June 23, 2016

What is the ministry of the church?

This post continues a series examining key points of Andrew Purves' book Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 4

Friends by Liz Lemon Swindle
(used with permission)
Building on what he has said about truly Christian pastoral ministry being both gospel- and trinitarian-shaped, Purves now examines what pastoral ministry looks like in its daily "practical" outworking. He begins with a reminder that ministry must be viewed as what it truly is: "Empowerment for faithfulness that God does in and through us by joining us to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ" (p. 43, italics in original). He also notes that our obedience to God expressed as ministry, involves "sharing by the Holy Spirit in Christ's [own] obedience" (p. 44). As we begin to look at the practical application of these theological truths, Purves wants us to understand that ministry is not something that is up to us: "Jesus Christ is the primary minister (Hebrews 8:2), and our ministry [which is] derivative [is] participation in the apostolic and priestly ministry [of Jesus]" (p. 44).

Christological pattern for ministry

What does our participation in ministry with Jesus look like in "the trenches." Purves first notes that ministry is gospel---rather than an obligation, it is a gift we live out in a Christological pattern. Understanding this is vital, for as Purves notes, "Christological specificity is required to take us beyond either pragmatic or ecclesial practice models of pastoral work" (p. 44). Ministry is not fundamentally about pragmatic models (no matter how "effective"), but about real sharing with Jesus in accord with the patterns of what he actually is doing, by the Spirit, in our world.

Jesus: God's word to man and man's obedient response to God

Fundamental to understanding these patterns is a recognition that Jesus comes to us both as God's saving Word to humankind (gospel); and humankind's perfect, obedient response to that Word (ministry). With that reality in mind, we can then grasp the truth that the Holy Spirit enables us to participate in this twofold ministry of Jesus: "The church's ministry is inherently an apostolic and priestly ministry because it is a sharing in Christ's ministry," (p. 45), which is both apostolic and priestly (see Hebrews 3:1). When Jesus says to us that he is "the way, and the truth, and the life" he has in mind not only faith and piety, but also ministry, "For it is in union with Christ that we can walk the way, know the truth, and live the life of those who serve in the name of Christ" (p. 45).

It's vital that in approaching ministry we not throw ourselves, and those we mentor and supervise, "back on themselves" by failing to understand that as ministers of Jesus we do not heal the sick, forgive sin, raise the dead or even comfort the bereaved. Jesus is the one who accomplishes these ministries through his word (proclamation) and his acts. Our calling is to be actively present with him in the lives of others as he accomplishes his gospel-shaped ministry.

Purves then proceeds to examine various tasks of pastoral ministry from this vital, realist perspective. He does so by reminding us to look to "what it is that the Spirit of the risen Christ actually affects in and through the church at the point of the exercise of his priesthood." That priesthood has ministries that are both diaconal (diakonia) and eucharistic (eucharistia)

Diaconal ministry

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Maddox Brown
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Jesus' diaconal ministry is sacrificial servanthood lived out in accordance with Jesus' gospel pattern seen in John 13:14-15. There Jesus the servant washes feet, and calls his followers (fellow ministers) to join him in so doing. As ministers of and with Christ, we minister "according to the pattern laid down by Christ," in a ministry of "personal sacrificial sharing in Christ's self-sacrifice and self-offering to God for the sake of the world" (p. 100).

Eucharistic ministry

Jesus' eucharistic ministry is seen most clearly in the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist) where Christ comes to us in both word  and in the elements, "bringing God to the people" and taking "the sacrifice of praise and in his own name... offering it as rational worship to God (Romans 12:2)." Purves continues: "In the Eucharist Christ is truly present with his people and by the Spirit binds them to himself in bread and wine and to his priestly self-offering to the Father" (p. 100).

As those who officiate (preside) at the Table, we do so knowing Jesus is truly present---he is the host (not we), and we, as officiants, are ministering to the people of God alongside him. To serve well with Christ at his Table certainly requires that we be appropriately called and suitably trained, but that service as an officiant is not one exclusive to a certain class of Christians as though they were the ones in control of the Table in Christ's absence. Purves comments:
No one by virtue of gender or race can be excluded from sharing in Christ's ministry, eucharistic or diaconal. The limiting of eucharistic ministries to men only is a deep and sinful violation of Christ's encompassing and inclusive priesthood given for all in incarnation and atonement. (p. 102)
Next time we'll take a look at other aspects of the ongoing ministry (mission) of Christ to which we are called and equipped by the Spirit for active participation with Jesus in the world.

