Pastoral Care IS Evangelism: Guest Post

Glen here…

Picture an evangelist.  What are you imagining?  Perhaps a motor-mouth with the enthusiasm of a labrador pup, the skin of a rhinoceros’s hide, the social skills of a barge pole and the patter of a “Phones 4 U” sales rep.

Now picture a pastoral carer.  What are the images now?  Surely it’s endless cups of tea, frowns of concern, shoulders squeezed and pained benedictions: “Aw bless” they say with an empathy perilously close to patronising.

In the popular Christian imagination, these are two different species.  One of them we’re very happy to send off to “The Mission Field.”  Then, with the wild-eyed enthusiasts out of the way, the pastoral people can settle down to their head-cocked expressions of condolence.  And never the twain shall meet, right?

Well no.  You see those pictures have nothing to do with the roles of evangelist (good news teller) and pastor (shepherd).  They’ve got everything to do with personality-types that have hardened into caricatures.  Actually evangelism and pastoral care are the same thing.  Really.  Genuinely.  Stop laughing, I’m serious.

Just the other day I learned from an evangelist that the most common book he’s given away to non-Christians in the last few months is… (drum-roll)…  A New Name.  Well of course.  It’s a powerful testimony to Christ.  It’s an explanation of how the gospel impacts our everyday struggles with food, body, identity and meaning.  It was written to speak into a deep pastoral issue.  And it’s wonderfully evangelistic.  Because – well, they’re the same thing.  Really they are.

Last week we were put in touch with a couple who live up the road from us.  Their landlady is a Christian and noticed that the woman was very thin.  She gave her A New Name and the couple soon got in touch with us.  They’re not Christians but we’ve been talking at length about their struggles.  And guess what – you just can’t talk about this stuff without talking about the gospel. Pastoral care just is evangelistic – it’s all about applying the evangel (the good news) to our struggles.

As I write this I’m preparing talks for an evangelistic mission to Bristol Uni next week.  My lunchtime talks are as follows “Where can I find connection?”, “Where do I fit in?”, “How can I be free?”, “How can I be confident?” and “Is there hope for the future?”.  I’ll be preaching Jesus from Luke’s Gospel as an answer to all these questions.  But notice how we’re going to evangelise?  Pastorally!

Because evangelism and pastoral care are basically the same.  One speaks the good news to not-yet-believing-people and one speaks the good news to hurting people.  But it’s the same good news and, let’s face it, it’s the same people too.  Even if we’re pastoring/evangelising Christians we’re all to some degree unbelieving aren’t we?  In fact that’s our problem – we don’t really believe the goodness of the good news.  And so the issue for the believer as for the unbeliever is to see Jesus again.  And, believer or unbeliever, seeing Jesus heals our wounds and it is eternal life!

Which means evangelists need to be a lot more pastoral, and pastoral carers a lot more gospel-focused, than the caricatures we started with.  Then we’ll pastor our people with a gospel comfort that’s for sharing (2 Corinthians 1).  And we’ll preach a gospel that liberates a suffering world.

That’s the dream anyway.




9 thoughts on “Pastoral Care IS Evangelism: Guest Post

  1. Hi Emma
    Nice!!! Since we are one this sort of topic I want to mention my concern about another peculiar thing sticking out it’s even stranger head at to many evangelical gatherings: a course on identifying your spiritual gifts! I wonder how our Pappa God worked that one out after Pentecost. As far as I know there was not paper available at that time and most of the early saints could not even read! I was just wondering!
    Much love to you

  2. When I was at the London Women’s Convention, I heard Emma Speak and bought not one, but 2 copies of her book as I felt it was a book I needed to give away. Now both copies have been read – I read one and my psychiatrist friend who I went to the convention read the other. We both loved it. But now…I have no idea who to give one or both away to…and almost feel I’d offend someone by giving them a book on anorexia…would love suggestions on who to give it away to, and who your evangelist friend has been giving the book away to. Px

  3. Hey Glen & Emma, great post! i love that jesus should be at the centre of pastoral care, as much as my feelings need sympathy/listening to, my soul needs jesus. Pastoral care without the gospel would be nothing! we all need both care & jesus’ good news…

  4. Hi Mia,

    Yes the Spirit is the Spirit of *Christ*. He points us away from ourselves and to Jesus. Sometimes these ‘identifying your spiritual gifts’ things can do the opposite of what the Spirit is doing – i.e. they focus us on ourselves. The best way to identify your gifts is to serve Christ’s body. You’ll soon figure out how the Spirit has equipped you.

  5. Hi Prinith,

    Yes, perhaps the strapline on the front cover is unhelpful for the purposes of giving away. Mentioning “anorexia” on the front can make it seem like you’re passing judgement as you give it to people! But I think it’s a case of saying “This is one woman’s story.” And stories are interesting. It’s a testimony before it’s anything else. That’s what needs to be communicated as you give it away.

  6. I’d just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it’s simply this:-

    Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. as part of your email signature.

    An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email applications will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details – but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

    For example, it might say something like, “p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon …” or “p.s. have you seen this?”.

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