I am not sure what I think about this chapter.  The authors argue for Christian pastoral care within a communal setting, as opposed to the "professional" counseling.  I have heard of a couple stories of people violently against that idea, though I haven't seen anything bad about that myself, and would tend to agree with the authors, that I think it is helpful for a "counselor" to share a worldview with the "counselee" as that greatly affects what counsel is appropriate to give someone.  In addition, I think the authors would argue against professional Christian counselors as well, but aim more for relationships within the community that you are already in.

The problem with this therapy culture, according to Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, is the way it has made therapy into a way of life.  People are encouraged define themselves as victims who have suffered at the hands of parents, employers, or through pregnancy and any number of other things.  A belief system has emerged, the credo of which is that people cannot cope "on their own.".  Furedi argues that a therapy culture is bad for individuals and a significant threat to public health.  As long as people are encouraged to seek professional counseling to help them with everything from dealing with an unpleasant incident to raising their children, argues Furedi, individuals become disinclined to depend upon each other in the normal routine of relationships.  Relationships are increasingly "professionalized."

This book is a call to dual fidelity to the gospel word and the gospel community.  It is our conviction that the gospel word and the gospel community do not fail us when it comes to pastoral care.  Together they provide the secure framework within which to approach pastoral issues.

Is it naive or irresponsible to believe that the Bible gives not only an accurate and sufficient analysis of the human condition but also an effective response or "treatment"?  Many people think so, and as a result a dichotomy is created between the ministry of Bible teaching and that of pastoral counseling.  At the heart of historic evangelism is a committment to the Bible as "the final authority on all matters of faith and conduct."

These next quotes reminded me of when I was thinking about the Dominican Republic and one description someone gave us of the culture there, "It is different than the US.  You will find that if you walk up to someone's house and knock on the door [if they don't come out to meet you before you get to the door, which was the case in every example I saw] they will quickly grab some chairs and make some tea or food to share and you will be able to spend as much time as you want.  You likely won't have anyone who won't be interested in talking with you."  Maybe I'm the palest Dominican that ever lived.

Pastoral care in a Christian community is not merely one therapy device among many.  It is the context in which any other pastoral care takes place.

Most pastoral care takes [should take, anyway] place in the context of ordinary life - as we eat together, wash up together, play in the park, walk along the road.  This preventative care often averts pastoral crises or helps people cope when they face difficult circumstances.  But for these to be occasions of pastoral care we need to be intentional about encouraging and exhorting one another with the gospel.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 8, 2010, 3:57 pm | Read 8027 times
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I can agree with a lot of what he says about pastoral care, but have also known cases where the Bible could no more be considered an effective and sufficient "treatment" than it would be for appendicitis. There's a lot more to mental health than "matters of faith and conduct." If most need for counselling can be met by a healthy community, as I believe it can, one important key is knowing when professional help is needed.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 8, 2010, 4:32 pm

It seems to me that the Domincan Republic is not the only place where people take time for people. Many places in Africa are other examples. I wonder if it has less to do with wanting or valuing community and more to do with people being plain busy. Whether we're going anywhere with our business is an important question, though. So is the question of whether we mean it when we say "I'm too busy, I need to cut back" or whether we're just too addicted to the fast-paced life. One can't enjoy people if one is worried about getting this or that done so the visit becomes an interruption rather than a blessing. But what "thing" is more important than relationships? I get very frustrated with myself if I am too busy for people. Though I'm better now, I still get myself into situations where I'm worried about all I must do and can't enjoy taking time for people. I wonder what it will be like after school is done but baby is here . . .

Posted by IrishOboe on April 9, 2010, 4:35 am

True, the Dominican doesn't have an exclusive grasp on not being busy, by any means.

I am fond of saying that I don't believe in being busy (at least that comments gets people's attentions - what I really mean is that I don't believe in being "too busy to do X").

You choose where you want to spend your time, and so it is impossible to be "too busy" to do something - it is a matter of priorities. Your priorities might be different than mine, and what I would choose for you (I am in charge of the world, right?), but that is a different question.

So, I am not sure what you mean by "plain busy", as that seems to me to not value community or free time or anything else over the things that you are doing.

Unfortunately, people have started discounting this argument of mine now that I am self-employed, as people who didn't know me prior to being self-employed assume that I was different before. It is true that when I was working 60-70 hours a week at the start of Lime Daley, I had less time than I do now, but we were still meeting with people a couple times a week, something that most people can't imagine doing.

