“In recent years the church has been tragically marginalized as a provider of soul care. If the church is to be restored to its rightful place of relevance to and preeminence in supporting the care and cure of souls, we must equip and encourage people to offer themselves to others in relationships of soul friendship and soul companionship.”
― DAVID BENNER
Soul friendship. Soul companionship.
Think of these concepts. What do they mean?
They are inherently other-focused. They are intrinsically about things that we so struggle with. They are fundamentally a sacrifice of our own needs for the needs of another. That is an easy thing to do, but only when we see others as souls worthy of living for.
To be a soul friend or a soul companion – and, though they sound the same, they are different things – we must see the soul of the one we are with.
Seeing the soul of the one we are with is only possible if we ignore the record of our needs. This is where an easy thing gets difficult. We prioritise our needs and we get to rely on them being met. We get to hate it when they aren’t met. But we will survive – and not only survive, but thrive – when we sacrifice our needs for the betterment of another. Imagine the blessing it is to receive such care!
The church has a role to equip and empower people to care for souls; yet, it doesn’t do that job at all well. Pastors and church leaders need to be the ones who will mentor individuals of their flocks to be intentional soul carers, but so much time is spent doing ‘Kingdom tasks’, not being with people who need them. Programs may change lives, but relationships more so.
The church doesn’t have that many pastorally-hearted pastors in this day where the focus is so much on Leadership, Worship, and Evangelism. It is no good getting people into the Kingdom if we can’t turn them toward healing. We need to be the gospel to people, and not simply leave it to God’s Word.
Pastors need to be equippers and encouragers of soul carers; they need to be enlisting every one of their flock to this sort of holy service in loving others as much as their own selves. This is how we love God best.
Soul friendship: any person we encounter we can offer soul friendship to. We may only see them for a second or two, so we make being with them the highest priority.
Soul companionship: a good example is our spouse or anyone we have an indefinite or infinite commitment to. We can be soul companions with those we even work with.
Practicing the privilege of soul care is loving (choosing to love by choosing to see) other people as uniquely loved in God’s esteem. When we see another soul as God sees them, compassion fills our hearts for them. Then loving them is easy. Jesus Christ hung on the cross for every person we’ll ever see or know.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.