The word that jumps out of the gospels describing Jesus’ emotion toward people in need is compassion. Our Lord often felt compassion, or was moved with compassion to heal and to save. The compassionate care He and the apostles gave to the poor and sick is inspirational. His unheard-of acts of compassion drew people to Him like a magnet.
After Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, the apostles were involved in compassionate ministry to the poor believers in Jerusalem (Acts 4:34–35). In fact, their work of distributing money to the poor became so time-consuming that they had to appoint seven men to take over this task so that they could concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1–6).
Although Paul’s primary calling was the proclamation and defense of the gospel, he also gladly cared for the needy (Acts 11:30; Galatians 2:10). At one point in his ministry, Paul initiated, mobilized, and delivered a Gentile relief offering for the poor believers in Jerusalem. He considered the giving by the Gentile churches to be a concrete demonstration of Christian love to the needy Jewish believers (2 Corinthians 8:24).
The New Testament elders’ ministry involves pastoral oversight of the local church in four major categories: teaching, leading, protecting, and healing. Although elders teach and lead the church, they also minister to the weak and sick (Acts 20:34–35; Titus 1:8; James 5:14). Thus they are to have a heart of compassion for the needs of people. The New Testament deacons’ ministry is one of benevolence, mercy, and servanthood in an official capacity. Both elders and deacons, then, are to demonstrate loving compassion and proactive concern for the welfare of needy saints. They are to set an example for others to follow.
The local church is to be a family, a community of people who meet one another’s needs, bear one another’s burdens, and sacrificially serve one another. It is to be a picture of love in action—a compassionate, generous, and giving community. Such love starts with the leaders, and their example should be followed by all believers.
It’s true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. A leader will not have much of a ministry if people do not know that he or she truly cares about them. So a leader needs to demonstrate a tender heart toward suffering members, a genuine concern for the sick, a generous disposition to the poor, and a spirit of mercy to help relieve the misery that characterizes the lives of so many people today.
—From Leading with Love by Alexander Strauch.