Just this morning my Facebook feed was filled with information about members of my church. Kids are sick, couples are celebrating anniversaries, people are hurting, and there are countless birthdays.
With so much connectivity, one might assume that pastoral care has gotten easier. A text, a Facebook book message, or even a comment to a friend, “please tell Julie that I’m praying for her.” It is easier than ever to outsource pastoral care to technology, but as a result of that technology it may be more important than ever before to practice pastoral care through presence rather than proxy.
One-on-one pastoral care is time-consuming and inefficient. And yet, proximity is an important factor in pastoral care. Galatians 6:2 urges, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Bearing physical burdens requires presence. To carry a heavy log or bag a person must be present to hoist it onto his shoulders and bear the burden. It is no less true for spiritual or emotional burdens—to bear burdens most effectively, you must be present.
Pastors, there is something comforting about your presence among hurting people. They need to know that you are praying for them. They can be informed about your prayers through a text or an email, but they will be much more comforted by experiencing your prayers as you lay hands on them and pray over them. Pastors, be a safe place for your people to cry. Be a strong place for your people to hide. Be a fierce protector when your people are afraid.
There is much to be said for time management among pastors, but the reality is that much of what a pastor must do to serve Christ and his congregation is not efficient, but it is faithful. Pastor, aim for faithfulness in preaching and praying, but do neglect to have the same aim in pastoral care. The world is more connected than ever, but people are also more lonely and neglected than ever before. Pastors have a unique opportunity and privilege to do gospel work, not just for people, but among people.
Jesus ministered with his presence. He partied, He mourned, He grieved, and He did it all among people. Pastor, be with your people. Attend weddings. Visit with the mourning in their homes. Pray with new parents and their babies. Visit the fatherless and widows. Send birthday cards. In so doing you may feel at times as though you are wasting time, but you will fulfill the law of Christ and you will open doors for ministry and mission that you may not have even thought possible.