me happy. Either that or follow the crowd, as if God saves you in Jesus according to the polls.

And for those who like to make the New Testament all goody, sweet and sparkly, we see Paul lighting up the Galatians, as he did the Corinthians. Here are some of Paul’s comments to these shallow end of the pool, listeners:

ESV Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-ESV Galatians 1:7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. ESV Galatians 1:12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

ESV Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. [Put another way, “what’sa mattah wid you, you stupid or something?”]
Are you really going to believe these snake oil salesmen, risk your salvation just because they’re telling you a more appealing story? I’m not interested in what you like, I’m telling you what you need to hear in Jesus.

Paul’s not exactly using gentle words, wasn’t being our smiley, good-time Charlie, pretty please pastor of today. Now,  now, you shouldn’t do that, but Jesus still loves you. Ya Paul is the direct approach, “cut the nonsense and you need to cut it out now, we’re not playing, this is for real and you better get yourselves together and get with the true ministry of Jesus and not what these other guys are trying to dissemble and embellish. I’m telling you the way it is, I got it straight from the source, this is what Jesus wants you to know!

Paul was angry, frustrated, and I believe genuinely fearful of the lack of discernment on the part of these people and frightened for their eventual fate. Paul cared what happened to these people, to the Corinthians to all the many people he ministered to, helped build churches with. Not telling them what they wanted to hear, but telling them what they needed to hear and having no compunction to push them if they were choosing not to get it.

That is a real pastor, not the sickly sweet posing we get today. I can hear Paul saying, I am desperately in fear for you, that you drift so far away from Jesus that you end up on the nice smooth, wide road and gently drift into hell, to death, eternal separation from Jesus. I’m going to do everything I can think  of to prevent that and if it requires yelling or whatever, I can’t let you keep drifting down. That is a pastoral heart, not worried about whether he’s liked, popular the true pastor is scared to death that one member of his flock ends up lost to eternity. The pastors of today should take note, they will have to answer and I do not want to explain why I just waved goodbye with a smile to someone who was condemning themselves. Take the pastey smiles off, the nice guy “I want everyone to love me” attitude and note what Paul had to do with the Galatians and Corinthians and no doubt a lot of others. Focus on what you’re doing and get over your desperate need to be loved. There will be plenty of that in the resurrection from people who wouldn’t be there if you hadn’t been so determined to be used by the Holy Spirit to effect their salvation.

Sin is sin, trust in your pastor and quit thinking you know it all

I am still pretty much of a rookie pastor. I try to listen more than yap when others who have more experience, more education than I do, so that I will be a better pastor. Can’t say that everything I hear or am told is correct, that I should follow it. I do have a lot of life experience, so there are times when someone is telling me something that is just wrong. Just because someone else has been making mistakes for years, doesn’t mean that I should make the same mistakes.

Dr J Vernon McGee was the pastor of one of the largest churches in California. He also had a world-wide radio ministry, wrote a bunch of books, etc. He went to be with the Lord in 1988, but his radio ministry is still alive and well.

One of the observations I’ve made as a pastor is that people continue to try and impose their sin on me, as a pastor, or they expect me to endorse their sin, often due to their tortuous reasoning. I’m sure we all know which types of sins that people are finding all kinds of justification for. My overall favorite is “the church is full of hypocrites so who is a pastor to tell me I’m sinning, and so therefore I can continue to pursue my personal sin.” Yeah, like I said, those in the world live a very delusional life.

Let me make one aside, for those who recognize their sin, struggle with it, lift it up to the Lord for forgiveness, continue to ask God to deal with their sin and overcome it, “…If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins…” (1 Corinthians 11:31) God does forgive, will help us and is not there to beat us down on something that we are genuinely trying to deal with and conform to His will. Christians do not live deluded lives, our sin is sin. We’re not kidding ourselves that our particular sin and circumstances are justified, that, for those simple minds in the world, is what hypocrisy is. Maybe you ought to look into your own heart and be a little genuine. For those in the world, get over all your petty little justifications, get real and deal with your sin issues and be a part of a genuine Christian church that will help you in this area.

