In their article, “What are warning flags to watch out for when considering a man as a potential elder?” 9 Marks ministries offers 13 warning flags. Two of the warning flags stood out in a discussion I had with a good friend in early 2011 as I was going through my seminary courses. The discussion was part of the ongoing process of understanding how one’s theology works out in real life; a road that never ends.
While all of the warning flags are worthy of discussion, the two that stood out and seemed to go together well were 6 and 7.
6. An inability to encourage others.
7. An inability to show compassion and tenderness. A man may be rigorously strong and biblical, but if he can’t be tender and compassionate he’ll make a poor shepherd.
What exactly is the connection between robust theology fleshed out in teaching and preaching and the ability to encourage others while being tender and compassionate? Getting theology seems the easier part, but working that theology out in our relationships tends to be a bit more difficult. However, there are others who more readily encourage and show compassion to the detriment of a robust theology.
I would argue that theology, encouragement and compassion should go hand in hand. I admit that it took me some time to learn to really love people while working through a high view of theology – but I’m not a pastor.
I once scoffed at the cliche attributed to John Maxwell: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. However, the better I got to know myself, my sin and my Savior, the more that cliche resonated. But maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, I’d like to have an open forum to discuss two questions inspired by the 9 Marks article.
For pastors and laity.
- Should an inability to encourage and show compassion/tenderness disqualify a pastor?
- As a church member, how are you effected if your pastor lacks compassion/tenderness?
Bonus: How would you know that it is not just an incorrect perception about your pastor?