How to visit and pray:

You Came Unto Me

A Guidebook in Pastoral Calling

for Ministers and Laymen [and Women]
by Russell L. Dicks, 1951
Department of Pastoral Care, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina


The business of the church has become so complicated that it is impossible for the minister to do all that is required of him especially in pastoral calling. There is a tendency to have larger churches; this tendency probably will increase because of the ineffectiveness of the small church due to lack of equipment, leadership, expenses, and the shortage of ministers. But the large church has its own peculiar problems.

One of the problems of belonging to a big church is the risk of getting lost in the membership; the lack of a sense of someone being interested in you. There is a need to give attention to the individual. Jesus was concerned about persons. It is not enough to ask a person to do something, but he needs to be helped to feel that he is something, especially when suffering comes to him. The minister struggles to do this for the individual member, but in a large church he faces an impossible task at this point. There is a constant loss of ministers of big churches through death, illness, or through their seeking of other work because of the exhausting nature of their responsibility. Many pastors of large churches conduct as many as fifty to seventy-fire funerals a year, and some far more, and many conduct that many weddings. Before he performs the ceremony that takes a few minutes the conscientious minister spends from four to six hours with each couple; while the average grief-suffering person needs from four to twelve hours of someone's time. The physically ill, the dying, the handicapped, the aged, all need pastoral help; in addition there are increasing numbers of people having marital and family problems to say nothing of those caught in the tangles of alcoholism that are begging for help and going unattended. Along with these needs is the necessity of constantly carrying on an evangelistic program, for the church that is not evangelistic is a dying church.

There are three persons who can carry on pastoral calling: the pastor, the employed layman, and the volunteer layman. Until fairly recently no instruction has been available for any of these persons to help these understand human behavior, spiritual needs, nor how people can be helped who are facing the great crises of life. Twenty-five years ago a systematic study of these subjects was begun. For years we carried on our work, collected our material and did what teaching we could. There are still great numbers of our ministers who have had little or no formal instruction in ministering to individuals. Fairly recently, within the past ten years, the theological seminaries have begun to secure as instructors men who have made a special study of this ministry which we call Pastoral Care. My own feeling is that we are now ready to and must enlist the active aid of laymen in this vital task.

There are large numbers of laymen, particularly women who can be effective in ministering to individuals. The pastoral instinct is one of understanding, concern, and affection. Women have these feelings to a greater natural degree than men for they are mothers of the race. Their greatest problems are lack of emotional discipline, control, and confidence in helping people.

The third person who may be enlisted to share in the tremendous task which the church faces in helping people is the volunteer laymen who can give from one to several hours a week to pastoral calling and who may see from one to three people regularly. You may say, "That's not much!" It's enough to get the job done when properly carried on and the spiritual rewards are great both to the caller and to the one being called upon.

It is my hope that not only can we develop better care for our own people, but that we can reach out into those institutions where loneliness and disappointment are concentrated: convalescent homes, homes for the aged, sanitoriums, hospitals, and jails.

It is the purpose of this Guidebook to point out the needs, the underlying forces, and the methods whereby one person may help another.


Pastoral Care deals with people, with individuals; it is person-centered, not doctrine-centered and not program-centered but individual-centered. The struggle of modern man is the struggle for a sense of individuality, a sense that he is significant; this is sometimes called a sense of personhood, which is a feeling that he belongs and that someone cares for him. This struggle is as old as mankind but it is increasingly acute in our day for we are surrounded by bigness. We have an increasing tendency to dress alike, act alike, think alike. It is not enough to point out to people that God cares for them: the love of God must be personalized by the representatives of God in the church coming into vital and meaningful relationships with the individual, and especially the individual who is suffering from any of several different kinds of suffering.