As a rookie pastor, I have had the experience where people pretty much confront me and demand that I justify their particular sin. Really! Yea the world really does bully and thinks that most pastors are entirely lacking in integrity and genuine biblical faithfulness, that you (me the pastor hears) just don’t know what you’re talking about at all and those in the world will be happy to set me straight. The hypocrisy, naivete, bullying, and straight out ignorance is just breathtaking.

Dr McGee had a wide breadth of experience and accomplishment for the Kingdom, a very accomplished pastor and these are his words: ” “What if there’s a sin in the Christians’ life that he/she won’t deal with, reveal it, confess it? … it’s amazing the number of people who are in sin, who come to a pastor and what they really want, is for the pastor to approve of their conduct and they become very much incensed if he does not agree with what they are doing or with their solution to the problem. When he attempts to put the Scripture down on their lives, why they wince under it and they get angry with the pastor and they say ”my he’s cruel, very unkind, he’s not the kind of pastor he should be, he’s not as sympathetic as he should be.” A lot of pastors know what this is because so many people will not deal with their sins. Now when they won’t, God will deal with them at the judgment seat of Christ and a great many people are going to find out, though they were busy down here teaching Sunday school classes, being the president of the missionary society, singing in the choir, leading different groups… yet they were disobedient and they would not deal with the sin in their lives, they won’t receive reward, they refused to deal with sin in their lives.” (Dr J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible” Broadcast Dec 26, 2015)

I’ve had this experience. The person doesn’t want to discuss, they are going to tell and if you don’t listen and get it, then you  have a problem you’re wrong and I’ve had people tell me how lacking I am in what they consider to be the proper pastoral characteristics. No, I don’t get too spun up over it. I’ve had a lot of life experience (usually more than the person who’s telling my how it really is) and I get it, people are often not going to really think it out. They’re sure they know what it’s all about and they’re going to make sure that they give you the benefit of their “knowledge”.

Which leads me into another observation, Mr or Ms “I’ve been successful” in my world. They’re going to tell you how you should successfully run this church. I have news for you Mr Successful, God bless you that you’ve achieved some success in an area, I wish you the best. What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand, despite their obvious smartness in their success, is that success in one thing doesn’t necessarily translate into success in another thing. Not that I’ve achieved any level of success, but we certainly see that in so many individuals who have presumed that their success in one thing should ipso facto, translate to success in another.

Sorry Mr Success “so you should listen to me”, if you were as smart as you think you are you would know that. I have no problem whatsoever listening to others suggestions, direction and assistance. Frankly I find myself kind of begging for that. Having said that, it does not mean that I can always use and apply the input. Often times part of the problem is that the input just does not conform to the proper functioning of a Christian church. I think the church has done itself a great deal of damage in the last maybe 100 years, because it has allowed the world to dictate to it, instead of doing ministry in accordance with Scriptural direction. When pastors fold up and function according to the world, the world and the church realizes he as a pastor, or a Christian, that is not to be taken seriously.

It is amazing how much hypocrisy there is in the world and the world is the first to wag it’s finger at the church to criticize it for hypocrisy. The world’s hypocrisy really does border on the delusional and is absolutely breathtaking to see in action.

I hope that 1) people start to deal with their sin honestly. I’m not saying that because I’m perfect because, I’m not. On the other hand, I don’t try to delude myself into thinking that I’m above all that, if it’s my sin then it’s really not sin, it’s just A Skippy OK.

2) To Mr/Ms I know it all. I know that you don’t know it all, I can tell. You’ve been in church for decades, but I know that you don’t have even the most basic Christian/Scriptural understanding. You’ve been sitting in church because you think you should, just waiting to tell everyone how it should be.