Posted by jondaley on April 9, 2010, 11:05 am

Hmmm, new format. What do I do with the Topic box? Is that for people like me who often stray off topic? :)

(Note: English not having a good way to use pronouns in generalizations, other than the often-awkward "one," I sometimes use both "you" and "I" generically. Since there are many personal examples in these discussions, if I mean something to or about a specific person, I'll try to do so by name. Otherwise, assume I'm not talking about anyone directly.)

I agree that "I'd like to, but I don't have time" is often a more polite way of saying, "That might be good, but it is not as high a priority for me as other things." (Or even, as someone once did to me, "I'm not interested, but don't want to hurt your feelings." In that case, it wouldn't have hurt my feelings at all, but it DID hurt when I finally found out the truth after working hard to make the event happen!) The polite reaction, as far as I know, is to accept the response at face value, and keep trying periodically (but not too often, and without pressure) to make it work.

But sometimes "I don't have time" is nothing more than the plain truth. I've learned we have to schedule dinner dates pretty far in advance if we want them to happen -- especially if they involve more than one other family. We have guests coming to dinner tomorrow night...but when we started planning it we had to look more than a month ahead to find a date that worked. There was absolutely nothing wrong with anyone's priorities, it was just impossible. One or both of us were out of town, had house guests, had a missions conference at church, were teaching a class, etc. And it's not just with these folks -- it happens all the time.

I suppose one could argue that we should have fewer friends, participate less in church activities, close our doors to out of town guests, or not visit family...but I don't think even you would do that.

I suspect that in times and places where people seem to have more time for being together, there are two main factors at work. One, they may be less busy because there simply is less to do, and fewer choices. The don't leave town because they can't or can't afford to, they're unemployed, they don't have computers, televisions, or video games, visitors from other places are rare, if their families move away they simply don't have much chance to see them, they have few or no schools, libraries or books; in short, they have time because they are short on opportunity and choices. You can argue that it's not good to have so many choices, but that doesn't mean that the differences among cultures is a matter of having correct priorities.

Two, they may be extremely busy -- I'm thinking especially of our farming ancestors, and others who spent almost all of their time simply feeding and clothing their families -- but their work is conducive to community. One of the tragedies of the Industrial Revolution was the demise of small family businesses, where work and family and community were inseparable. When the men (and women, and children) went off to work in the factories and were home only long enough to collapse into a few hours' sleep, it's not because they didn't value community, but because the factories had made their old way of life impossible.

That's an awful lot of words (and not exactly on topic, another reason why I left that space blank), but I think it boils down to patience and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 9, 2010, 1:18 pm

I was working on a "bug" for someone, but it turned out it worked for me, so I am not sure what trouble they were having with the smiley plugin. In the process, I figured I might as well switch to using the default commentform.template file, since that is what we tell everyone else to do, for easier upgrades, plugin integration, etc.

I don't use the topic field, so I should disable it. It shows up in the administration side (I think).

I also don't use the "parentId" field - which allows for nested comments, but I have been meaning to enable that, as that would probably be nice.

And yes, as I'll be writing in a bit about my Wednesday of the Dominican trip, the Dominicans (as a general stereotype) have their own problems with deciding how to spend their time.

And yes, I originally wrote that sentence as "one" and "his", etc. and I got tired of writing like that, and figured a more direct style is easier to read, and if someone takes it to mean himself, that probably means he should take it that way.

You mentioned the example of taking a month to get together - and that is how I define "too busy" for myself - if someone says, "Let's get together", and I can't come up with a day within a week or week and a half that would work for us (allowing for some in-house days for Heather), then that means I am doing too much.

Theoretically, at some point, my schedule would be so full of doing things I want to do that then I would have to change my definitions or something, but it hasn't happened more than a week or two in a long, long time.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 9, 2010, 1:48 pm

I just thought of a personal example that may be more of what you mean. We have neighbors who love to relax at the Outback at the end of a long work week, and sometimes we join them. It's a good time of conversation and getting caught up with each other, and I look forward to it.

When we have dinner guests at our house, I'm usually sorry when they decide it's time to leave. But when I am at a restaurant, I pretty much like to order, eat, and go. Our friends, however, like to talk, then order drinks, and talk, and much later get around to ordering the food, then continue to relax at the table, because for them it is not a meal, it is the event of the evening. Me -- I enjoy the conversation, but when I get there, I want to eat, and when I'm done eating I want to get back to whatever I was doing at home. I imagine you'd side with our friends for this one.

Perhaps it's because when we have people over for dinner I've mentally blocked out the entire evening, but when I go to a restaurant I'm still hoping to accomplish something afterwards. So I guess that means I'm giving higher priority to my work than to my friends -- but I don't see it that way. It's true that my priorities may differ from yours when it comes to the quantity of time, though.