June 16, 2016

Trinitarian-shaped pastoral ministry

This post continues a series examining key points of Andrew Purves' book Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3. 5.

Icon of the Trinity by Rublev (public domain)
Purves views the doctrine of the Trinity as "the basic framework of meaning within which we live our lives as Christians" (p. 30). Many readers of this blog devote their lives to pastoral ministry, a calling Purves addresses in noting that "the doctrine of the Trinity is the grammar of all talk of God [including] every theological understanding of Christian ministry" (p. 31).

Rather than mere theory with little practical relevance, Purves views the doctrine of the Trinity as the principle means of understanding all of life (ministry included) in the context of the reality of 1) who God is (in his being and doing), 2) who we are as beings created in God's image, and 3) how we may live (including pastoral ministry) in ways aligned with who God is and who he has made us to be. This realist theological understanding is beautifully expressed by the apostle Paul in the Trinitarian benediction with which he ends one of his epistles:
 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV)
Utilizing the Son-Father-Spirit sequence of this benediction as his template, Purves goes on to discuss pastoral ministry with a "Trinitarian shape." Let's follow along.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ, who in his own person is the grace of God, is the heart and core of a pastoral ministry that is truly Trinitarian-shaped. Purves reminds us that Jesus, as the "actuality" of God (Colossians 2:9), is "the reality of grace" (p. 32). Jesus is grace incarnate---a grace that is fundamentally Trinitarian in that it "implies both the whole of God [who is Father, Son and Spirit] and the full message of the gospel. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the mission of God to save" (p. 33). As the mission of God, Jesus comes to us "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Grace is who and what Jesus is in his very being, and thus in all his acts. Through his grace-filled ministry, Jesus comes to us "not just as one who forgives, but also as one who restores us to a new relationship with the Father" (p. 34). That is who Jesus is and therefore what Jesus does (and is doing).

As pastors, we are called and empowered by the Spirit, to live as bearers (messengers) of the grace of God that Jesus is in the lives of those God has sent us to serve. In the name of Jesus, we proclaim that people, in Christ, are forgiven. In so doing, we proclaim the "indicatives" of who, in Christ and by Christ, these people actually are. And then, also in Christ's name (meaning by his authority and bearing his power), we give them instruction (catechesis), coaching and opportunity to live out that grace as followers of Jesus. Thus the indicatives of grace lead on to the imperatives of grace (p. 35). In that way, our proclamation of the gospel of grace leads to people being discipled in the way of grace, which is the way of Jesus. Purves comments:
Pastoral work should be concerned to assist people to identify grace in their lives in its specificity as forgiveness of sins and to equip them to be faithful in thankful response of Christian discipleship... lives of fruitful and joyful discipleship in the power of the good news.... Pastoral work [thus] has its marching orders from the great evangelical truths of justification and sanctification... (p. 35)

The love of God

The ministry of God---and here the focus is on the Father---arises out of the very being of God, which is love (1 John 4:16). That love is the eternal communion between the Father, Son and Spirit, a being (and love) expressed in God's acts---above all, his acts within history through Jesus. We know who the Father is (and thus the very nature of God) because we see Jesus. In Jesus we know God as the one who is love in his very being, and who acts in love toward us. Purves comments:
God loves his creation out of the eternal plenitude of [his triune] self-love and... can no more cease to love than he can cease to be God or act toward us in a way other than God has acted toward us in and through Jesus Christ. (pp. 36-7)
We see the love of the Father expressed in the compassion of his incarnate Son, Jesus. That compassion gave expression to Jesus' redemptive/healing ministry--a ministry of personal, compassionate presence.

As pastors, we are called to join Jesus in that ministry---to be his personal, compassionate presence in the lives of hurting people, so they may know the love of the Father, and in knowing, by the power of the Spirit, experience healing.

