One Anothering
One Anothering

One Anothering

In my ignorance, and yet with some degree of arrogance, I once stated that there was no such thing as pastoral care in the Bible.

Now, in my defence, I was suggesting that there is no such thing as pastoral care as we understand it today, where the primary provider of pastoral care is, by and large, the senior pastor of the church.

Of course, my arrogant assumption is not entirely correct.

There’s the story in Acts 6 when the apostles instruct other believers to provide food for the widows in Jerusalem – an overt act of pastoral care as we understand it. There’s also the scripture that says to look after the widows and the orphans because this is an expression of pure religion (James 1:27), also implying acts of pastoral care as we know it.

And Paul, himself, had visitors while he was in prison (Col. 4:11; Phil. 2:25 ), which is another act of pastoral care.

Intriguingly, none of these examples suggests the act was done, or should have been done, solely by the senior pastor.

In fact, far more prevalent in the New Testament is a concept called “one anothering”, and I believe that this – the acts and attitudes of “one anothering” – embodies the culture of care that God actually expects of his church.

The Greek word for “one another” (or “each other”) is mentioned 100 times in the New Testament.

Almost half of these references are instructions to the church.

More particularly, they are instructions to every single believer, pastor or otherwise – that means you and me – and include: love one another (Rom. 13:8), through love, serve one another (Gal. 5:13), carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) and offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9). For a complete list of the “one another” Bible verses, check out this infographic.

Now, it should go without saying that “one anothering” can only be practised in community. And the best form of community for “one anothering” is small groups. These are the groups where we practice the way of Jesus together. Thus, it is in these small groups, these communities within the broader community of the church, that we share life together, and in the ordinary rhythm of life in a community, we practice “one-anothering”, the New Testament model for care [1].

[1]   Jennifer Turner, “Small Groups as Places of Pastoral Care”, GRID (Spring 1996): 1

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