I'd make a lousy European. I hear dinners in Spain take hours and hours, and generally start about the time I'm ready for bed.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 9, 2010, 1:49 pm

Yes, our Spanish exchange student thought the timing of our meals was interesting, and wondered why we ate our nighttime meal so early.

I don't like restaurants for the most part, so I am not one for hanging out there forever, though if I know we aren't going to see the people after we leave, then I would probably stay a longer time.

I have very few things that I "plan" on doing on non-weekday-day times, so I don't have the work-waiting-for-me-at-home problem, and in the rare occasions that I do, I stick with my college theory that says I can always sleep less, so tend to not end anything early. I figure I can have a maximum of one really late night each week and not really be affected too much by it. Once that extends to two or more nights, then I start getting sleepy.

As we were walking into house group last night, the leader was saying something about "last in, last out" with regards to people coming in late or something, and I think he changed it before he saw we were the last ones in, but he changed it to "first in, last out", which would generally apply to us.

Of course, many people don't have any struggles with Proverbs 25:17 that I do: Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

Posted by Jon Daley on April 9, 2010, 1:59 pm

This morning a local friend mentioned on facebook that they were looking for someone to hang out with. Even though I've been wanting to get together with this person, I was tempted to ignore the request because my to-do list for the day was unusually long. (We're having company this weekend.) I had just read your post, though, and decided that spending time with this person should be a higher priority than cleaning my house. We spent the whole afternoon together and had a great time. Thanks for challenging me to think about what's really important.

Posted by Kelly on April 9, 2010, 8:59 pm

This exchange must have had an effect on me, too, since we just returned from a four-hour Outback dinner with the aforementioned friends. :) It was a lovely night, we were outside, and we were in the middle of an intense discussion. But now it's past my bedtime.

I mentioned to them your comment about giving up sleep rather than conversation, and we all agreed that we are too old not to give sleep much higher priority than that.

By the way, the comments aren't remembering my data (name, webpage) any more.

Posted by SursumCorda on April 9, 2010, 10:35 pm

Well, I need so much sleep now that I'm pregnant that there's been a flurry of comments since I made mine. Cutting sleep is not an option for me now. If I did there would be no such thing as quality relationship time - I'd just be in a funk!

But that proves Jon's point quite well. I prioritize sleep because I know it is important. Every action we take shows where our priorities are. Jon said it well: "too busy" means "too busy to do X," which implies that X is not a priority compared to the rest of the "to do" list.

However, I don't think it is always a conscious prioritization. If you go through your day just reacting to events and urgent matters in front of you then you spend the whole day being busy without having made any conscious choices to prioritize. That's what I mean when I say I get frustrated with myself. I know that I have the power to say "no, cleaning the house is not as important as spending time with this friend," but if I don't, and instead let the day act on me, then although it looks like my priorities are wrong, I know what's happened is I've failed to live out my priorities. So yes, that day my actions said that "chores are more important than friends," but that doesn't mean I believe that. My sin this time was not having wrong priorities but a failure to live right priorities.

Now of course the line is fuzzy. If I live that way day in and day out and do nothing to change it, then X is less of a priority than we wish for it to be. The thing is, there is so much God wants to change in us that simply because we're working on A,B,C,D,E,F and G doesn't mean we don't care about X.

I'm happy anyway that the discussion has led to a few positive actions. At least in the Wightman household we've been struggling to learn to use our time wisely for as long as I can remember and though much progress has been made, we must still ask for others (and ourselves) to have patience with us!

Posted by IrishOboe on April 10, 2010, 6:15 am

I'm glad people are thinking about the blog discussions - my biggest concern about the "social media" is that it doesn't make a difference in "real life". If people live a separate internet life, I am not interested in contributing to that. I am (mostly) only interested in the internet connections insofar as they enhance and enrich real life connections.

I agree that people don't always consciously make decisions about how they spend their time. So, that is one of my goals when I make this argument to people.

As long as they realize they can choose how they spend their time, then I care a whole lot less about how they are spending their time.

I often hear people say that there, "isn't anything they can do about it," or, "it is just for this season," or, "wait until you are where I am (out of college, have a wife, have a kid, have two kids, have teenagers, etc.)".

There's always tomorrow, but so far, in every case, the critics have been proved wrong.

(and yes, the not remembering the data has to do with switching over to the default form, and it'll annoy me soon enough to go fix it)

Posted by Jon Daley on April 10, 2010, 12:16 pm
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