The Right Medicine: Ten Principles for Pastoral Care

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Here is one final quote from Scott Mantesch’s book Calvin’s Company of Pastors. As I have said before this book is a must read for pastors, elders, or men in seminary. It is pastoral theology disguised as history. While we do not live in 1550 the principles of ministry do not change.

Simon Goulart was among the first wave of pastors in Geneva following Calvin’s death. He ministered from 1566 to 1628. Calvin died in 1564. He was best known for his two-volume work Christian Discourses. In this work he uses a conversational style of writing to guide his congregation through trials and sufferings. He also gives pastors guidance on how to care for those who are suffering. Here are Goulart’s ten principles for pastoral care with some notes by me in brackets. 

  1. The pastor should know and have true compassion for the person suffering. [Compassion is not enough. The pastor must know the person. This is a problem in many churches today.]
  2. The pastor should encourage the ailing Christian to adore the judgment of God and be mindful of his mercy. [The judgment of God not just the mercy of God should be brought before the person.]
  3. The pastor should conduct a careful examination of the conscience of the suffering person, probing its condition, deportments, and passions, so as to apply the proper kind of spiritual consolation. [Not just the outward condition of the person, but the state of their conscience must be ascertained. A suffering person is not assumed to be without sin.]
  4. The pastor should have at hand a variety of examples of faithful Christians who faced similar afflictions and yet trusted in the grace of God. [Pastors should read Christian biography.]
  5. The pastor should remind the afflicted Christian that other believers have remained faithful as they faced similar, or even worse, trials. [One of the great temptations in suffering is to assume that no one has ever had it as bad as you do. The pastor is to remind those suffering that many other Christians have faced similar sufferings and yet remained faithful.]
  6. The pastor should listen to and affirm what the suffering person says, while gently expanding upon or correcting opinions that are confused or inaccurate. [What a great statement that blends together pastoral correction with gentleness and understanding.]
  7. The pastor should encourage the ailing person to draw God’s light from the darkness of his suffering. For example, if the patient complains of weak faith, the pastor should point out that even this desire for more faith provides assurance that God will fortify and increase it.  [Satan often casts doubt upon our salvation and God’s faithfulness in times of suffering. Pastors should use wisdom in showing the suffering person signs that God is working and signs in the life of the Christian of faith.]
  8. The pastor who instructs the suffering believer should employ sharp warnings, combined with consolation and words of praise-yet avoid all flattery and dissimulation. [It is hard to rebuke a suffering person. Yet sin does not evaporate just because things are difficult. In fact, suffering often brings sin out. Thus a pastor must be ready to rebuke as well as console.]
  9. The pastor who consoles suffering people should know Scripture well and be skilled in fervent prayer. Pastoral counsel should return regularly to these central truths: suffering is part of the human condition; God is faithful to his children; God promises to help believers endure temptation. [Basic stuff here. The Bible, prayer, and central Biblical truths. ]
  10. The pastor must employ the words of Scripture judiciously so that the afflicted person can feed on them and be strengthened by them. [Like a good doctor, a pastor must pull the right medicine from the Scriptures so that the suffering person can grow in Christ.]