Pastoral Care for a Mission Church
A mission church, you might be thinking, is what every church should be. That’s true, of course. But I use the term to describe a church that has no office-bearers except a missionary, and is under the care of the sending church. Streetlight is such a mission church.
Pastoral care for a mission church is challenging for two reasons.
1. The pastor is a missionary, not a pastor.
Pastoral duties are huge in a mission setting. Every person who comes to the faith needs lots of encouragement and personal contact from a spiritual leader in the church. And as the community of the faithful grows, so does the demand for pastoral care. The community Christ gathers here has far more pastoral needs than the regular congregation I served in the past.
But the spiritual leader in a mission church is a missionary, not a pastor. So he is oriented toward new contacts—connecting with them, deepening relationships, responding increasingly to the problems in their lives to help bring them in submission to Jesus Christ and thus experience the joy of living under the freedom of the Saviour.
The pastoral needs of the congregation he serves are secondary. They are extremely important; but because this flock is led by a missionary, they will be neglected somewhat, by comparison, to churches with constituted consistories. The members of that church often will feel somewhat neglected. That is not strange but it is bad and it needs to be remedied.
2. As long as the church does not have elders ordained from among the congregation, the members will receive care either from elders of the sending church, or from volunteer elders—men who have the qualities necessary to serve as elders, but who have not received ordination.
These are provisional arrangements. They need to change as quickly as possible because they are not biblical. That is why the form for ordination and installation for missionaries states that the missionary has a primary duty to train and ordain elders.
We are struggling here at Streetlight. We have nearly 60 members in the church and a host of contacts beyond. There is some feeling of neglect among members. We pray that soon we might become as you are, a church with a mission, because we cannot remain for long as a mission with a church.