The truly smart people who I know, recognize when others know more than they do about a particular subject. I really try to make sure, that when I can tell someone obviously has a grasp of something that I should shut-up and let them talk. I inevitably learn something and am thankful that they shared with me. Mr and Ms I Know It all, you might actually get smart and rely and trust those who actually know more about something. That doesn’t mean blind submission, that does mean realizing your limitations, recognizing someone else’s expertise and listening. That’s the smart thing to do and if you were really that smart you’d understand that.

Pastoral Ministry, Seel Sorgers Soul Doctors

As I’ve said before I spent 20 years working in corporate finance for some of the largest companies in the world. I also spent 29 years in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, even reserve members of the Coast Guard are operational and are expected to be as currently qualified in their position as those in the regular Coast Guard. I’ve had many and various vocations/callings and I am convinced that God has used each of those different vocations as a way to prepare me for ministry. I often find it bizarre that I’m often treated as though having a collar on means that my brain is somehow disengaged. I find it equally bizarre that those with little or no training presume to be ministers and usually have no clue what that means. Luther said that pastors are “seel sorgers”/”soul healers, to help us grow in Jesus and to confront the world as a Christian. Those who presume to be pastors don’t understand the trials of life and they often treat worship as a sort of time to have a little party instead of dealing with the realities of life in Jesus. Sure being a Christian should be celebration, but too often we treat it very lightly and then with the trials of life arise we reject God and isolate ourselves. Pastors, like me, are professionally trained to help those going through the trials to grow in their trust of God instead of being discouraged and rejecting Him, thus being a “soul healer”. So one of the books that I keep right on my desk to remind me that as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to serve those in my parish in all aspects of life, the good and the bad. So take a little time to read St Gregory’s “The Book of Pastoral Rule”. The title might seem a little authoritarian for our post – modern ears, but seems to me that we want our pastor to be a strong leader in Christ. The church of the last, at least, hundred years has been far too concerned with “people-pleasing” and too little concerned with helping people deal with the trials of life in faith in Christ. So this is a paper I did in seminary on Gregory and I hope it gives you more insight into the importance of the pastor and helps you to realize the serious and meaningful role he fills:

““St Gregory the Great (often known in the East as St Gregory the Dialogist was born in the year AD 540 to an aristocratic Roman family.” Gregory’s family was a religious one; his great-great grandfather was Pope Felix III (483 – 492), and another pope, Agapetus (533 – 536), was a distant uncle. His father was also minor church official.

Gregory’s family was well do and as such Gregory was well provided for and received the best education available, which was expected being from such a family.

Gregory had a rather auspicious career he started out as the Prefect of Rome.

He resigned from that position, sold all his family’s property and transformed the family estate into a monastery named St Andrew’s, which he entered as an ordinary monk.

Needless to say this state did not last long.

Pope Pelagius ordained Gregory to the deaconate and then appointed him apocrisiarius (i.e. papal representative to the emperor in Constantinople). He was there as a representative of the Pope and as a political representative of Rome. He also served as the abbot of the community he was a part of in Greece. He spent seven years in Constantinople he was also the abbot of his community and started a commentary on Job.

Six years later he returned to Rome where he assumed the office of abbot of St Andrews.

Five years after that Pelagius died and Gregory was elected Pope and he served until his death in 604 serving as Pope fourteen years. As Pope he daily fed the indigents of Rome, refurbished the city’s dilapidated churches and fortifications, the initiation of monastics to the Papal curia and reintroduced Christianity into Britain. [1]

The Liber regulae pastoralis was written before 590. It is also referred to as the Book of Pastoral Care.  ” … after reading the Book of Pastoral Rule, the Byzantine emperor Maurice ordered the book to be translated and disseminated to every bishop in his empire.”[2] The Bishop of Cartagena expressed reserve “that it might be beyond ordinary capacities….It was recommended to Charlemagne’s bishops…Alfred the Great in the late ninth century, translated it into English.”[3]

Most historians agree that Gregory was Augustinian in his theological perspective [during this period there were various heresies that were beaten back by the Roman church which included the Pelagians, Donatists, Manicheans]. While this is about a hundred years after these controversies, there were still elements of various heresies in the church and was a constant concern. Gregory seems less concerned about doctrine and more about practicalities of ascetic living and pastoring, as someone who had been on track for senior positions in the church from the start, he surely had to be aware of these heresies and assuring that his pastors were faithful to the doctrine of the Catholic church.

When Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire a large number of converts came into the church. Needless to say they were perceived as “lacking the depth of faith that had been possessed by the pre-Constantinian community.”[4] While this had been about two hundred years, apparently the church was still adjusting and two separate types of pastoring had emerged. One was to the people who wanted to lead an ascetic life that is, monks, nuns and other clericals. The other was for the lay person. Clearly Gregory was writing to the ascetics, but mostly as they related to lay people. While Gregory wrote it in the context of his position as an abbot of a monastery it seems that his perspective was more about being a pastor to pastors. His text “defined who should and should not receive ordination, identified the priest’s practical responsibilities, and anticipated many of the priest’s pastoral challenges…to resolve the tension between ascetic idealism and the realities of pastoral ministry.”[5] Gregory “went on to describe the priest’s responsibilities as a combination of the active life of pastoral administration and the prayerful life of the remote ascetic. It was Gregory who first proposed a combination between action and contemplation…”[6]

In Gregory’s book Apology for his flight to Pontus “he concluded that the ideal candidate for the priesthood was a man who had the benefits of wealth and education (in antiquity, only the wealthy received an education) but who had abandoned the pleasures of the aristocratic life and adopted the life of abstemiousness and contemplation (i.e. that life of the monk).”[7] I wonder if this was because Gregory expected priests to be educated and only the aristocracy was educated, or if this was some form of Noblesse oblige or a combination of both. I further imagine that this must have seriously limited the pool of potential candidates.

This book is written as Gregory would guide and teach the monks under his charge at a monastery, “…it develops many of the pastoral techniques employed by the abba.” The book is designed as a way for an abbot to pastor the monks in his monastery. As pastors we are not going to have a senior clergy person watching over us, so we might be well advised to keep this book handy. Read through it once, highlight the pertinent passages and then put it in your daytimer or blackberry to review the highlights once every six months or so. For those things that are pertinent for the post-modern pastor we should give ourselves a regular review to see how we are doing as compared to the ideal that Gregory presents. I know that this will maintain a prominent place on my desk.

I often feel that there are many who tend to trivialize the pastoral office, that feel they could do it just as well as the pastor. The following should be pointed out when you want to emphasize the importance of pastoring to those who might not fully appreciate the pastor’s responsibilities: “No one presumes to teach an art that he has not mastered through study. How foolish it is therefore for the inexperienced to assume pastoral authority when the care of souls is the art of arts.” [8]

“The spiritual director ought to know that there are many vices that appear as virtues. For example, greed disguises itself as frugality and wastefulness is thought to be generosity. Often, laziness is accounted kindness and wrath appears to be spiritual zeal.”[9] This is an important consideration, I know a lot of times I am guilty of the last, justifying my “wrath” by telling myself that I am being zealous as a citizen and a Christian, I’m not I’m just letting something get under my skin. It also bothers me to seen laziness accounted as kindness. So often I see a pastor confronted over a meaningful issue and instead of answering the question directly or offering to set a time to sit and discuss the question meaningfully, he just gives a glib answer and sends the person on their way none the wiser, and that person thinking “gee what a neat guy our pastor is”, when he really isn’t he just doesn’t want to take the time to truly instruct someone with a genuine concern.

