Soul care today
Personality tests seem to be all the rage in the broader evangelical world at the moment.
Whether it’s in the context of leadership training, church small groups, or campus ministries, there is a widespread hunger to understand what makes us distinctive as individuals and to understand how our distinctive traits and tendencies shape our interactions with others for better or for worse. Some of the most popular of these tests lack the theological and clinical rigor necessary to merit the confidence that many place in their results.
However we may evaluate contemporary personality tests, their current popularity highlights a central theme of classical Christian teaching concerning “soul care.”
Soul care in the Christian tradition
The church’s long tradition of theological and pastoral reflection on the care of souls recognizes that different persons exhibit different characteristic traits and tendencies and that taking account of these differences is essential to providing true and reliable care for Christ’s sheep.
What sets classical Christian teaching on the care of souls apart from much contemporary teaching is its ability to locate these differences within a larger theological framework. Such a framework provides insight, encouragement, and direction for those who minister and receive pastoral care.
This framework includes:
- A vision of the triune God as the supreme shepherd of his flock, who is present and active to lead us out of the misery we have inherited due to Adam’s sin and ours and into the blessedness purchased for us by Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
- A vision of the various contexts and conditions that make us human: our existence as psycho-somatic wholes, the diverse social, economic, and cultural contexts that shape us, and, most profoundly, our status as created, fallen, redeemed, and yet to be consummated.
- A vision of the church in general and of pastoral ministry in particular as the divinely ordained means of caring for those who have already been and who have yet to be brought into Christ’s sheepfold through the ministry of the gospel.
Classical Christian teaching on soul care recognizes that, because we are made by God and for God, we can only understand ourselves properly in relation to him.
Soul care and the Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship
Soul care has been the theme this year for RTS Orlando’s Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship. During the fall, our regional reading groups have been studying Gregory the Great’s Book of Pastoral Rule. In the spring, they will be reading Martin Bucer’s Concerning the True Care of Souls.
Whether you have participated in a regional reading group or not, we would love to host you on campus on January 9-10, 2020 to reflect with us on this year’s theme. Three pastors and theologians who have thought long and hard about the relationship between theology, sanctification, and soul care will lead our time of reflection: Sinclair Ferguson, Michael Allen, and Scott Redd. In addition, we will have opportunities to benefit from the wisdom of RTS Orlando’s outstanding counseling faculty: Scott Coupland and Elizabeth Pennock.
Last year’s conference was a time of rich instruction, encouragement, and fellowship. I expect nothing less from this year’s conference as well.
To learn more about the conference and to register, please visit the Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship website.