The Westminster "Confession of Faith" has described the
mission for which Christ has comraissionea the Church as "the
gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life."^ The
means specified for accomplishing the task of the Church are
"the ministry, oracles and ordinances of Cod." According to the
Scots Confession (1560), the notes by which the true Church of
Jesus Christ may be recognized are "the true preaching of the
word of God} into the which God has revealed him self to us,"
"the right aaministration of the sacraments, which must be annexed to the word and promise of God," and "ecclesiastical discipline uprightly ministered." In other words, it could be said
that the Church exists to minister the Word of God. "The ministry of the Word," therefore, may be interpreted not only to
mean those persons ordained to be ministers of the Word, but may
be considered to sum up the essential nature and mission of the
Church as a whole.
Pastoral care is the system by which the saints are gathered and perfected in this life. The means provided therefor are the Word, sacraments, and discipline. Therefore, it may be
concluded that the mission of the Church, as understood by the
seventeenth century Scottish Church, is the cure of souls by
means of the Word of God. In the equation of the mission of
the Church with pastoral care, two things are implied: (l) that
all endeavors proper to the Church must be considered to be pastoral care and that these endeavors derive their significance from their relationship to the Word.
There is much the twentieth century Church can learn
from reflection on these concepts. By identifying pastoral care
with the mission of the Church, the life of the Church is uni¬
fied and the significance of the Church as the "body of Christ"
is given its proper perspective. The Church, especially through
its ministry, has been made the instrument for the expression,
exposition, and execution of the Word of God. Insofar as the
Church is able, through pastoral care, to make the Word relevant
and efficacious, it is, in effect, "the Word become flesh" for
the gathering and perfecting of the saints.