Churches often have a professional approach to pastoral care – it’s something done by a pastor or counsellor. But in Ephesians 4 Paul tells the whole Christian community in Ephesus to speak the truth to one another in love (15). The context of change is the gospel community (1-16) and the content is the gospel word (17-25).
God has given us the Christian community with all its differences and giftings as the context for change and growth. Paul says Christ ‘makes the whole body fit together perfectly’ (16 nlt).
- You need to help others change.
- You need to let others help you change.
So gospel communities need a culture in which we challenge, comfort, console, exhort and rebuke one another in the context of ordinary life. We need a culture in which it is normal to comfort and rebuke one another. We can do this so rarely that it creates a sense of crisis. We need to think of church discipline not simply as a final act of excommunication, but as a lifestyle of discipleship.
If I’m moaning, I need someone to challenge me to find joy in Christ. If I’m anxious, I need someone to exhort me to trust in my heavenly Father’s care. If I’m ashamed, I need someone to comfort me with the grace of God. It might be a leader; it might be a new Christian. It might be in a scheduled meeting; it might be as we tend someone’s garden together. We need daily exhortation: ‘See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.’ (Hebrews 3:12-13) And we need it from people who see us in the daily grind of life, not just when we are on our best behaviour.