Pastoral ministry does not only consist of standing in the pulpit on Sunday mornings. If that is all a pastor did, he would be more akin to a performer on stage who does not know his audience and never really will. But pastors are called to shepherd, and the sheep have needs that cannot simply be met with sermons. As our Lord both preached in front of thousands and conversed privately with individuals concerning the kingdom of God and their souls, so too pastors are called to make themselves available for counsel to their congregation. This practice has often been referred to as the care of souls. Like a physician cares for the physical needs of his patients, a pastor is to care for the spiritual needs of his parishioner. And this cannot be done without knowing and meeting with those under care. In 1 Peter 5, St Peter commands elders to “shepherd the flock“—a command he himself received from Christ (Jn. 21:15–17). Peter specifically says to shepherd the flock “that is among you,” meaning that it is a flock that the shepherd knows, it is an identifiable flock with ’sheep’ that have names.
When a man or woman comes to Christ, they find their sins forgiven and they receive eternal life. But they are not transported to heaven to live out their days in bliss. They continue their lives in this broken world, falling into new sins that need to be repented of, experiencing loss and grief, and various trials. And the role of a shepherd is to care for the sheep, whether they need nourishment, direction, or to be pulled out of a ditch. St Peter tells suffering Christians to“entrust their souls” to God, and in turn, God ordains His ministers to be a means by which these souls are kept safe unto eternal life (Heb. 13:17). And in every situation, the need is to be pointed and brought to Christ, the true Shepherd of our souls, again and again (1 Pet. 2:25).
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