Innovation: Compassion

Drew Hill February 23, 2021

Many of the ministry approaches that worked in the past won’t work the same in 2021. In this series on ministry innovation, we explore how to have CourageCreativity, and Compassion in a new season of ministry. It’s based on the new book by Steven Argue and Caleb Roose called: Sticky Faith Innovation: How Your Compassion, Creativity, and Courage Can Support Teenagers’ Lasting Faith.


For much of my life I believed God was disappointed in me.

I knew he loved me, but I was also convinced that I often made him shake his head…and his pointer finger. It resulted in two things:

  1. Me working overtime to try and earn his favor back.
  2. Me making other people feel the same way my imaginary God made me feel: like they’re never good enough for me.

That’s a pretty exhausting way to live.

Over time, I’ve thankfully set up some healthy boundaries in the relationship between me and my Imaginary Jesus. We don’t talk quite as often anymore. And the more time I spend with the real Jesus, the quicker I notice when “I.J.” starts filling my head with garbage. And when The Accuser starts singing me lulla-lies.

The real Jesus doesn’t look at me with disappointment in his eyes.

If there is any phrase that best sums up the character of Christ, it is one that is used often to describe him in the gospels.

“Jesus, moved with compassion…”

When his eyes look at you, that’s what his heart feels. Deep in his very being.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

The Greek word for compassion that is used here is splagchnon. It’s a word that’s not found in Classic Greek. It’s almost like the writers of the gospels saw something in Jesus that they had never seen before. Such a deep level of empathy that they had to invent a word to describe it. It’s like an aching within the deepest part of your gut. Maybe a better translation would be how Eugene Peterson phrases it.

When he looked out over the crowds,


matthew 9:36 (The Message)

But it was more than a feeling. His compassion drove him to action.

  • “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.” -Matthew 20:34
  • “Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said,  ‘I have compassion for these people; they have nothing to eat.” When he had taken the loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people.‘” – Mark 8
  • “He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” – Matthew 14:14
  • He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:34

If we want to truly share our lives and the gospel with our adolescent friends, it’s going to take 2 things:

  1. Us getting to know the real Jesus and, in turn, believing that he looks upon us with a gentle and broken heart, full of compassion.
  2. Us being moved into action, not by guilt, but by that same heart of compassion for others.

When we have a deep sense of God’s love poured out for us, we can’t help but care for others. Good works are not the duty of a Christian, they are the natural response to one growing in an understanding of their own belovedness.

“We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

What is your motivation for being a Young Life leader?

  • Is it that you want to be a good person?
  • Is it that you want to “give back?”
  • Is it that you want more Patagonia gear?
  • Is it that you want to make your parents/Area Director/grandma/Young Life leader/etc… proud?

When our hearts are moved by a deeper awareness of God’s splagchnon for us, compassion becomes our knee-jerk rejection- both towards others and towards ourselves.

Are you compassionate with yourself?

How has your understanding of God’s compassion for you led you to be more compassionate with those you lead? How has it led you to action?I’d love to hear your story! Email me here.

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