Regardless of how intellectual we may become when suffering overtakes us we feel that God has forsaken us, or more specifically that he is actually punishing us. The most significant way such a feeling is overcome is by someone coming to us in the name of God and His church, and who succeeds in getting it across to us that he is concerned about us. Later we ask the question, "Why does he care and why does he bother with me?" And then we search back of the love of friend to friend and discover that the love of God as personalized in Christ is the moving force that brought him or her to us in our time of need.

How does a person who is lonely and afraid, self-conscious and preoccupied with his own concerns become conscious of forces and causes greater than himself? How is he able to break through the shell of isolation which holds him imprisoned? We're not asking how he got to be the kind of a person he is; that is another question. We are asking now, how can a suffering person break free from his enslavement so that he can be a happier, outgoing, socially accepting and acceptable person, capable of meeting and mingling with people, so that he can effect a happy and successful marriage and be a creative person, carrying his part in a world that is dependent upon creative and healthy people? This cannot be done through some magic formula but through someone who himself is capable of friendship coming to the suffering one and breaking his bond through understanding affection.

A psychiatrist, lecturing to my class of ministers recently, said, "Most people do not need to talk to a high-powered specialist such as a psychiatrist, who can explore the depths of their sub-conscious, but they do need understanding friends who will let them talk over their problems."

It is my belief that in the Christian church and the Christian fellowship we have the key to helping people, but that we are not using sufficiently the force which is inherent within the fellowship. It is not a lack of desire nor of good will but rather a lack of knowing how to bring together those who need help and those who desire to help. I might add, however, that it is a commonplace statement for students of Pastoral Care to observe after a call, "I was helped more by this person than I helped him." The person seeking to help is helped. Robert Browning once wrote, "God teaches us to help each other, lending out our minds." We ourselves are helped as we lend out our minds and our affection.

Recently a friend wrote to me saying, "If the Methodist Church fails it will not be because of its preaching, but because of its failure in pastoral care." I do not entirely agree because I do not think you can have effective preaching without pastoral care, but I do agree that our pastoral care is woefully inadequate. Neither do I think the preacher can do the job alone. The Protestant church is essentially a layman's movement. We have increasingly made religion the preacher's business. In the and this defeats the aims of religion. Especially in the big church, with its multiple responsibilities for the minister, the need for pastoral care is very great.

One writer, (THE MIND IN ACTION, Berne, Simon-Schuster) has said that a third of the nations' population is sick in one way or another. These people are not sick in a physical sense, although many are living below their physical capacities because of the lack of spiritual stimulation they are receiving. When the soul is healthy the body takes care of itself, for it will go on functioning almost indefinitely if the "person in the body", does not get in its way.

There are many who are sick that the average person would not recognize as being ill, who go about their work, living average lives, but who are sick of heart because of loneliness, frustration and feelings of hostility which constantly gnaw at their spirits. Others are openly and admittedly ill and disturbed because of the situation in which they find themselves. It is this latter group that the pastor and his assistants can help most effectively. The others must seek help and many do as they discover pastoral care as a resource for living. These are persons whose marriages are not satisfying, whose jobs are frustrating, who drink too much and sleep too little, and whose general relationships with people leave much to be desired.

Many of these persons themselves receive help once they become concerned about the needs of others. Here it is again: "We help each other, lending out our minds." I would add, "through lending out our affections." Friendliness and affections are interesting feelings; you lend them out and they come back multiplied, some ten, some fifty, and some an hundred fold. In fact unless they are given to someone they cease to exist, and when they cease to exist in a person he becomes hopelessly ill, vicious and often times dangerous to himself and to others around him.

Many people feel that they cannot make a call in the name of the church let alone going when there is definite suffering and spiritual need. If you are genuinely fond of people and if you are sufficiently disciplined so that you can listen more than you talk then you will be helpful. In fact that has been suggested as the test of the helpfulness of a pastoral call. If you listen as much as fifty percent of the time, your call will be helpful regardless of what is said, while if you listen as much as seventy-five percent of the time the call will be very helpful. Helping people through conversation will be discussed later.

