The Teaching Elder and Pastoral Ministry

The Teaching Elder and Pastoral Ministry

Pastoral care means caring for people in difficult circumstances. It’s critical that the minister carry himself with humility. Without humility, we may speak the truth – but if we speak without love, we risk reducing our ministry to nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). When we speak hard truths, we must speak with firmness and a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). Our love, sincerity, and integrity must be unquestioned. Full of sympathy, we speak as one sinner to another, a fellow struggler on the arduous path of Christian discipleship. Then, by God’s grace, the bonds of affection established during consistent pastoral care may sustain severely tested relationships.

The following post is part of our ‘The Work of the PCA Elder’ series. For the first post in the series, please click here.

Pastoral care is an act of love. God’s minister provides pastoral care because he loves the Word of God, and he loves God’s people. His care brings the ministry of the Word to wherever his flock is found, whether gathered before his pulpit on the Lord’s Day or in his study during the week: homes, hospitals, cemeteries, and prisons become places of the Lord’s mercy and grace. This requires that the man of God be available to his people – ready to go to them, and willing to care for them. It is the God-breathed Word that comforts the mourner, encourages the struggler, directs the confused, and rebukes the careless. The caring pastor trains his congregation in righteousness.

Biblical pastoral care does not exist apart from the ministry of the Word, and the Word must be ministered wherever the Lord opens for the pastor a door of opportunity.

Theodore Beza (1519-1605) understood that the caring pastor is out and among his flock:

It is not only necessary that [a pastor] have a general knowledge of his flock, but he must also know and call each of his sheep by name, both in public and in their homes, both night and day. Pastors must run after lost sheep, bandaging up the one with a broken leg, strengthening the one that is sick… In sum, the pastor must consider his sheep more dear to him than his own life, following the example of the Good Shepherd.[1]

As we care for God’s people, five words come to mind: prayer, planning, accountability, mentoring, and tone.


Pastoral care is a spiritual work. Just as the pastor would never enter the pulpit without praying for his own clear proclamation of the Word and his congregation’s reception of it, neither should he conduct his pastoral care apart from prayer. Prayer before entering a home or hospital, prayer with those visited, and prayer for continued blessings after his departure.

People regularly share matters with pastors that need his earnest prayer. I carry a pocket notebook. When someone shares a concern or prayer request, I write it down. My memory is not trustworthy. When I get back to my study, I enter a follow-up time to my calendar.

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