The communion of the Holy Spirit

How can we humans, who fall so short of the glory of God, experience the grace of Jesus and the love of the Father? The answer is the empowerment that comes through the Holy Spirit. Purves puts it this way:, "The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God by whom God [the Father] brings us into communion with himself through relationship with Jesus" (p. 39). The communion of the Holy Spirit is an "event"---one that is "Christ-related, God-glorifying, person-empowering, and church/mission-creating" (p. 39). Purves notes that "the Spirit calls the church into existence to be a community of worship and ministry through our union with Christ" (p. 39).

What does this mean for pastoral ministry? Perhaps the most important thing is that we are called not to help people merely mimic Christ (as though he were absent), but to participate, by the Spirit, in the ongoing ministry of Jesus who is actively at work in our world. In short, we have been called to help people share in Christ's ministry (or we might say, "share in Jesus's life and love").

That sharing, that participation in Christ's ministry, occurs through the communion of the Spirit found in and through the church. Sharing in Jesus' ministry is never an individualistic endeavor ("Just me and Jesus!" is how some state it). Purves comments:
To assume one can be Christian without attending church and participating in the life and mission of the fellowship is to misunderstand the meaning of being joined to Jesus Christ. Communion with Christ involves communion with one another and sharing together in Christ's mission to and for the world. (p. 41).
A Trinitarian-shaped pastoral ministry thus focuses on helping people to be involved in the worship and service (ministry) of the church---a ministry that cares for those within the church and reaches out to those outside the church. Why outside? Because the church, is fundamentally a "sent" church---sent into the world on mission in and through the Son, on behalf of the Father, by the Spirit. As pastors, may we hear and obey his command to go, and as we go make disciples of all people as we do. Amen.

June 8, 2016

Gospel-shaped pastoral ministry

This post continues a series examining key points of Andrew Purves' book Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 45.

For Purves, pastoral ministry is fully Christian when it flows from a pastoral theology that is understood as a hermeneutical discipline formulated in reference to the being and acts of God who, in Christ, and by the Spirit, is actively ministering in our world. But how is the ongoing ministry of the triune God identified so that we may participate? According to Purves, the all-important hermeneutical (interpretive) key is the gospel of Jesus Christ:
He That is Without Sin by Liz Lemon Swindle
(used with permission)
[The gospel] reveals and interprets the reality of the human situation and heals, sustains, reconciles and guides. It is the actuality of the gospel, the presence of the living Christ clothed with his saving works, that defines and enables the pastoral ministry of the church, giving it a power from beyond itself.... Insofar as pastors interpret the lives of their people before God in the light of the love of God in Jesus Christ [the gospel], they are able to bring doctrine to a deeper and more faithful articulation on the basis of their pastoral work.... Pastoral practice of the faith is possible only as we develop a deep practical wisdom rooted in a graced participation in God's missional reality in, through, and as Jesus Christ, knowledge [that is] illumined and clarified by the study of situations and events where the gospel is preached, taught, and lived out.... 
Pastoral theology begins as a theology of the ministry of God for us in, through, and as Jesus Christ, and as such brings to expression the gospel of revelation and reconciliation. Jesus Christ as the mission of God to and for us is the ground of and the basis for the church's ministries of care [i.e. pastoral ministry]. To insist that the ministry of the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit is the primary subject matter of pastoral theology means that there is no faithful content to speaking forth and living out the gospel pastorally apart from knowing and sharing in the mission of the God who acts in and through Jesus Christ and in the Spirit precisely in and as a man for all people. (pp. 11-12, 22) 
Note how Purves identifies Jesus (who he is, not merely what he does) as God's mission. Thus we see that God's mission is not principally a "what" but a "who." Another way to say this is that God's mission is fundamentally personal---it focuses on the personal, healing presence of Jesus who comes to us clothed in his gospel. God's mission is to heal the world, and Jesus both the healer and the healing medicine. We are not merely healed "by" Jesus, but "in" him (in "union" with him).

Unfortunately, pastoral ministry in contemporary evangelicalism often is focused on the question "What would Jesus do?" instead of "Who is Jesus" (his being) and "What is Jesus now doing?" (his ongoing acts). Our calling is not to merely mimic what Jesus once did, but to share in his love adn life and thus in his ongoing ministry, by the Spirit, in the world.

