Paul as Pastor

The role of pastor within the church is coming under closer attention as Fresh Expressions of church develop further and the matter of discipleship comes into sharper focus. What processes of pastoral care are needed if those in these flourishing new expressions of the body of Christ are to grow and develop in faith?

The question Patrick Whitworth wants to pose is: where should pastors look for an effective template to guide their pastoral ministry in our changing society?

Whitworth’s answer—the apostle Paul—may at first seem surprising as Paul’s ‘bedside manner’ may appear to leave something to be desired. But think again, says Whitworth.

Paul engaged in pastoral care in the context of close encounter, by impassioned letters and some painful meetings. He gives us the vocabulary of pastoral care: ‘freedom’, ‘maturity’ and ‘formation’. He gives the objects of pastoral care: ‘unity’, ‘purity’ and ‘community’. He gives us the trilogy of ‘faith, hope and love’, which would sustain churches in their discipleship. His own example, so often summed up by memorable oneliners (for example, ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’), serve as possibly the most powerful influence on those he cared for. His life was therefore a pastoral model as much as his teaching gives us a pastoral paradigm.

Whitworth divides his presentation into two key sections. ‘The task of the pastor’ examines Paul’s approach to right thinking; right attitudes and lifestyle; right relationships and right leadership. He then turns to ‘The tools of a pastor’—prayer; strength and weakness; word and sacraments; the pastor’s heart and the pastor as mentor.

The book concludes with a very practical study guide, which includes questions to help church leaders and those in training to focus on the application of the teaching in the book. Questions include:

The fivefold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher appears to be the essential and necessary leadership team for the local church. Which of these ministries seem to be neglected today, and why might that be? What does your own local church lack, and how could that ministry be encouraged?

Pastoral care is not generally associated with challenging wrong thinking. Why is that?

What is the connection between doctrine and attitudes? How is this shown particularly in Philippians 2:1–17? Can you think of any other examples from the epistles, in which doctrine is seen to be the source of right attitudes?

In what ways does the Hebrew view of marriage differ from the Roman view of marriage?

Do you think that there is any difference between the practice of homosexuality in the Greco-Roman world and today? If so, what difference does that make?

On what grounds would Paul have sanctioned divorce?

Have you come across any modern-day issues that relate to the idea of the ‘strong’ and the ‘weak’ conscience? Can you say what they are, and how differences have been resolved with regard to them?

Patrick Whitworth is Rector of All Saints Weston in Bath with North Stoke and Langridge and has served as Rural Dean of Bath. He previously ministered in York and London and has written six other books, including Prepare for Exile (SPCK, 2008).

Paul as Pastor is out now priced £7.99, ISBN 978 0 85746 046