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Soul Care Part 1: Historic Metaphors

The “problem” with the paradigm that dominates the care of souls in the modern, western, Christian church is it is seen, almost exclusively, as the work of the pastor. Not only is that expectation unsustainable in nearly every context; it’s also unbiblical.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul explains how the care of souls should happen:

“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)

The image of a single individual carrying the burdens of an entire community has been romanticized by some, and totally abandoned by others. In either case, the critical Christian work of caring for souls is neglected. No depth of teaching or quality of event can make up for the deficiency of a church which fails to intentionally care for souls. We’ve got to create a better way… or perhaps, we could rediscover an old one.

Initially, what is your reaction to the midwife metaphor?

Does the word “midwife” care negative or positive associations? Why is that? Can you identify and name your reasons?

Historically, the church has embraced a wide range of pastoral metaphors, including parent (father/mother), guide (spiritual director), counselor, liberator, educator, physician, and midwife. Which metaphor most resonates with your personality or gift set? How do you most-naturally “show up” in a situation requiring care?

Which of these metaphors do you see as most and least important today?

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