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.  Continue reading

Lessons from Geneva: The Priority of Pastoral Care

Shepherd 2Here is the final lesson Scott Manetsch learned from his study of pastors in Geneva during the years of 1536-1609. The first was pastoring is hard work. The second was the need for pastors to learn from and be accountable to other pastors. The third was the centrality of the Bible.

Finally, this book has demonstrated the high priority Calvin, Beza, Goulart, and their colleagues placed on the ministry of pastoral care. For the reformers, the ministry of the Word involved more than the public exposition of Scripture; it also entailed the application of the divine message to people on every stage of life, from cradle to grave. Christian ministry needed to be Word-centered and people-centered. Geneva’s pastors fulfilled their calling when they baptized infants, taught children their catechism, welcomed young adults to Lord’s Table, conducted household visitations, comforted the sick, and consoled people preparing to die. At the same time, in weekly Consistory meetings, the ministers and elders confronted men and women suspected of moral failure or wrong belief, applying the “medicine” of church discipline in the hopes of achieving repentance, healed relationships, Christian understanding, and spiritual growth. Though dimensions of Calvin’s program of pastoral supervision and discipline strike our modern sensibilities as heavy-handed and unduly intrusive, the ministers’ sustained commitment to the spiritual well-being of adults and children in their parishes seems on the whole quite admirable. Indeed, in our modern world where men and women so often struggle with spiritual dislocation, fractured relationships, and deep-seated loneliness, Calvin’s vision for pastoral oversight that includes gospel proclamation and intense relational ministry appears relevant and important.

One of the great fissures between our fathers in the faith and us is that of pastoral visitation. Our fathers considered it the duties of pastors and elders to visit their parishioners. Today it is a rare pastor who regularly visits his people. Why is this the case? Here are a few reasons in no particular order.

  1. Pastors are busy with a lot of administrative duties, programs, etc. The private ministry of the Word is not a priority in practice, even if it is in theory.  It is pushed out by other things, which are less important.
  2. People do not want to be bothered. They view their lives as private matters where pastors have little say.
  3. Churches have become larger with little one to one action from the leadership. Most one to one interaction comes in small groups, which are not a good substitute for pastoral care.
  4. People are busy in the evenings when pastoral visitation often takes place.
  5. Church-hopping and the constant mobility of American people make it hard to develop long term relationships with members of a church.
  6. The rise of counseling and psychology. It is interesting that when tragedy strikes a community it is often counselors and psychologists are called in and pastors are not. There is a place to outsource certain types of counseling situations, but too many pastors pass their people off to the professionals.

There are probably other reasons as well. Our culture is far removed from the Reformation age. Yet pastors have a duty to care the flock of God, which includes meeting with them, praying with them, checking on their spiritual health, answering their questions, etc.  As Manetsch notes our age is particularly disconnected and lonely. Thus pastoral care takes on heightened importance at a time where the church, her members, and society at large work against it. Pastors and elders must be deliberate about their task of caring for the congregation.

In a future post I will describe how I do pastoral care. In the meantime, if you are looking for some good books on pastoral care, here are a few. If you know of other books put them in the comments.

  • Pastoral Care by Gregory the Great
  • Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer
  • Taking Heed to the Flock by Peter De Jong
  • Counsel Your Flock by Paul Tautges
  • Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition by Andrew Purves
  • Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter
  • All Three of Eugene Peterson’s books on pastoring

 

Cold Feet in Calvin’s Geneva

Groom Running
I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 
 

In a previous post I looked at what happens when people get too excited about marriage and up sleeping together before their wedding. As with all periods of history, this problem was common in Geneva. However, there was another issue that Geneva faced that is not a problem in 21st Century America; desertion before marriage. Today an engagement is not binding therefore this is not an issue. If a couple is engaged, it is assumed they will get married. But if they do not wish to get married all they have to do is break off the engagement.  Nothing more is needed.  Continue reading

Premarital Sex in Calvin’s Geneva

lydiaandherwickham
I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 
 

Chapter 12 addresses how Geneva approached the period of time between engagement and marriage, including how premarital sex was handled, as well as desertion during the engagement. This post will only address premarital sex.

This time included heightened sexual tension therefore the “Genevan authorities regulated this perilous interval in some detail.” One of the difficulties Geneva ran into was that they treated this period like a marriage except you could not have sex. For example, if an engaged woman slept with someone who was not her spouse to be, it was adultery, not fornication. To get out of an engagement was like getting a divorce. Yet despite all these trappings of marriage, a couple was still supposed to refrain from sex until the wedding day.  Continue reading

The Economics of Marriage in Calvin’s Geneva

 
Peasant House
I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 

Chapter 11 of the book is devoted to the economics of marriage in Geneva. It is tempting to think this is an area of similarity to 21st century America. However the opening paragraph of the chapter shows that, while there are some similarities, there are also substantial differences.

In sixteenth-century Geneva, as much as today, marriage is not only a union of persons. It was also a merger of properties-land, money, jewelry, clothing, household commodities, social titles, property rents, business interests, and sundry other “real” and “personal” property. When the parties were members of aristocracy or of the ruling class, a marriage could be the occasion for a massive exchange of power, property, and prerogatives that distilled into lengthy written contracts. But even paupers who intended marriage generally made at least token exchanges of property and oral agreements about future transactions.

Today the rich and wealthy probably do something similar to what is described here. However, the lower and middle classes rarely have anything like a written contract concerning financial obligations, etc. before marriage. The reasons are many, but one would be that most of us have little wealth that we bring into marriage. Continue reading

Impediments to Marriage in Calvin’s Geneva

denied-stampI am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva.

A new concept to me in this book was that of impediments to marriage. It means exactly what it sounds like: reasons that prevent someone from getting married or can be used to annul an engagement or marriage. Chapters 6-9 cover various impediments to marriage. Here they are in my own words:

1. Children who have not reached puberty could not marry.
2. The insane or mentally impaired could not marry.
3. Someone engaged to one person could not marry another.  This was polygamy.
4. Lack of presumed virginity could prevent a marriage.
5. Contagious & incurable disease that would be passed on to the spouse and children could prevent marriage.
6. Men or women incapable of having sex could not marry.
7. Wide disparity in age could also prevent marriage.
8. People too closely related (incest) could not marry.

I am not going to work through all of the material in the book, but I wanted to bring up a few points from the reading. Continue reading

Parental Consent to Marriage in Geneva

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In most cultures parental involvement in a child’s marriage was a given. Children assumed that the approval, especially of the father, was good and in  many cases necessary for a marriage to move forward. Geneva was no different. Eight of the first ten articles in Geneva’s 1546 Marriage Ordinance were devoted to parental consent. The prominence of parental consent issues in this document show the importance of the doctrine to John Calvin. Here is a summary of those eight articles.

1. Any son under twenty and daughter under eighteen years of age had to have the father’s consent to marry. After that age they were free to marry whom they wished though the father’s consent was still desirable. Continue reading