Whose responsibility is it to care for one another in the Church? Is it simply the responsibility of pastors and church leaders?
When it comes to caring for one another inside the church, no doubt many things come to mind. One in particular is what many call “pastoral care.” By standard definition, pastoral care is the ministry of care and counseling provided by pastors, chaplains and other religious leaders toward members of their church or congregation. This can range anywhere from home visitation to formal counseling or life coaching provided by pastors and ministers. It may also include prayer, benevolence, and providing care for other physical or spiritual needs a person may have. Many people hold a traditional view of pastoral care, but what does the Bible say about the subject of care? Whose responsibility is it? And who should we run to when we find ourselves needing help and care?
1. God Cares
Before we look to anyone else, we can run to God! He has made Himself abundantly available to care for me and you. In fact, He is our Shepherd. A shepherd is someone who looks after the wellbeing of their flock. A shepherd provides provision, protection and care. God is the greatest shepherd and we are His people, and He takes the responsibility very seriously.
Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me…”
In other words, God will take good care of you. He will provide for you. He will give you rest. He will restore your soul. Even when you are going through difficult times, verse 4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God will never leave you nor forsake you, and He is your helper and comforter. You can go to God as your Shepherd. He has made Himself available to you. He Himself has said, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things , which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3. God wants you to call out to Him whenever you are in need and He will answer you!
Jesus said it this way, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives… [because] your Father who is in heaven gives good things to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:7-11. God is a very loving and giving God!
If you have any needs, run to God. Call out to Him. Pray to Him. Make your requests known to Him. He cares for you. He has answers for you. He will always lead you in triumph. He has made Himself abundantly available and incredibly accessible. And God answers prayer.
2. Jesus Cares
Not only does Father God care about you, but Jesus deeply cares about you, too.
Jesus said in John 10:11-14, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own…and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
Jesus is a good shepherd! In fact, He so deeply cares about you that He literally gave His life for you. The bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13. Jesus truly loves you and considers you His friend. And you can run to Jesus for help and care.
Whenever you find yourself in a time of need, you have direct access to Jesus Christ to receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
3. The Church Cares
Father God cares. Jesus cares. And it doesn’t stop there. The Bible says to church leaders in 1 Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted by you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
The Lord—who is the Chief Shepherd—has personally delegated responsibility for church leaders to also shepherd and care for His people. The Apostle Paul confirms this when he called for all the elders of the church, saying, “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the flock of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28.
So we see that God has personally delegated responsibility to church leaders to also shepherd and care for His people. Though church leaders are imperfect and have limitations, they are a gift from God. We, as God’s people, must receive our pastors and elders as such. You can go to your church leaders for love and care!
James 5:13-15 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”
God is your Shepherd; Jesus is your Shepherd; And He has also called church leaders to be shepherds as well. But the Bible does not stop there, and if we’re not careful, we can get lulled into thinking that its always someone else’s responsibility to take care of others, and we overlook something very important.
4. We All Care
We live in a “give and take” society. Some people give and others take. Some even believe they are entitled to take and receive from others whenever there is a need, but never give of themselves toward others in need. “It’s always someone else’s responsibility to take care of me and others,” they may say. But that is not biblical. Yes, we can go to God! Yes, we can go to Jesus! Yes, we can to go to church leaders and pastors, but all of us are called by God to love and care for others!
Jesus Himself said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-38.
You and I are called to love and care for our neighbor. But who is our neighbor? That’s the same question a religious leader asked of Jesus. But he was not asking the question to find out who he really needs to care for, but to find out who he doesn’t need to care for. He wasn’t looking to justify himself being inclusive, but to justify himself being exclusive.
Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan, where a certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. He was stripped of his clothes, wounded and left for dead. Then Jesus said, “By chance a certain priest came down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise also a Levite. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion… went to him, bandaged his wounds…and took care of him.” Then Jesus asked the question, “Which of these three was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” They replied, “He who showed mercy on him,” and Jesus answered, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus Himself pointed out that two church leaders passed over the man, but the foreigner who was an ordinary man going about his day did not pass over. He stopped and cared for the man in need. It does not matter whether or not we are church leaders and have certain titles. We are called to minister and take care of others. The Samaritan did not say, “That’s not my job,” or “That’s not my concern.” Nor did he complain and protest that the priest and Levite didn’t do their job. He simply had the heart of care and compassion to help another in need… and he did what he could do!
We are all called to love our neighbor and care for one another.
So who is my neighbor? Simply put: Your neighbor is anyone you come into contact with. Let that sink in, and then ask yourself, “Am I being a good neighbor?” And this would obviously include your literal neighbors as well.
Though others may not be doing their part, let’s never excuse ourselves from our very own responsibility—a responsibility before the Lord—to love and minister and care for others. We may not be able to personally provide every need for every person who comes our way, but we can always do our part to provide love and care. If we would all consider and care for one another, then all would be cared for.
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