On a related note, we understand that Jesus is not merely a messenger who left us with information (rules and principles) but the living Lord who comes to us clothed in his gospel as the person he truly is, Emmanuel---God with us in human flesh. Jesus also comes to us as Savior---bringing salvation not as a commodity or transaction, but as what it truly is---union with his incarnate person. Our salvation is not merely "by" Christ but "in" Christ (with all that the phrase "in Christ" means).

In the continuing humanity of Jesus we find what it means to be truly human---human nature fully conformed to the image of God. Therefore, in Jesus (Colossians 3:3) we find our true (fully healed/glorified) humanity. As Purves notes, "Our union with Christ is the ontological basis of true humanity" (p, 25).

What does all this have to do with how we conduct pastoral ministry? The answer is everything! Redemption/salvation (and all it means, including justification, sanctification and glorification) occurs... "Within the mediatorial life and person of Jesus Christ. Our salvation takes place in the inner relations of the mediator in the unity of his person as wholly God and wholly human" (p. 25). And so the focus of pastoral ministry must be none other than the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, himself---pointing people to him as the one (exclusive) source of their true humanity, who, by the Spirit includes all humanity in his vicarious (representative, substitutionary) human life.

Reflecting on these thoughts, Purves makes an important statement that concludes with a question:
Pastoral theology must be clear that the gospel and not the social sciences provides the foundation for pastoral work, all the while recognizing that the social sciences have much to teach concerning our understanding of and response to the people in our pastoral charge. It is unacceptable to be in ministry without a working knowledge of people. On what basis, or according to what kind of a relationship, however do we proceed to speak of Christian faith and social sciences sharing in a common task? (p. 30)
We'll explore Purves' answer to this question next time as we continue looking at the nature of pastoral ministry that is true and meaningful participation in the love and life of the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit (and thus fully Christian).

May 28, 2016

The creation vs evolution debate

How should Christians approach the ongoing creation vs. evolution debate, which involves the place of biblical revelation and scientific investigation in informing one's understanding of the origin and development of the cosmos, including the human race. The post below by Dr. Gary Deddo of GCI provides helpful perspective on this controversial topic. This post is a modified version of a comment to the cover letter of the 2/26/2014 issue of GCI Weekly Update.

Gary Deddo
While it is certainly legitimate for Christians to probe questions regarding the definition of evolution and the related understanding of micro and macro evolution, these are, strictly speaking, scientific questions and not theological ones. The point here is that the church is equipped to authoritatively answer theological questions and we seek to do so on the basis of biblical revelation. We are not authorized on the basis of biblical revelation to answer strictly scientific questions. One such question would concern the mechanisms that were involved in the development of creation.

The topic of the relationship between Christian theology and contemporary scientific views of evolution is complex and raises many questions. As a result, Christians have differing views of how, scientifically speaking, God designed creation to function. Those differences should not be viewed as a threat to our fellowship under the Word of God.

Faith vs Science? (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Faithful and responsible interpretation of relevant biblical texts and their theological synthesis do not require the affirmation of only one particular scientific description. It is not the central purpose of the biblical texts and their theological meaning to provide scientific descriptions of the mechanisms involved in the origin and development of creation. Rather the purpose of this revelation is theological, that is, to tell us about the most fundamental and personal aspects of God’s relationship to creation and creation’s relationship to God.

Such a theological description rules out certain philosophical claims about God, creation and their relationship. The implications of a biblical theology of creation are first of all spiritual and moral. Atheism, polytheism, dualism, deism, mysticism, magic or superstition are, for instance, all ruled out. Philosophical claims of these sorts, even if made by scientists (as in the case of the philosophical construct of naturalism), are incompatible with the biblical revelation. On that Christians should agree. However, the meaning and message of biblical revelation does not require adherence to any one particular strictly scientific understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of creation since no passage of Scripture is designed to establish such an understanding. Indeed it would be anachronistic to think that a biblical writer could have had a modern scientific question like that in mind.

This being the case, individual Christians who want to come to some conclusion regarding the best scientific description of the mechanisms of creation must do so on the basis of the evidence and arguments given by the best science available. The church, as the church, relying on biblical revelation, has nothing binding to say on the topic since scientific description is not its central concern. It will, however, have much to say in regard to philosophical or religious/spiritual claims that are contradictory to biblical revelation, even when made by scientists, and especially when made by philosophers of science.

