Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Conundrum of Ephesians 4:11-12

What does Ephesians 4:11-12 have to do with Hospice Chaplaincy? More than you think. The passage reads (NKJV): “11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Most Chaplains will tell you that it is somewhat rare that a parish minister will visit a hospice patient, particularly if the patient is elderly and is a member of the church. We seem to have gone through a very odd experience in the Church when it comes to ministry to the sick these days. I have heard ministers say, “Why should visit this person on their death bed? They haven’t been to church in years? And, they want to see me now?” Others suggest that Ephesians 4: 11-12 excuses them from making sick visits as that is the work for the laity. Seriously? Let’s look at the passage for a moment. The Pastor/Teacher is, indeed, to equip his people to do the work of ministry. There is no argument there. However, in observing the ministries of those who hold to this view over a period of years, I have found no training courses offered to equip the saints for the work of ministry. It becomes a matter of credibility. If a minister holds to this belief that he is the equipper, then where is the equipping occurring? And, all of us know that the work of ministry is more caught than taught. Yes, every lay-volunteer needs to read about the methods of ministry but more so they need a mentor to show them how to do the work of ministry. This is where the professional clergy enter the picture. Mentoring is fundamental in showing a deacon and any other lay person how to visit a hospice patient…what to do, what to say, what not to say, how to pray, what to pray…things that are fundamental. Here is what I know… I served as a Senior Pastor for 25 years and now, after nearly 10 years in hospice chaplaincy and a like number of years attending churches, preaching in churches, and teaching in churches as a member not a professional clergyperson, I hear what pastors should hear. “He doesn’t care about us old people.” “He has his few he cares about.” “I only hear from him when the church needs money.” “When my wife was in the hospice dying, he never came… and neither did anyone else from the church.” Ouch! These are painful indictments. Is it really beneath the Pastor to make a death visit and impart the mercy and peace of God to a newly widowed spouse? Is it really beneath the Pastor to embrace the sorrowing children who just lost their Mother to cancer? Please, Pastors, do not take cover in Ephesians 4:11-12. Your credibility is compromised and as a result you platform for ministry is severely compromised with that family. You know and I know your congregants talk. They will share what did not happen. You’ll look bad. Why not take a promising volunteer with you and equip that person to show the heart of Christ to the newly bereaved? On the job training is how most of us learned to do ministry. My heart sinks when I hear statements from church members of all denominations say those things about their pastors. A great way to stop that kind of thing is for pastors to mentor their members so they can do the work of the ministry.

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