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Recovering the Cure of Souls

3. Godly pastoral care is an act of self-giving.

The nursing mom brings her baby to her breast. She is giving of herself. She cannot give what she doesn’t have. This is why Paul connects the image to “sharing our very selves” with the church at Thessalonica.

Pastoral care is costly. It doesn’t just hurt your brain; it can hurt your heart. Sometimes sheep bite. The weight of ministry will keep you up at night. It will make you sometimes feel drained. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul talks about the anxiety he feels for all the churches. Godly pastors know what he means by this “anxiety”—the spiritual weight of responsibility.

If your ministry is comfortable, you may not actually being doing ministry. Godly pastoral care is self-giving.

This means, pastor, that to give adequate care you must give adequate time to be nourished yourself. You cannot give what you don’t have. This is not a call to be self-centered but to be self-aware.

During my last pastorate, one dear lady who began as one of my most serious scrutinizers became one of my biggest supporters. When you can turn a critic into a colleague, something extraordinary has happened, because usually it runs the other way! But this woman watched me for several years up close, asked me lots of questions about motives and intentions. And she saw me at my best and at my worst. She got a piece of my heart. And she ended up being the last saint I had the privilege of helping pass into glory, the last funeral I preached before my time of service there was up. And over the several months it took her to die, I was one of the few she let into her room in hospice at any time—to talk, to pray, to read Scripture to her. Why? Because when I first came I was just “the preacher.” But I had become, over time, her pastor.

No, this isn’t new. It’s not innovative. And it’s not rocket science. But it is vital to the work of the minister and to the life of his congregation. Godly pastoral care is the overflow of love, an act of nurture and an act of self-giving. Pastor, cure some souls.

This article originally appeared here.