There is no inherent conflict between the Bible and true scientific investigation because they each make categorically different claims. Biblical revelation lays a much deeper foundation for forming a view of creation than scientific description could ever provide. That theological foundation includes the acknowledgement that God could use many methods or means to providentially create, maintain, oversee and interact with his creation for his own purposes. And given the central purpose of biblical revelation and the corresponding absence of information designed to specify the exact mechanisms that God has used and continues to use, the church should not make normative and detailed claims regarding such mechanisms. This is so not because the church fears losing a debate with the scientific community, but because the church's foundation in biblical revelation does not establish a normative conclusion about such strictly scientific questions.

Because we are aware of the various competing scientific claims/theories and indeed are aware of the limits of science itself, we acknowledge that consideration of the scientific evidence and the various theories that attempt to account for that evidence also leaves open the question of the exact nature of the mechanisms involved in creation. So although, as a matter of descriptive fact, there is wide consensus in the scientific community as to the adequacy of evolutionary mechanisms to account for the diversity of biological life, this consensus by no means explains exactly how it all works and many question remain unanswered within the theory of evolution. And so scientific inquiry goes on. As C.S. Lewis warned, this is one of the reasons that we should never depend upon scientific theory in order to validate our faith.

Charles Darwin
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
As an aside, outside the sphere of authoritative church responsibility, and as non-experts, we venture to offer an observation on the current state of the science. As far as we are aware, the classical neo-Darwinian explanation of natural selection as the final explanation has been all but totally discarded by the contemporary scientific community. This is so because much more complex mechanisms working at the microbiological level seem to offer far superior explanations. It seems that the larger evolutionary theory is now being upheld by a different set of mechanisms. But we can expect there to be continuing “evolution” of understanding concerning how these and other as yet unrecognized mechanisms work.

This continuing development in understanding will, no doubt, lead to significant wrestling within the scientific community---a dynamic that provides another reason that those who share genuine Christian faith may still differ on their convictions concerning the various competing scientific theories related to how creation works. Indeed some Christians may not form a firm conviction one way or the other on such scientific matters.. The current state of science and its inherent limitations are reason enough for the exercise of charity among Christians concerning this issue.

Of course Christians are free to enter into the scientific discussions and to come to a conclusion as to what current theory they regard as best or whether no current explanation is adequate. But the person of faith should not expect biblical revelation to give them a particular advantage in the scientific debates or expect it to provide a key that settles all scientific questions.

While some Christians may regard one scientific description as being more logically consistent with established theological assumptions than another, the long chain of logic required to argue to that point (undercutting any necessary conclusion) plus the lack of direct biblical teaching and interest in the issue, means that such conclusions should not serve as a test for fellowship or as a measure of faithfulness in the church. Consequently, Christians should not look to any church body for definitive guidance on matters that are strictly ones of scientific description of mechanism. Instead, they should look to biblical revelation and church leadership for guidance on the more foundational and personal matters of faith in the providence of the Triune God and practice of faithful Christian living in right relationship with God and neighbor, including scientists and fellow Christians with whom we differ on this particular issue.

For a related series of posts click here.

May 19, 2016

Ministry: sharing in God's being and doing

This post continues a series examining key points of Andrew Purves' book Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 345.

For Purves, a truly incarnational, Trinitarian understanding of Christian ministry is grounded in two great theological precepts:
  • The dual mediation of Christ: Jesus is both God's Word and act addressing humanity, and humanity's word and act addressing God. Athanasius was an early champion of this truth.
  • Union with Christ: by the Spirit we are joined to Christ and thus to his mission from and to the Father. Calvin emphasized this truth in the Protestant reformation.

