Pastoral Psychology and the Heart 07

Where do you suppose the term “pastoral” comes from in pastoral psychology?

It’s that shepherd thing again; the word “pastor” means someone who tends to sheep out in the pasture lands (pastoral means “out in the pasture”). In faith life, everyone is a pastor of someone else at some point. Everyone has some limited dominion over an activity and others become your sheep. You take on the responsibility for care and defense as they operate in your domain.

Sure, you get to play the boss, but this assumes you are gracious and magnanimous in doing so. If you understand that the blessings and goal of all the covenants in the Bible is a tightly knit tribal community, then it’s utterly necessary to seek out the means and methods of dealing with your fellow humans that reduces friction to a minimum. Zero friction isn’t possible, but there are ways to reduce it over the long term. That includes knowing how to be grand and noble when it’s in your power to do so.

Sometimes it must be flatly stated: It doesn’t matter what dreams and accomplishments people seek. There are no goals in the Bible. Just handle what comes with grace and trust God for the outcome. Everything you might do is viewed in light of instrumentality in keeping shalom alive within the flock.

This is our witness as a community of faith. In Western society in particular, everyone wants to know about your goals, as if some concrete end point is obligatory. We reject that. Our witness is not where we are going, but how we get there. It’s the beauty of how we live together in faith. So we view the discrete destinations and tasks as circumstance, whereas the whole business of the church is keeping ourselves together as a flock, focused on doing what His sheep do.

This is where we need to refer back to Ephesians 4 where Paul gives us a glorious vision of God giving people as gifts to the church so that the whole thing is pulled together into a strong standing community of faith. This is the whole point: Redemption is manifested chiefly in how we treat each other inside the community, and then extend that outward. It doesn’t matter at all what the body may plan and accomplish in other terms; the rich fellowship and familial atmosphere is the whole thing.

This is the key to wholeness and what is typically referred to as “mental health.” This is the goal of pastoral counseling. This is what the Bible tells us we all need.

Circle back around to that part about the heart of faith and convictions. If you go searching your convictions and what your faith will empower, it starts from this basic assumption that this covenant family thing is the whole point. You’ll be looking for your convictions to steer you toward the kind of choices that lead to a stronger family communion.

That is the language of the heart. It’s building out the ego to include all of Creation in your protective dominion, and every human who shares that same love. Can you imagine a fellowship where your hearts speak so clearly to each other that everything your mouth says pales in comparison?

This is the only valid dream of pastoral leaders.

End of series (unless someone asks a penetrating question).

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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2 Responses to Pastoral Psychology and the Heart 07

  1. Not a question per se, but I find your idea of ‘building out the ego’ refreshing. So much healthier, psychologically, than the idea of the destruction of the ego. It certainly is food for thought, and I hope your readers take it to heart and work with it.


  2. Ed Hurst says:

    Thanks, Christine. I believe the idea was implied by Dr. Scott Peck, even if he didn’t articulate it that way. He was a psychiatrist who broke a lot of psychiatry rules.


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