Spurgeon on Leadership (10): Nine Lessons on Compassion

1. Effective leaders balance “strong convictions” with a loving spirit. Although he was tough in personal discipline, Spurgeon was sensitive when it came to his pastoral role with people. He wrote, “With all his maturity and firmness, the spiritual father is full of tenderness, and mani­fests an intense love for the souls of men.”

2. A leader who is committed to providing leadership that will include the best qualities of Christianity will demonstrate sensitive com­passion in the process. Spurgeon exhorted, “If we would save our hear­ers from the wrath to come, we must realize that they are our brothers. We must have sympathy with them, and anxiety about them; in a word, passion and compassion. May God grant these to us!”

3. The Christian leader who ministers effectively to his followers un­derstands that pastoral care has to be a priority. Spurgeon chal­lenged ministers, “Take care to be on most familiar terms with those whose souls are committed to your care. Stand in the stream and fish. Many preachers are utterly ignorant as to how the bulk of people are living; they are at home among books, but quite at sea among men.”

4. Spurgeon believed that leaders must first be servants. When they became servants, it placed them in a position from which they could lead. “Let us remember that we are the servants in our Lord’s house. `Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.’ Let us be willing to be door-mats at our Master’s entrance-hall. Let us not seek honor for ourselves, but put honor upon the weaker vessels by our care for them.”

5. A Christian leader must have redemptive concern for his followers. Spurgeon wrote, “If we be in Christ’s stead, we shall not bully, but ten­derly persuade. We shall have true sympathy, and so we shall plead with sinners unto tears, as though their ruin were our woe, and their salvation would be our bliss.”

6. A redemptive leader is characterized by “unconditional love.” Spurgeon loved his people and ensured that they knew he loved and cared for them. When instructing other ministers, he wrote, “Brethren, let us heartily love all whom Jesus loves.”

7. A leader shows real compassion by offering care and consolation to his followers. Spurgeon counseled ministers, “Cherish the tried and suffering. Visit the fatherless and the widow. Care for the faint and the feeble. Bear with the melancholy and despondent. Be mindful of all parts of the household, and thus shall you be a good shepherd.”

8. Christian leaders maintain and promote diligently the dignity and worth of each individual. “We must love sinners for Christ’s sake…The fallen, the frivolous, the captious, the indifferent, and even the malicious must share our love. We must love them to Jesus.”

The greatest compassion that a Christian leader can show is a passion to lead someone to Christ. To Spurgeon, that was the greatest goal: “If we have great love to Jesus, and great compassion for perishing men, we shall not be puffed up with large success; but we shall sigh and cry over the thousands who are not converted.”

Pastoral Leadership, Part 5: Compassion

I have the joy of teaching in our Doctor of Ministry Program at Southeastern Seminary. It is an outstanding program of study with majors in Expository Preaching, Leadership, Biblical Counseling, Faith and Culture, and Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. You can learn more about the program by going here or by phone at 919-761-2216.

Recently, I received a very fine paper from one of my students on “Leadership in the Local Church.” The author is a pastor of a very prominent church in the Southern Baptist Convention who is leading it through a time of transition following a long tenured pastor. The focus of his paper was on how to lead a local congregation through a time of transition without blowing up the place. As many of us know this is easier said than done.

With his permission I will share in several blog entries an edited version of his paper. There is real wisdom in what you will read. For obvious reasons the particular church and the pastor’s identity will not be disclosed.

Pastoral Leadership, Part 5: Compassion

The fifth principle that should guide the leader in transition has been the principle of compassion. The leader of any organization facing the anxiety of transition among the followers must understand the principle of compassion to guide him. Some months ago, sitting in a lecture by Dr. David Beck, Professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I heard him ask this question, “Would the world or culture in which we live recognize Jesus as a leader?” Dr. Beck then listed the following traits: One who knocks on doors, waiting to be invited in; One who plays with children; One who washes feet; One who prays for me; One who died for me. Over the course of his lecture, he examined the leadership style of Jesus. Without question, the leadership style of Jesus involved compassion. In Mark 5, one can see the power of Jesus as he has compassion on a demon-possessed man, healing him from his torment. In that same chapter one sees Jesus having compassion on a father’s broken heart at the death of his daughter, when He brings Jairus’ daughter back from the dead. And how could one forget the woman with the “issue of blood.” Jesus had compassion upon her and made her whole. The compassion of Jesus for the brokenness in people’s lives is a leadership quality which must not be ignored. Too many high powered leaders miss this. They may even brag about not having it to their shame.

As a new leader in a new congregation, it is critical that followers understand the caring nature of their leader. A pastor must look at this principle of compassion for people and their needs, and let the genuine concern ring loud and clear as a priority in our leadership. It is this principle that reminds every pastoral leader that as servants of Christ, we are in the people business. When we no longer really have a burden for people, their hurts and their needs, we are essentially out of business.

For our church, the development of a Deacon Family Ministry was a key component to demonstrating the importance of caring and showing compassion in this congregation. While this ministry continues to need improvement (what ministry doesn’t!) its implementation early in the transition was important for two reasons. First, it helped to establish, teach, and train, for what the new leader’s vision would be for the role of deacon. Deacon bodies in the average Southern Baptist church struggle with their role. They vary between being the board of directors, administrating and carrying out all decision of power in the church, and being a ministering body of leaders who pray for, show concern for, and carry out ministry to the body of believers they serve. The teaching and training, along with the assignments of serving as an extension of pastoral ministry to the church, brings the deacons to a more biblical model of their call. Secondly, however, the implementation of an effective deacon ministry to families becomes crucial to keeping up with the needs of a large congregation. The pastor, even with an extensive staff, cannot keep up with all the needs of the fellowship that require some kind of response. The deacons can have a personal touch to a number of families when they face times of distress or times of celebration. They also help the new leader determine where the needs are that could use a touch from the pastor. This is much more effective than a new leader trying to take a shot in the dark as to who needs a touch and who does not. The relationship and bond of the pastor with his deacons, showing compassion together to meet the needs of a congregation, is a powerful instrument.