Hand in Hand by Greg Olsen (used with artist's permission)

Given these foundational truths, Purves makes several key assertions:
  • The ministry of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ is the proper foundation for the understanding and practice of ministry.
  • The focus is on God's ministry, which was and is and ever will be actual, and therefore relevant and appropriate because of what it is. The church's ministry is a participation in that ministry, not something new of the church's invention to meet some present need or circumstance, or a vague imitation of Jesus Christ but doomed to failure because we are not messianic. It is not an ideal ministry yet to be made practical; it is the actual ministry of God, rather, that makes our ministries practical, relevant, and appropriate. 
  • Pastors do what they do because of who God is and what God does. Or more precisely before it is the church's ministry all ministry is first of all God's ministry in, through, and as Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Pastoral work has no subject other than Jesus Christ, and no content other than "the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people" (Jude 3). (pp. 1-3)
Unfortunately, much of ministry in the contemporary church has become "unhinged" from the true ground of pastoral ministry, which is the actual ministry of God in the world. This is so because ministry today tends to be "skill-driven rather than theology-driven and seems to incorporate little of the dynamically practical nature of theology insofar as it speaks about who God is and what God does" (p. 3). Another way to say this is that much ministry has become disconnected from the actual ministry of Jesus, who is present in the world, "clothed with his gospel" (p. 4).

To remedy this disconnect, the church must ground its pastoral ministries in Jesus and his gospel, which means grounding ministry in a clear understanding that God, in and as Jesus Christ, is the one source of life and hope. By understanding pastoral ministry in this way, the church sees ministry for what it truly is---a sharing in "the priesthood of Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit" (p. 6).

With this perspective, rather than "being cast back on ourselves" (a favorite saying of J.B. Torrance), we are led to depend solely on Christ and his ongoing ministry. That dependency is not a passive one---it involves active participation, by the Spirit, through faith, in what Jesus is actually doing in the world. Our ministry does not replace the ministry of (a supposedly absent) Jesus---it participates in it. This theological perspective on ministry is not pie-in-the-sky, ivory-tower stuff. It's highly practical because it is addressing reality--what Jesus is really doing. Purves comments:
Practical theology is practical because it is theological: it has to do with God. All theology, all knowledge of God, by virtue of the subject matter---the acting God---is inherently a practical theology or a practical knowledge of God. Axiomatically, knowledge of God is knowledge of God creatively, redemptively, and eschatologically active in the world and in human history through Jesus Christ... Knowledge of God is knowledge of the missio Dei [mission or actions of God], of Jesus' ministry to the glory of the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world. (p. 7)
Purves then points out two consequences of this theological perspective on ministry:
  • God is in himself always and reliably what he is toward us in Jesus Christ. This was made clear in the Nicene Creed by its declaration that Jesus is "of one substance with the Father" (homoousios to Patri). T.F. Torrance was a champion of this vital truth in our day.
  • While our knowledge of God is dependent on God's self-revelation to us in Jesus, we don't understand God by deductively reflecting on ourselves and our experiences of God. Rather we understand that God himself (not our experience of God) is the subject of our knowing. As applied to ministry, it is not we by our actions who define what constitutes Christian ministry, rather it is who God is and what he does. And what God does is seen definitively in the person of Jesus, who by his acts reveals clearly who God is and what God does. (pp. 8-9)
Purves then draws this important conclusion:
The ministry of the church...has no content apart from the content of the gospel of Jesus Christ to which the doctrine of the church bears witness and on which it depends for its truth and reality... Doctrine exists as the church's witness to the primary ministry of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ and as such has its source in the freedom and love of God to be God for us... [Therefore] there is [a close] connection between doctrine and the church's expression of the God who acts and what the church and pastors do.... There is a difference between helping someone therapeutically and leading that person to Jesus Christ (p. 10) 
Christian ministry, being gospel-shaped, is true participation in the ministry of Jesus, who comes to us clothed in his gospel. It is Jesus himself who heals and transforms, not our pastoral methods and practices. As Karl Barth said, "It is not Jesus Christ who needs pastoral work, it is pastoral work that needs Jesus Christ" (p. 10). Purves comments:
Because pastoral care is at all points both a ministry of God and a ministry of the church, it is tied to the gospel given in Word and sacraments. Functionally, this means that as a ministry of Word and sacraments pastoral care is tied also to Christian worship and community, discipleship and mission. (pp. 10-11) 
I imagine that most readers of this blog will, at this point, find themselves agreeing with Purves, but also asking, "How do I as a pastor or other Christian minister, live this out day-to-day?" We'll look at Purves' answer to this important question next time. Stay tuned.