It IS Your Responsibility

last to arrive first to leave care

Approximately 25 years ago, my father-in-law was on track to only live another 12 months due to congestive heart failure. Mom and dad were Berean Baptist Church members in Grand Rapids, Michigan — a strong and good-sized church. I remember mom saying to me — “Pastor Margenson came by every week throughout the year to visit dad.”

That pastoral attitude and action are far too often “old-school.” I have seen, experienced, and continue to witness examples of “Pastoral-Care-Less-ness.”  There are those who never even take make the time to visit needy people on any regular basis, no less weekly.  Seen it!  — “Care less” attitudes by pastors, who are the ones given the great opportunity of ministering and strengthening their ministry, who are given the full-time advantage and the biblical responsibility.  COVID has created and demanded an even greater need for the Shepherd to “care deeply.”  Instead, it has too often confirmed the reputation of  “care-less.”

That “care less” danger was potentially present among pastors from the earliest days of the church.  That is why Paul challenges Timothy about the characteristics which must mark a man called to the local church ministry.  The various admonitions reflect the real possibility that there might be those who “care less” about the flock but see ministry as primarily about themselves.

  • not in it for the money — not greedy of filthy lucre
  • personally enjoys social opportunities — given to hospitality
  • a giver, not a taker, not covetous
  • not a self-important person — not a lover of preeminence
  • does not abuse his position or power — not lording his position over others
  • focused on service — minded to serve, not to be served

Paul lays out standards and qualities which mark a pastor.  They mark shepherds!  They are not a list of optional characteristics! Nor are the various pastoral qualifications open to  “pick and choose” — “I’m good at “apt to teach, and just not so much “given to hospitality.”  No, enjoying, loving, and caring about people characterizes a shepherd! AND appreciating, entertaining, and visiting people is connected to an effective pulpit ministry.

I have repeatedly tried to attend the funerals of others, whether I knew them extensively-personally or not.  If any people who should be present during these difficult days of others, of families we know personally or passingly, it is God’s people!  It is part of loving, bearing the burdens of others, and our godly influence in the lives of others.  If you as a local church pastor, find yourself embarrassed as to how so few church members attend a funeral, you might want to remember  — “You are the one who is there to teach them or has taught them about caring!”  It is the first and foremost responsibility of the pastor and the church leadership to testify to and teach about caring!

I know how it goes, how the cover stories are crafted. I’ve been in the ministry far too long to be flummoxed by the pastoral excuses and pretense!

  • I have asked the deacons to make sure that they are calling – visiting – attending.
  • The assistant/associate pastor has been visiting him/her.
  • I made repeated phone calls, but couldn’t get a hold of them.
  • There are too many people for me to personally address all the situations of need. [1]
  • I called, and they told me they are doing okay  and that a visit was not necessary. [2]
  • I prayed with and been in contact with them. [3]

Certain responsibilities cannot be passed off to other members of the church or the pastoral-administrative staff!  Pastors are pastors for a reason.  One of the expectations of a church pastor is that they be there.  Others — visiting, calling, attending, helping, assisting — might be appreciated, but the bottom line is — “the pastor!  You may want to lie to yourself by excusing yourself out of your personal responsibility as the shepherd of God’s flock. However, you are the one who is “prominently-desired.”   One of the first question which will be asked by family members, friends, and fellow believers will be — “Has the pastor been by!”  [4] Why?  Because you are the one who should have the heart which personally cares about people, and you are the first in line to personally minister to them.

While others may be doing what you are also doing, you are the one doing it “first and foremost!”  You as the pastor of the church, the shepherd of the flock.  You ought to be the one who is known to be the one who personally cares!  The pastor ought to stand out as the one who engages, talks with, entertains, is aware of, is attentive to, knows, [5] calls, “cards”, visits, shows up, and contacts God’s people. 

The word “pastor” and “preacher” are two different words which describe ministry activity!  What people hear, and whether preaching is heard, is attached to the pastoral ministry! 

There is no replacement for “the pastor!” 
There is a special and unique relationship
that inherently exists and is desired by God’s people.

There ought be no one else who cares more — and cares more sincerely — and in fact, is known to be the one who deeply cares the most!

“Show up, engage, and
care deeply about those in the” church.

1. Watch out for the duplicitous use of “all.” No one is saying “all” or “every.” There will always be situations and scenarios which make it difficult, or nigh to impossible, to address properly. That must be an allowable cover for doing what one should have done!

2. Every pastor knows that often God’s people will graciously excuse the pastor out of visiting. We also know that we need to visit and not allow ourselves to be excused out.

“No, Harry, I want to come over!  I want to share and pray with you! What would be a good time for me to show up at your house?”

Pastors know that we have a God-given responsibility to just be there and bear each other’s burdens! God’s people’s graciousness is no reason to not personally care for others during the most difficult times of life.

I have seen the “Care-less-ness of “Shepherds,” who almost never never visited people who were dealing with cancer and facing death, only visiting at the hospital during the final days of life!  

A pastor may falsely believe that he impacts and influences lives, while his words fall on deaf ears because of his own reputation of “care-less-ness.” 

3. Sadly, it often takes “20 questions” to find out the truth of what is being represented.  The contacts were “primarily business-oriented,” speaking to the spouse, making a phone call to him or her, the sending of a card, a text message, or an email.

4. Or — “Has your pastor been by”  — will be the question of those around that individual or family, because they know that this family is committed to a local church ministry.

5. “You’re good at names.”  No . . . . I merely understand how important AND BASIC it is to people, to know their name.  Therefore — I work at knowing names!

As stated . . . .

The “echo chamber” resounds among pastors. Too many repeat the same plaintive excuses, all which exonerate shepherds from a genuine awareness of the sheep. The Lord has already defined the word “pastor”, and it speaks of and demands awareness. If you leave out “awareness,” you will have to come up with your own word — suggestions include: church employee, hired hand, mercenary, day worker, hired gun . . . .

If you call yourself a “shepherd,”
then you have to sincerely, and deeply care about the flock.

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