Compassion – A Must In Spiritual Leadership

By Jim A. Crumpacker

Key Verse: “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:6)

Leadership Qualities: Compassion, Prayerfulness, Honest self-examination, Self-motivation, Spiritual Values

What I Have Learned

Something motivates people to do what they do.  That motivation could be as simple as hunger or as complex as the desire for power and fame.  Each person needs to take a close look at his life and evaluate what is motivating him to be engaged in God’s work.  In the often thankless and unrecognized responsibilities of spiritual leadership, the right motivation must come from within a person’s own heart.

A spiritual leader must have a burning, unquenchable fire in his heart to see the salvation of the lost. Without this, all other motivations will soon fade away.  A leader needs to take a close look at himself and evaluate what is driving him to be engaged in God’s work.  If he does not have compassion for the lost, he will not endure the hardships that he will meet.  He will not last long enough to see the victories that are in store for the faithful.

The Good Life

Nehemiah’s personal life could not have been much better.  He had been blessed.  He was able to take care of his family.  His personal needs were well taken care of.  Most likely, he lived in a good home probably near the palace.  He had a good job and plenty of food.    Most of the members of his family likely attended a good school, and he had the respect of his fellow Jews.  His personal life was in order.  He really lacked nothing.

A Report From Jerusalem

Then he heard the report from Jerusalem about the living conditions of the people.  He became emotionally upset.  He was so affected that he wept.  He decided to go without food as he gave himself to much prayer for his people and his city.  He did not know the people personally.  He had never been to Jerusalem before.  His emotional reaction occurred because Nehemiah was a man full of compassion.

The modern world is in a condition similar to the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time.  Society has broken down.  Lawlessness abounds.  Hunger is commonplace.  Disease and death are touching every family.  People are without hope. 

For your consideration:

  • What kind of response do you have today when you see the conditions of your nation, your people, and the world around you? 
  • Are you troubled by what you see and hear?
  • Does this affect you? 
  • Does this diminish your appetite? 
  • Does this force you to prayer? 

If not, then you should re-examine your motives for being involved in spiritual leadership.

The Good Samaritan

In Luke 10:33, Jesus told the story of a man called “The Good Samaritan”.  One day, as he journeyed, the “Good Samaritan” saw something that made him change his plans.  He really did not have time for this.  It was not in his program.  But, seeing a person in need caused him to alter his well thought out journey.

The only thing that motivated him to do what he did was what he saw.  He saw the needs of this unfortunate man.  The Samaritan did not have any prior relationship with this man.  He did not even know the man’s name or speak his language.  The Samaritan did not stop to consider if he would be repaid for the expenses of caring for the man.  Compassion welled up within the Samaritan’s heart causing him to want to help this man simply because of what he saw.  He focused on the needs of this robbery victim who had been wounded and left for dead.  He realized that he had the ability to help this man, if he would just take the time to do so.  Compassion in the Samaritan’s heart saved the life of the man who had fallen among thieves.

Many times a leader does not have the ability to respond to all the needs he sees.  But, does he  have the desire to meet those needs? 

For your consideration:
  • Does it trouble your heart when you see a small child leading a blind parent in town from shop to shop? 
  • Do you feel sorry for people who have a more difficult life than you do? 
  • Do you wish you could help them all?


Nehemiah’s first response was to pray.  He knew that by his own power he could not change the conditions of Jerusalem.  He recognized that he was not a person with those kinds of abilities.  He was just feeling sorry in his heart.  For the first time, he was seeing the spiritual condition of his nation clearly.

Nehemiah knew that sin was the cause of Israel’s trouble.  A spiritual leader must be able to clearly see the spiritual condition of the person in need before he sees the physical or material problems.  To rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was not Nehemiah’s first idea or desire.  At this point, Nehemiah had a heavy heart for his people.  He began confessing the past sins of his people and nation.  His prayer of repentance and confession got him in touch with God.

Personal Risk

Nehemiah’s compassion did not stop with prayer and fasting, and confession of sins.  Compassion forced him to speak to the King about the report he had heard from Jerusalem.  This was a personal risk to himself.  What if the King reacted by thinking “Why should my cup bearer be more concerned about the Jews than about me?  I pay him good money, to take care of his family so that he can make sure there is no poison in my drink and food.  But it seems that he is not as interested in my well being as he is in those Jews who live in Jerusalem, those who have been my country’s enemies for so many years.  He cares more about my enemies than he does about me.”

A true leader who really cares about others will risk his well being to help them.

Needed: Self-examination

Someone who is trying to be a leader may wonder why people do not follow him like the people followed Paul.  He is trying to be a spiritual leader like Paul, but it does not seem that many are interested in following him.  He must examine himself.  Does he feel as strongly about lost people as Paul did? In Romans 9:3, Paul said that he cared so much for the unsaved that he was willing to be lost if all Israel could be saved.  That is how compassion affected Paul.  People are not easily fooled.  They know if a leader genuinely cares for them or not.

Some people are born with more compassion in their hearts than others.  Mother Theresa, the famous Catholic nun who worked all her life with the poor and disabled of India, is an example of a person filled with compassion.  There is a story of a tourist who visited the place where she was working one day in India.  As Mother Theresa was putting bandages on the open wounds of a leper, the visitor said, “I would not do that for a million dollars.”  Mother Theresa looked at her and said, “Neither would I.”  But, she was willing to do it for nothing or very little because she had compassion.  Compassion will drive a leader to do things he never thought would be possible for him to do in his life.

