Characteristics of a replanter: Emotional awareness

John 10:14-15

We have already observed how a replanter is a shepherd of souls when we made our first observation of pastor as Visionary Shepherd. It now becomes appropriate to hunker down on this concept of the pastor as a shepherd—and we should start by looking at who the pastor-shepherd gets his cues from; namely, the Good Shepherd. What makes the Good Shepherd, good? Among many other things, Jesus is a good, Good Shepherd because of the way in which he knows his flock. “I know my sheep,” He says, “and my sheep know me.” There is intimacy. Jesus understands his flock. He doesn’t lay his life down for some amorphous mass, unknown to Him, or merely acquainted with Him; they are His flock—He knows each one of them, and they recognize His voice.

This is one of the reasons that Hebrews 4:14-16 is so sweet to us. In the context, the author of Hebrews is stressing the uniqueness of Jesus’ superior priesthood on account of the incarnation; Jesus can sympathize with us because He faced the same sorts of temptations and sufferings and hardships we face. But the fact that Jesus is a Good Shepherd to His flock makes this passage so much sweeter, because it reminds Christians that He can sympathize with us. In other words, Jesus doesn’t merely sympathize with our weaknesses in theory; it is His beloved flock, whom He knows intimately, and who recognize his voice, that He sympathizes with.

You get the idea, Jesus knows his people. And in the same way, a replanter needs to know the people who have been entrusted to his care. He needs to be able to know what makes them tick. He needs to have emotional awareness. For any given person, in any given circumstance, a pastor must be able to survey the emotional atmosphere in the room, and know how to respond. This means that understands the tenor of his people’s individual personalities and how to deal with them accordingly. Some people are incredibly sensitive and require delicacy in speech and in tone. Some people are explosive and require extreme word economy (especially in corrective situations); too long of a discussion will likely light a very short fuse. Some people have incredibly thick skin and require sternness in dialogue. For a replanter to know his people, he must be able to pick up on these emotional nuances in his congregation. Like most of these characteristics, emotional awareness is something that every pastor must have; this characteristic is not uniquely necessary for a replanter. However, like most of these characteristics, the degree in which a replanter needs emotional awareness is unique to the replanter. Remember, he is walking into an emotionally unstable context; a replanter with a low emotional awareness is like a bull in a china shop.

Practically, this characteristic makes a world of difference in the life of the church. A replanter may have flawless doctrine, great vision, powerful sermons and extensive understanding of administration, but if he doesn’t have emotional awareness, he may never see the revitalization of his congregation. Emotional awareness is the glue that holds all of these other characteristics together. Think of it like this, if the replant is a clock, and the day to day activities of the church are cogs that keep the thing going, emotional awareness is the lubricant that keeps the friction to a minimum. If emotional hostility begins to rust away at the general flow of things, mindless continuation will only make things worse.

Another way to encapsulate this concept of emotional awareness is with the word discernment. A striking example of this concept of discernment can be found in Proverbs 26:4-5. Verse four says, “Answer not a fool according his folly, lest you be like him yourself.” Alright, simple enough. But the very next verse says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” So which is it? Do I answer a fool according to his folly, or do I answer not the fool according to his folly? Answer: yes. And discernment determines when we are to answer one way as opposed to the other.

Likewise, emotional awareness plays a deciding factor not only in what is said, but also in when it is said, and in what way it is said. Answer not the church member with sternness, lest he feel undervalued and resent you. Answer the church member with sternness, lest he continue to hinder himself and others. Far too many relationships in the church have been strained because of an ignorance of emotional climate. Sometimes business meetings need to be adjourned early because tensions are high, and other times they need to be extended because buriers are thick. Sometimes tone needs to be softened because feelings are hurt, and other times tone needs to be sharpened because attitudes are obstinate and hard. When a replanter has emotional awareness, he has the discernment to know when to say, “Let’s hash this out” and when to say, “Let’s marinate on this for a few days.” This characteristic is vitally important for a replanter to grasp early on.

Published July 20, 2016