How The Preacher Can Grow in Compassion
How The Preacher Can Grow In Compassion
In the last post, we looked at the connection between compassion and effectiveness in preaching. Or, as someone once said, your people have to know how much you care before they care how much you know. In this post I want to give a few suggestions on how the preacher can grow in compassion in order to grow in effectiveness.
Set Your Intent on Growing in Compassion
Jack Kornfeld teaches meditation. He once wrote this:
Setting a long-term intention is like setting the compass of our heart. No matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to backtrack around obstacles, our direction is clear. The fruits of dedication are visible in the best of human endeavors.
I like that picture of setting the compass of your heart. Decide that you want to develop compassion, and that you’ll do the work necessary to become more connected to the people to whom you preach.
Observing Feelings Is A Way to Grow in Compassion
As I said in the previous post, the word compassion means “to feel with”. Unfortunately, we tend to think that feeling with someone only means identifying with their pain. Feeling with can also mean feeling the joy of others. One way to do that is to observe the feelings around you wherever you are. In the Greater Good magazine and blog, author HOORIA JAZAIERI says this about the discipline of being observant to feelings:
For example, you could notice when compassion comes easily or spontaneously for you throughout the day (e.g., watching the evening news). You could notice when you resist acknowledging or being with suffering (your own or others) throughout the day (e.g., when passing someone on the street who is asking for money or an extended family member who is challenging). Throughout the day, you could notice when you judge or minimize suffering (e.g., saying that it doesn’t count or is insignificant compared to someone else or something else going on in the world). We often notice suffering (our own and that of others) but quickly dismiss it and thus do not allow ourselves to be emotionally touched or moved by the suffering (the second component of compassion). This kind of awareness of the presence, or absence, of compassion can provide some valuable information to you.
How the Preacher can use this to grow in compassion
Being aware of others is necessary to developing greater compassion. However, when I get busy, I can see other people as interruptions to my schedules and plans, rather than as human beings for whom Christ died. I once heard Bill Hybels talk about this in his own life. It was during a rather stressful time in his life that he was waiting in a line. He noticed a person a couple of people ahead of him who had a physical disability. Rather than feeling some level of compassion, he began to think about how it would take this person longer to accomplish his business than people like himself–healthy. Resentment began to well up in him. It was then that God spoke to him and let him know that his thought life was headed the wrong way.
Join With Others in their Grief and Celebration
As a preacher you will likely be involved in funerals and weddings. Both of these events are times for you to do a heart check. Do you grieve with those who grieve and rejoice with those who rejoice? The Apostle Paul said that this would be one of the primary ways that the Church, Christ’s body, would function:
26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Crowd Out Busyness with Reflection
When we get busy, our feelings for other people begin to shrivel. In fact, studies have shown that one of the ways we respond to lengthy stress is to burn out. Here are the four symptoms of stage four burnout:
- Physical, Mental, and Emotional Exhaustion
- Shame and Doubt
- Cynicism and Callousness
- Failure, Helplessness, and Crisis
Notice number 3: Cynicism and Callousness. In other words, one direction for how the preacher can grow in compassion is to make sure that you don’t get to the point of burnout. Schedule time in your life to unwind, to relax, to get in touch with what is important in your life.
Practice Being A Servant
One of the employees at the last church I served had been a regional supervisor for an international company. He ran two divisions of that company, and therefore was used to being honored and respected. Yet, I often found him running the vacuum and cleaning tables after an event. When I asked him about this, he responded, “I decided in my life after corporate living to be a servant, and that has enriched my life.”
Jesus made it clear that we are to be servants. Choose to be a servant to those around you, and your heart will become more in tune with them. In other words, you will learn how the preacher can grow in compassion as you life your life.
Here’s another idea. Pray to grow in compassion.