In another section Gregory gives us some more guidance in terms of how pastors should conduct ourselves: “Indeed, pastors ‘drink the clearest water’ when, with an accurate understanding, they imbibe the streams of truth. But the same ‘disturb the water with their feet’ when they corrupt the study of holy meditation with an evil life. Obviously, the sheep drink that which was muddied by feet when, as subjects, they do not attend to the words that they hear but imitate only the depraved examples that they observe. While the laity thirst for what is said, they are perverted by the pastor’s works as if they were to drink mud from a polluted fountain.”[10] In my time here I have twice, two different seminarians, on two separate occasions, been in the weight room and just absolutely pornographic music was on, one time two women seminary employees were in the room. What kind of witness is that? I know I’ve been in plenty of workout areas that were R rated. What lay people see us do is a testament to them of what we are truly devoted to. This is not prudishness on my part I can’t in good conscience write down what was playing, I was a sailor for twenty nine years and I could have taught both of the seminarians in question plenty that they haven’t an education for. The first time this happened my youngest son was seventeen years old. I can well imagine what he might have been thinking associating that music with the seminarian who was there and I cringe to think what the two women who were there were thinking. I went to the first one and pointed out that it wasn’t appropriate. His response took me aback when he said “oh, sorry I didn’t notice.” We have to be diligent in noticing the things that we do that may offend our weaker brother or sister and clearly this is a theme that is important to Gregory also.

Gregory had a great concern with men not squandering their gifts to serve others. In the following quote he emphasizes the need for us, as pastors, to set outside our desires and be ready to serve: “…when one is subject to the dispositions of the divine Will and averse to the obstinacy that comes from vice, if he is already endowed with gifts whereby he might help others, then at the time when he is commanded to accept a position of spiritual authority, although he might flee from it in his heart, he should be obedient, if reluctantly by his actions.”[11] There are certainly times when I’d rather sit at home and watch the Red Sox instead of having to go and visit someone who could use pastoral care.

On the flip side, Gregory describes the man “who feels the burden of worldly cares to such an extent that he never looks up to what is lofty but instead focuses entirely upon what is tread upon at the most base level.”[12] The quote is rather extensive from here, but suffice to say Gregory is talking to pastors in terms of watching out for themselves that they can become so burdened and forget about God. But to also watch out for those who we are to care for. It is easy to recognize the need for care for the person in the hospital, for the person who is going through loss, but we often don’t see the person who is burdened down and has lost sight of God and His care. He has become buried under worry and stress. We need to be proactive with that person and also to make sure that we don’t get caught up in constant burdens and cares. Gregory seems to like to create a lot of contrasts, particularly at the end of the book. This is one contrast that is important in the pastorate, that there are many who should be serving, that have gifts for the kingdom and are using them to pursue their own desires. However there are many pastors who are just driving themselves into the ground under the weight of concerns for their congregation, for his family, for himself. Both the one who avoids serving and the one who serves to a high degree need to focus back on the fact that it is not about them, but about God. I am guilty of both ends of this spectrum and I’m not saying that everyone has to be in the ministry, but Gregory’s point is well taken and another aspect that we never seem to truly focus on in our relationship with God.

Gregory sets a very high bar for those who will be a pastor. “The active life of the leader ought to transcend that of the people in proportion to how the life of a shepherd outshines that of his flock…he should be pure in thought, exemplary in conduct, discerning in silence, profitable in speech, a compassionate neighbor to everyone, superior to all in contemplation, a humble companion to the good, and firm in the zeal of righteousness against the vices of sinners..”[13] He goes on to say that the pastor should always be the first in service. “…so that the flock (which follows the voice and behavior of its shepherd) may advance all the better by his example than by is words alone.”[14] If you expect people to be out on a summer Saturday afternoon to knock on doors for the church, you should be out there longer and farther then anyone else. Too often the pastor sees a division of labor, as it were, between the clergy and the laity, that is pastors are in their office writing and contemplating great thoughts and the laity are out doing the work of discipling and evangelizing. I have even heard some seminary students that they expect to work forty hours a week because of their family. No pastors can’t run everything, and do everything, but on the priorities of the church which are pastoral, writing, preaching, counseling, hospital visits there is also the evangelizing, discipling, welcoming, being visible to and sometimes participating in the different groups. In this day and age no one works a forty hour week, at least not those who are trained/educated professionals. The idea that the pastor should be exempt while those in the parish work fifty plus hours a week seems to me to be a modern day example of what Gregory is talking about.