When Jesus Comes Into Your Heart

Maybe a leader was not born with a heart filled with love and tenderness.  Per chance his mother and father did not teach him to care for others.  But, when a person receives the Holy Ghost, he receives the Spirit of Christ. (See Galatians 3:27; 2:20; Romans 8:9)  He receives Christ’s compassion for the lost world.  (See Matthew 20:34; 23:37; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:31) Jesus cared for people.  He felt their hunger and their grief.  He taught them until He was exhausted.  He blessed their children until the disciples thought it had become too much and tried to stop them.  When a person gets Jesus in his heart, he gets all that love and concern for others.

What that leader does with that compassion for others, which Jesus puts within him when he receives the Holy Ghost, is up to him.  Some people let it die.   They are just hoping to make it to heaven.  Others let it control their whole life.  They do what they do because of the compassion of the Holy Ghost.

Some spiritual leaders, over time, allow true compassion to be replaced with other things like the desire to have power over other people, greed, selfish interests, pride or better methods.  Their desire is not to help people quite so much as they want to have a large church.  So they find other methods that work.  They replace compassion with methods.  Church growth methods are not bad or evil, but they should never replace your love for souls.

The Holy Ghost Makes A Difference

Once a student came to a Bible School.  He was older than most of the other students even though he had just graduated from secondary school.  He did not talk much, and the other students did not know much about him.  He had been baptized in Jesus’ Name, but he had not received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.  After a few months in Bible School, he began to tell his story. 

He was a native of Sweden.  At the age of fourteen he ran away from home because his father had been beating him every day, and he decided he could not take it any more.  He joined the Swedish army because he wanted to fight and to kill people.  He was a good soldier.  Later he joined the French Foreign Legion.  He fought for the French and Belgians in Africa.  He was a sniper.  A sniper is a soldier who goes out by himself and finds a place to hide for many days waiting for an enemy to come by him.  When the enemy comes, the sniper shoots and kills the enemy.  Many times this is done from a distance far away from the enemy so that no one knows where the shot came from.  He killed many people.

When those wars were over, he joined the American army and fought in Vietnam.  Again, he killed many people.  He was a good soldier who loved to kill because he had the powerful emotion of hate in him.  He hated everything and everybody.  He even took training to be able to kill with his hands, and he could kill a person with one hand.  He was an extremely strong person.

After he received the Holy Ghost, he testified one day of how much he had hated everyone and everything about the Bible School.  He had hated every teacher, administrator, his roommate and even the cook.  Everyone! However, when he received the Holy Ghost, his life changed instantly.

Now, instead of hatred, there was love.  He would go to the worst areas of town and find people that had become alcoholics.  They were letting drink control their lives to the point they cared nothing about anybody except how to get more to drink.  Their lives were so out of control that they lived on the streets and slept in the doorways of shops at night.  He would bring them to the school, hide them in the workshop, bring them food, pray with them and try to help them.  He would stand up in chapel and cry that no one cared for these people.  He strongly felt that there should be a program to help them.  The Holy Ghost changed Bjorn from a man filled with hate to a man who could love even the most unlovable people.


When Nehemiah first heard the report from Jerusalem, he did not know that he would be the one to solve their problems.  He was just concerned enough to pray.  His prayer showed God the true feelings of his heart.  Then the Lord began to open the doors.  The King agreed to allow Nehemiah to go and help the people of Jerusalem.  When a person really cares for others, God will open the doors for him and his ministry.

When a person really cares for others, God will open the doors for him and his ministry.

Leading people to Jesus Christ requires the same compassion that Jesus showed to the world.  What made the disciples leave their nets and jobs to follow Him?  They could see something in His eyes and hear something in His voice that said, “I care for you.”  Even before they saw His first miracle, they followed Him. 

People are looking for someone who cares for them.  They will follow a person if they believe he cares.  They are even willing to forgive mistakes if they know that their leader really wants what is best for them.  They will accept your advice and help if they know your true motive is compassion.  Likewise, if they know that you really do not care for them, they will not listen to you or follow your leadership.

What Have You Learned?

1. What is the proper motivation for doing the work of God?

2. Why is this true? 

3. List several things that show us the compassion of Nehemiah.

4. How is self-motivation illustrated in the life of Nehemiah in this lesson?

5. How long had the Good Samaritan known the robbery victim that he found along the road?

6. What did the Good Samaritan focus on when he saw the man who had fallen among thieves?

7. How did compassion affect the Good Samaritan?                      

8. What was Nehemiah’s first response to the need of his people in Jerusalem? 

9. What did Nehemiah pray for?

10. Why did Nehemiah pray for this?

11. A true leader who really cares about others will do what?

12. What risk did Nehemiah take as a result of his compassion for his people? 

13. How strongly did the Apostle Paul feel about his brethren the Jews who did not know Jesus?

14. What change does Jesus make when He comes into a person’s life?

15. When a person really cares for others, what is God’s response?

16. How will people respond when they know that you really care about people?

17. List five spiritual values in the life of Nehemiah that are revealed in this lesson.