Appendix 1: Follow You, Follow Me
Some thoughts on pastoral care in
1-1 Pastoral care in mission churches
Many readers of these words will have heard the Gospel through studying a book or correspondence course, or from meeting other Christians. They were baptized, and then their family and friends responded to their preaching, with the result that world-wide there are now a growing number of isolated groups of Christians. Often they are below ten in number. The tendency can be for such groups to simply rely upon Western visitors, Western magazines and books for our spiritual feeding; to assume that visiting brethren will sort out all the pastoral problems which arise. However, there is within the Bible repeated emphasis on the fact that we are each members of the one body, and as such have a definite responsibility for each other. We all have more influence on each other than we may think. Quite naturally, the Thessalonians imitated the ecclesias of Judaea and also Paul personally (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14). And in turn, they became models to all the believers in Macedonia (1 Thess. 1:7).
Whilst in many ways I would say that between us we are doing pretty well at converting people world-wide, I do seriously worry that many who are baptized do not have enough sense of responsibility to those others who are baptized. We seem to realise our responsibility to the world, but perhaps not to each other as we might. And I include myself as guilty here in some ways. One of the unique things about the us is that we don’t have a head office that dictates belief and practice, nor a system of paid pastorship or priesthood- quite simply, because we’re all priests. As it was God’s intention that Israel were to be a nation of priests to the rest of the world, so the new Israel likewise are to all discharge the priestly functions of teaching their brethren (Ex. 19:6 cp. 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 1:6; 5:9,10). Under the new covenant, we should all teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16). Indeed, God told Israel [unrecorded in the historical records]: “Ye are gods [elohim] and all of you are sons of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6 RV). Further, Ps. 96:9 makes the paradigm breaking statement that even the Gentiles could come before Yahweh of Israel in holy, priestly array- they too could aspire to the spirit of priesthood (Ps. 96:9 RVmg.). Moses spoke of how all Israel should pray that God would establish the work of their hands (Ps. 90:17)- but this was in fact his special request for the blessing of Levi, the priestly tribe (Dt. 33:11). Ps. 135:19,20 parallels all Israel with the priestly family: “Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron: bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord...praise ye the Lord”. All Israel were to aspire to the spirit of priesthood. Indeed, the Psalms often parallel the house of Aaron (i.e. the priesthood) with the whole nation (Ps. 115:9,10,12; 118:2,3). Paul speaks of us each one partaking of “the table of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:21), a phrase used in the LXX for the altar (Ez. 44:16; Mal. 1:7,12)- the sacrifices whereof only the priests could eat. This would have ben radical thinking to a community used to priests and men delegated to take charge of others’ religious affairs. Hebrew 3:13 gets at this idea when we read that we are to exhort one another not to turn away, situated as we are on the brink of the promised land, just as Moses exhorted Israel. It was accepted in Judaism, as well as in many other contemporary religions, that faithful saints [e.g. the patriarchs, Moses, the prophets etc, in Judaism’s case] could intercede for the people. Yet in the New Testament, all believers are urged to intercede for each other, even to the point of seeking to gain forgiveness for others’ sins (1 Thess. 5:25; Heb. 13:18; James 5:15). They were all to do this vital work. The radical nature of this can easily be overlooked by us, reading from this distance.
And yet there is ample evidence in the New Testament that there were elders and deacons in the ecclesia, just as within the ‘nation of priests’ there were some who had a specific priestly function. The problem is, how to articulate this in our small groups, scattered world-wide, mainly comprised of newly baptized converts? These are the kind of issues I want to have a look at in this study.