The principle and the never ending practice of Pastoral care, is not a new concept. As a Scriptural example, we could and should endeavour to imitate Paulís commitment to his Masterís commission, as outlined in [Acts 20.17-35].
In contrast to what is right, God highlighted to the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 34, that there are and always will be, men, who have the calling but not the will or the commitment to give themselves to its completion.
Arising out of this essential task, there are three theological principles which when satisfactorily fulfilled will enable us to give to God the best that we can be. They are confidentiality, boundaries and intimacy.
Why start with confidentiality? There were, as there are in our churches today, men who knew that they had done wrong and regrettably, were suffering the consequences of their unlawful actions. Therefore, at the outset, adequate room has to be made in our churches for individual confession, no matter how revolting, unacceptable, and detailed it turned out to be.
Then Ezekiel, in his capacity as a Priest, would privately, sensitively and specifically announce the word of absolution, acquittal, running parallel with personal application.
This act of the utmost privacy, needs to be repeated in the midst of our leaders, for it would result in the man of God leaving the presence of his priestly overseer, prophet and Pastor with the enormous weight of guilt being broken and removed from his shoulders, for, both the God who freely forgives, forgets and his messengers would have no further remembrance of their sins
Secondly, boundaries. The shepherds of Israel, and probably some of todayís custodians of the truth, who love to stand in the holy office with all its privileges, had individually and eventually, collectively, decided to withdraw personal Pastoral care from the intentionally stubborn, the obstinate, and those whom they regarded as deliberately hard-hearted Ė forgetting that at one time, these three particular qualities were their individual trademarks wherever they went.
Therefore, the spiritually hungry, famished and destitute were numbered alongside the sick, the weak, the heart-broken, those who had been ruthlessly scattered, the oppressed, the perpetually wandering who never seem able to find their desired home, and no-one ever came out from the ever-increasing number of the self-satisfied, financially prosperous, who prophesied to each other about all the good things God was doing with the elect.
They had conveniently overlooked those with whom they used to pray, intercede and worship.
There are still, in our day, an abundance of believers, on whom the book of remembrance is tightly closed. They are known, from heavenís perspective, as the forgotten.
Among this group, which is growing daily, there are the diseased, the deprived, the demonically tormented, the discouraged, the depressed, the disadvantaged, the disconsolate and the perennially disappointed.
What part will intimacy play in their lives? God numbers those who are His. In Revelation 7, there were a vast number of believers who will have come through the great tribulation and entered into the realm of unbroken union and unbreakable communion. There is also room here for you. [David McArdle]