The True Care of Souls - 1 out of 5
With this post, we begin a simple five-part series of posts which present key excerpts from Martin Bucer's classic ministry treatise: Concerning the True Care of Souls. Bucer was a contemporary of the 16th century reformers. For more than twenty-five years Martin Bucer was the undisputed leader of the Protestant Reformation in the city of Strasbourg. Yet he never managed to achieve all that he wished due to the opposition of the city s political leaders. In 1548 he moved at the invitation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to England, where he spent the last few years of his life as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. Ten years earlier, in 1538, Bucer produced what he called this little book; Concerning the True Care of Souls. A Reformation handbook of pastoral theology, it sets out his ideal of a godly Christian society, and was written solely for the Lord s glory and the improvement of his church at this time when Christ s sheep are so deplorably scattered . He commended it to the Christian consideration of all God s children, asking only that nothing should be judged according to carnal standards, but everything according to the word of the Lord. And added, May the Lord grant that it will be of much use for his kingdom.
In this first of five posts, reflecting on Bucer's approach to and treatment of pastoral soul care, we begin with his Five Main Tasks of the Care of Souls. In this except, Bucer refers to Ezekiel 34:16, "I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strength the weak, and the sleek and the strong I will watch over and shepherd with justice."
From this [Ezekiel 34:16] it is evident that there are five main tasks required in the pastoral office and true care of souls. First: to lead to Christ our Lord and into his communion those who are still estranged from him, whether through carnal excess or false worship. Secondly: to restore those who had once been brought to Christ and into his church but have been drawn away again through the affairs of the flesh or false doctrine. Thirdly: to assist in the true reformation of those who while remaining in the church of Christ have grievously fallen and sinned. Fourthly: to re-establish in true Christian strength and health those who, while persevering in the fellowship of Christ and not doing anything particularly or grossly wrong, have become somewhat feeble and sick in the Christian life. Fifthly: to protect from all offense and falling away and continually encourage in all good things those who stay within the flock and in Christ’s sheep-pen without grievously sinning or becoming weak and sick in their Christian walk. These five tasks of the care of souls and pastoral office the Lord has beautifully summarized in the parable of the sheep pasture in Ezekiel 34:16. (70)
In this excerpt we find five key words Bucer employs regarding true pastoral care in the local church. Lead, restore, assist, re-establish, and protect. In the next post of this series, we will further consider Bucer's advice on identifying these five groups of sheep.
You can purchase Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer through Amazon.