This week in Sydney we have two high profile speakers. An evangelist and the other a psychologist which has led to lots of discussion about God.
What sort of God are they preaching? Why are people drawn to attend their events? What are people searching for? How do members of the audiences think and feel about the message they heard? And how do we accompany people as they explore what they think, feel and believe? Conversations such as these lie at the heart of all soul care ministries.
Christian soul-care ministry covers a broad range of ministries in different contexts: pastoral ministries in churches, pastoral care in Christian organisations and institutions, ordained chaplains in the defence forces, chaplains to prisons, emergency services, sports teams and spiritual care to a vast range of secular institutions, but each of these pastoral encounters have one thing in common, each involves a conversation.
Christian soul care has two aspects. One aspect is helping Christians find a deeper faith in Christ rather than walking away and the other is helping non-Christians towards a deeper spirituality. Now it may not always be clear where someone is in their spirituality – whether they are seeking meaning or indeed, fleeing from it, but our task is not to determine where they stand so much, as to guide them to ask their own questions around meaning, belonging, identity, faith and existence.
Let me give an example. When we talk with someone who has heard one of these high-profile speakers, rather than asking them what was said by the speaker, enquire what was heard by the hearer? How did that make them feel? Or what did it have them thinking over or puzzling about? Does this indicate a next step that is needed for them or is the best just to continue mulling over points that are on their mind?
Soul care in its essence provides a space where people can unpack spiritually significant events with a desire to find deeper meaning.
I have heard soul care referred to as a ministry of listening – this is perhaps ninety per cent true, but I would want to suggest that it is not just listening but guided listening that lies at the heart of soul-care. And it is wisdom which provides guidance for this listening. It is wisdom that guides the listener as to when to remain silent and when to speak and the choice of those words imparted.
And from where do we get this wisdom? It is the wisdom of our Christian faith, wisdom tethered to the depth of our confessional faith, brought into conversation with the reality of another person’s life. Wisdom is a combination of depth of insight with a breadth of understanding. And Scripture tells us that this wisdom comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit filling us with the knowledge of the God’s will through all the wisdom and understanding, and it is given in order that we live a consistent with our faith as followers of Jesus Christ.
Soul care is a ministry where knowledge of God and the fruit of our faith bears fruit in the lives of those we encounter pastorally.
 1 Kings 4:29 (NIVUK) God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Cf Daniel 5;11 In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods.
from Colossians 1:9-10.
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