In honor of Pastoral Care Week--October 23rd to 29th--Ashley Penman spoke with ThirdRiver Consultant and Pastor Mike McCormick to discuss how he sees his work as a pastor intersects with Serving Leadership. The following is a condensed transcript of that conversation.
As I have been thinking about Pastoral Care, Serving Leadership is already agreed upon as important and most pastors would say that is what they are aiming toward. But I am not sure if the “serving” idea is taken much further than being a nice person or doing simple acts of service like taking care of people, visiting the sick, or getting people coffee.
When service and leadership are combined they become something powerful, but the way that is done can be hard to flesh-out. To me Serving Leadership as a pastor is two things: serving a great purpose and serving the people God has entrusted to us. For pastors and Christians Jesus models both of these elements.
Serving a Great Purpose
In order for us to be serving a great purpose we need to be intentionally following God and focus on that discernment rather than distractions. Jesus models this for his disciples by leading them to the greater purpose via prayer. In the first chapter of Mark after a huge day of ministry that involved healing and preaching, Jesus takes time to pray. As leaders we have a very real need to connect and refuel after ministry work.
Jesus himself used prayer to refocus himself and his ministry on his greatest purpose. When his disciples find Jesus after he has gone out to pray Jesus responds in verse 38 with “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, that is why I came out.” Jesus’ greater purpose was to preach to people. By knowing his purpose and clarifying his goal through his time of prayer Jesus is able to say no. Prayer in the moment allows a leader to stay focused on God and the purpose God has given him or her. This allows the leader to say no to requests that are not a part of that purpose.
Serving those God has entrusted to us
Now when it comes to serving people, Jesus models for us two groups that require different kinds of service and care. The first group that Jesus served was the crowds. He had compassion on them because they were “sheep without a shepherd.” There is a missional component to the crowds of people, Jesus goes to them to share God’s truth with them. For pastors and those caring for others, meeting the needs of people means going to them and meeting them where they are. Jesus’ compassion leads him to engage with the crowds and go to them. We need proximity to get compassion. You cannot care for people you don’t see and are not willing to be around.
The next group of people Jesus cares for is his core, also known as the twelve disciples. Jesus’ long term strategy includes being hands on with the crowds, but also consists of a focus on on are core group. Jesus devotes time, care, and teaching to his core because that group will be ones to carry on the work Jesus does with the crowds. Looking at Jesus’ actions in John 13, Jesus loves his core to the fullest and models service with them. His actions of washing the disciples’ feet gives them a taste of the future. People have to experience service before they can be empowered to serve. The experience the disciples have challenges and engages them to go out and serve others.