We all have basic needs for friends. Those who seem not to have friends and not to care to have friends are usually lonely persons who feel emotionally insecure in relationship to other people. They come from unhappy homes where there was a strong hostility between their parents. Never having had love as a child they are unable either to give or receive it as adults. Consequently, while such a person may be successful from many points of view, basically he is an unhappy and lonely person. He rejects the offer of friendship because of his distrust in people.

If you like people in general and if you find yourself concerned when you hear of a misfortune that has struck someone, you will be helpful as a caller. Basically we are self-centered and occupied with our own problems. Our concern for others may include the members of our immediate family, and to a lesser extent those we are associated with, but it seldom reaches out to include people we know less well. And then we find ourselves affiliated with the church where many demands are made upon us, for the church is constantly holding up the needs of others, challenging us to enlarge our area of interest and concern. Often we build up an immunity to such appeals; we turn deaf ears to the requests for help because of the heavy responsibilities which we already carry.

The Christian church at its best is a group of people associated together because they are in love with a Central Figure of the Christian religion, whose love of them is constantly spilling over to include others in the experience. When people are in love they desire to include others in the experience. One of the interesting things about love is that the more it is used the more you have of it, the greater it becomes, the more people it includes.

But, you say, you didn't join the church because of any great feeling of compassion for this Jesus you hear constantly referred to, and who lived a couple thousand years ago in a little insignificant country that wasn't even able to maintain its national independence at a not very important time in the world's history. Some people call him a god and some claim that he rose from the dead after being executed because of the claim of the rulers that he was a threat to the public safety. None of these things mean much to you because they are not a part of your immediate problems and experience.

But the thing you hear about the church doing and hear the preacher doing makes sense to you; they even occasionally get under your skin, then you find the ideas and ideals presented in the church effecting your thinking and decisions. You say, "There's a lot of this religion business I can't understand and some of it goes definitely against my way of thinking, but every once in a while it makes sense."

There is a story about the late Ernest Fremont Tittle, for many years one of the great liberal preachers of American Protestantism. Shortly after he began his ministry at the First Methodist Church in Evanston, Illinois, a decidedly privileged community immediately north of Chicago, a move got under way to ask the Bishop to move Dr. Tittle because of his radical views. There was one man in the church with such influence that his support of the request would be necessary if it was to succeed, but no one doubted that such support would be forthcoming because of the known views of this man. When his support was sought he told the committee, much to their surprise, "I'll have nothing to do with such a request. You know I don't believe a thing that Tittle preaches so far as social issues are concerned, but when my wife died that young preacher came and sat up all night with me. So long as I have anything to say about it he can preach in that church as long as he wants to."

And yet it is doubtful if that parishioner ever asked the question, "Why did he sit up all night with me?" The obvious answer is, "Because of his concern for the parishioner who was facing one of life's most difficult crises." And yet back of the preacher stood the Man of Galilee who has been described as a shepherd of those who are helpless. It is He that arms the preacher for such an experience. It is He, through example and command, that sends the Christian forth to help others; "Love ye one another"; "Feed my sheep"; "When I was sick and in prison ye visited me." It has been pointed out that during the intensive years of his ministry, Jesus gave a third of his time, according to the gospels' records, to helping other people. He was not always successful and some of those he did help seem not to have been very grateful, that is, not immediately, perhaps they were later toward someone else, for in general the gratitude of people is tremendous.

The church has consistently tried to follow those commandments both through its laymen and its clergy. Today with the increased tempo at which we live, with our pre-occupation with many things, one of the chief characteristics of life is lack of a sense of belonging; especially when life's crises of death and grief and illness and old age overtake us; when we are discouraged and caught in anxiety a tremendous feeling of isolation settles over us. We feel we are forgotten by both man and God. That similar experiences come to other people, even to people that we know, has little effect upon lessening the impact of such experiences when they come to us. If someone comes to us in the name of the church and Christ, who cares about what is happening to us, then we realize that God reaches out to us.