Our society today does not want people to take a stand, to speak out on principle. Gregory chastises those “who fear to lose human favor, [who] are afraid to speak freely about what is right… to ‘go up against the enemy’ is to oppose worldly powers with a free voice in the defense of the flock. And to ‘stand in battle on the day of the Lord’ is to resist, out of love of justice, evil persons who oppose us. For if a shepherd fears to say what is right, what else is it but to turn his back in silence? But certainly, if he puts himself before the flock [so as to protect them]…”[15] How can we expect those in our flock to stand up for the truth at their office, their school, their team, their club when they don’t see their pastor doing it. Most importantly we have been given the responsibility. People aren’t going to like it when we defend the unborn, the aged, the poor, when the world tries to deprive Christians of their rights to witness, to pray and to worship. But we are here to serve our Lord Christ, not to be concerned about public opinion and we have to live that for ourselves and for our congregation.

“Often, however, a spiritual director swells with pride by virtue of being placed in a position of authority over others…”[16] In the modern context I think that we are prone to believe what people say to us about us, we believe too much of what we hear, and we lose the ability to be critical in our thinking on the issues and how we conduct ourselves towards those in the congregation. We get too high an opinion of ourselves, but at the same time we can let people sort of lead us around by the nose when it comes to the issues. “For he controls this power well if he knows how to use it to gain a mastery over sin and also knows how to mingle with others as equals.”[17]

Gregory discusses failure to discipline a little more: “Self-love inclines the mind of the spiritual director to laxity when he observes the laity in sin but chooses not to correct them because he fears that their affection for him will grow dull. In fact, sometimes when he should rebuke the errors of the laity, he actually softens them with flattery.”[18]

Gregory never denies that we should not exert church discipline: “Supreme rule, then, is well administered when the one who presides has dominion over the vices rather than his brothers. But when superiors correct the delinquents among the laity, it is necessary for them to be careful that when they attack sin through due discipline, they should still acknowledge themselves, as an exercise of humility, to be the equals of those they correct… Because if a leader lowers himself more than is proper, he will not be able to affect the lives of the laity through the bond of discipline. Let spiritual directors, then, uphold externally what they undertake for the benefit of others and let them retain internally what scares them about their own condition. Nevertheless, the laity should perceive, through subtle signs that appear at the proper times, that their spiritual directors are humble. In this way, the laity will see what they ought to fear from authority and, at the same time, know how to imitate the virtue of humility.”[19] I find it interesting that now to “lower oneself” does not mean to humble themselves to be an example to the laity, but to somehow compromise your position. That is to make you less credible because you lowered yourself below your position. I think we should define the word as Gregory did and make it to mean that we live as an example to the lay person.

It seems to me that we ought to seriously consider, on a regular basis, if we are giving our flock enough lessons in humility through our example.

Gregory quotes Ezekiel who is chastening the shepherds: “’You did not mend what was broken, nor did you retrieve what was driven away.’ (Ezek 34:4) Indeed, that which is cast away is retrieved whenever one who has fallen into sin is called back to the state of righteousness by the vigorous work of pastoral care.”[20]

Too many times it is a case of pooh-poohing, oh well too bad for John Smith, nothing can be done, he has to deal with his sin. It is as much our responsibility to search for the lost sheep, as it is to exhort the faithful. God chastised Israel for failing to do that, why wouldn’t He chastise us as well?

. “…the spiritual director must be careful that he show himself to the laity as a mother with respect to kindness and as a father with respect to discipline. And in every case, care should be provided in such a way that discipline is never rigid, nor kindness lax.”[21]

“In short, gentleness is to be mixed with severity – a combination that will prevent the laity from becoming exasperated by excessive harshness or relaxed by undue kindness.”[22] I think that this shows some insight that might be ahead of its time. It is so easy to keep resorting to the Law, “this is what you have to do”, but to reflect God we have to be as He treats us, with more then our share of mercy and surely less then we deserve in terms of discipline. God surely knows that so often we mess up and we don’t want to, we feel like we are often floundering and we often lose and he knows that and He waits for us to come back to Him. We need to reflect that in our ministry, to comfort those who are struggling, but to hold accountable those who simply want to see what they can get away with. God is the entirety of humanity, He can be more compassionate then any number of mothers, and He can be as stern as any number of fathers.

When advising people we must differentiate in our approach to people: Men and women, young and old, poor and rich, joyful and sad, subordinates and leaders; he goes on to elaborate in each case, for example of men and women saying that men are compelled toward the heavier burden. Likewise in terms of subordinates and leaders.[23] As in the last comment, I found this one too to be ahead of its time. Frankly it has seemed to me, in our society since at least the 1970’s, that unless someone had remarkable talent, everyone was pretty much pigeonholed the same way. Gregory is telling us for over 1500 years ago that is just not a practical or for that matter useful way to handle people. Certainly this is not a foolproof approach, for example the sick often think they are healthy, the dull often think that they are wise, those who steal that think they are giving more then they steal. It is becoming more and more evident that as a pastor one has to build and develop relationships as much as possible with those in the congregation. The days of trying to deal with all people equally and having glib, quick answers have done tremendous damage to the church and are probably the main reasons why the church has become such a non-factor. For too many generations pastors thought that they could get by and didn’t make a genuine effort to get to know the people in their congregation as individuals. You can always tell the pastor who does, the loyalty of those in his congregation and the growth in his congregation are evident.

I like his illustration with the lazy and the hasty: We should always be striving for greater things so that we do bring on the possibility of falling for lesser things: “For when the soul does not incline itself to greater things, neglecting itself, its desire increases for inferior things. And when the soul does not restrain itself by studying vigorously for higher things, it is wounded by the hunger of desire for lower things. And as a result of its neglect for discipline, it is all the more distracted by the desire of pleasure. Hence, it was also written by Solomon: “The idle are given entirely to desires.”[24] This is an epidemic in today’s society, people think that they are striving for high things such as, the right to free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of privacy, not because these are necessarily noble, but mostly so that they can look at porn, get rid of unwanted pregnancies and adopt lifestyles without taking responsibility for the things that you’ve done. There is nothing noble or compelling in the things that some people crusade for, it is simply indulging their desires. It is embarrassing when people are campaigning for gay rights as if it is some kind of noble action on their part, when others have risked their lives to free people from concentration camps, to be free from aggression or from dictators. I had two great, great uncles who fought in the Civil War, one of who was disabled and subsequently died. He suffered in attempting to free people, not let people indulge in their unexamined obsessions.

In summary St Gregory gave us the compact handbook for pastoral care. It is ambitious for the pastor to try and meet the goals that Gregory sets. However, if we do what we can to aspire and try to attain the goals he sets, we will be far better then what we would have otherwise been. Again this will be on my desk and will be a reminder that I do aspire to the ideals that Christ has given me, I will not achieve these, some maybe and others I will at least get further then I would have otherwise, but it will be in order to follow Gregory’s counsel to strive for the highest so that I will not let lower things drag me down.”

[1] Demacopoulos. George editor and translator The Book of Pastoral Rule introduction p 9

[2] p 10

[3] Wikipedia

[4] p 10

[5] p 12

[6] p 13

[7] p 13

[8] p 14

[9] p 18

[10] p 31 Part I section 3

[11] p 38 Part I section 6

[12] pp 46-47 Part I Section 11

[13] p 49 Part II section 1

[14] p 51 Part II section 3

[15] p 55 Part II Section 4

[16] p 62 Part II section 6

[17] p 64 Part II section 6

[18] p 74 Part II Section 8

[19] p 65 Part II section 6

[20] p 67 Part III section 6

[21] p 67 Part III section 6

[22] p 67-68 Part III section 6

[23] pp 88-89 Part III section 1

[24] pp 125 – 126 Part III section 15