In the modern church, with its multiple duties and demands, the minister cannot do it all. He cannot be all things to all people, much as he would like to be. In a real sense he has no right to try to be. He should not rob the laymen of the church of one of the greatest privileges of the Christian fellowship: that of sharing in the suffering and sorrows that come to each other. How often have I heard the statement, "You never appreciate your friends until you are in trouble." It is a high privilege to be able to go to those who need help and to be able to share their troubles with them.

"Love ye one another," said Jesus.

"God teaches us to help each other," wrote Browning.

Here is a poem, which I wrote some years ago and which was published last year [1950], that illustrates some of these things. I called it



You Man of Galilee---I've, heard your story,
How you worked and taught and died;
Your story's got about.

They say you were a carpenter,
How good, how bad, no one has ever said;
You were a carpenter and worked with tools,
And then you went away
And listened to a preacher by a streams
You left your tools and went away---
As many men would like to do,
But most do not.

There're lots of things they claim you did
And lots of things you said;
Those sermons that you made and talks you gave---
Where did you learn all that?
You had no printed books or public schools,
No colleges, no radios, no newspapers or trains;
You were pretty smart for just a man
Who'd only worked with tools.

Too bad you got in trouble
Through some things you said;
Too bad you couldn't see a doctor
And discuss your views and thoughts;
You only knew to pray alone,
And that's not always good.

And then the way they killed you!
That was pretty crude;
To hang a fellow on a cross
And leave him in the sun.
But they say you fooled them after all,
They say you were not dead;
Those soldiers only thought you died
That day there on your cross.

They say that now---so many years it's been---
That even now you sometimes go about,
And speak to lonely people,
And march with marching men.

That story bothers me sometimes,
It's hard to understand;
And even if it's true
Are you quite sure that you should?

We're Christians now, 'most everyone,
We care for those in need;
We've social service and relief,
Hospitals and public agencies;
Things have progressed a lot,
Since you were a man in ancient Palestine.


You Man of Galilee---you bother me!
I give my money to the poor,
And doctors care for sick,
And nurses too;
And social service works to clear the slums;
I pay my taxes and I go to church;
I love my family and I earn my pay.
Now go away,
And let me be happy as I want to be.

Where little children play in streets,
In dirt and filth, and smile and laugh;
Where little children wear but rags,
And shiver in the cold;
Where little children cry for bread,
And lie in dirty beds in dark and crowded shacks;
Where little children die for want of care,
You Man of Galilee, I see you there!
But what have I to do with these?
I built not these slums,
I live not by their benefits;
And these people who live there---
I like not their smell, nor their ill-mannered noise.
If they had worked as I have worked
And saved their money---
Oh! go away, you Man of Galilee,
And let me be selfish as I want to be.

You haunt me!
Why do you wait?
Why do you stand beside my bed at night
And cloud my thoughts when I need to rest?
Who gave you right
To stalk the land, a specter in the night?
Please go away,
And let me sleep as I want to sleep.

Where men arise and seek to find
Work because they know the need,
I see you there!
Where honest folk seek to guide
Their factories and stores,
To turn their goods into the world
To meet life's human needs,
I see you there.

You Man of Galilee---
Is there no place where I can go
But that you beat me there?
Why don't you go away,
Back to your ancient tomb,
And let me sin as I want to sin?


And then one day I stood beside an open grave
And you were there;
But now you were the same as I,
Your face was sad,
Your sorrow was the same as mine.
Lord, Man of Galilee, you suffered
As I suffered then, for I was one of them,
Those children in the street,
Those lonely sick, those hungry men;
Lord, now I understand.

Oh, do not go away---
In spite of comfort, sleep,
In spite of sin and selfishness,
We need you here;
You know how soon we shall forget,
Unless you come to us,
And claim us from ourselves.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying unto ourselves that we are born to eternal life.

--- St. Francis of Assisi (traditional)

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