Using Emotions Wisely in Pastoral Ministry

In the last article, I began an examination of 8 essentials of core human emotions to harness their energy in practicing relational wisdom. There, we saw God’s design in our emotions, their complexity, and how they can drive our behaviors. Let’s turn our attention to the final 4 essentials as the key to directing our emotional energy to gospel good. [1]

  1. Emotions are not inherently sinful.

Even a cursory reading of the New Testament makes evident that Jesus expressed a broad range of emotions: compassion toward the people, anger at the Pharisees, joy at sinners saved, agony in suffering, love toward his friends, pity toward the sick. Jesus displayed a wide arrange of emotions when Lazarus died (the first time!) in John 11. Yet from this deep emotional well, Jesus never allowed these to pull him from focusing upon the will of the Father. He never sinned with his emotions.

  1. Our emotions CAN be distorted by sin.

The fall has corrupted each human to the very core, including our emotions. While good emotions generally motivate us toward morally honorable actions, our not-so-noble emotions often drives us to sin. David as much as admits this in his prayer from Psalm 73. The corrupting of our emotions – what Sande calls “emotional hijacking” – must be guarded against as pastors seek to offer Gospel comfort and correction amidst situations filled with emotional energy.

  1. Emotions are included in the New Creation.

When we serve Jesus as “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17), redeems our mind, will AND emotions. The gospel you proclaim is the gospel that brings even your emotions under the Lordship of Jesus. When feeling anger or bitterness, joy, compassion, fear, etc. ask “How has God redeemed the emotion I am feeling in a way that allows me to minister the gospel effectively?”

  1. Continuously bring your emotions to God.

Ultimately you will need to regularly bring to God the emotions that fire your motivations for ministry. If you have any hope of fulfilling the Great Commandment, to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40), you will need to daily bring your feelings to God and submit them to His Lordship. Don’t follow your emotions. Lay them before Jesus that He might redeem them and use them gloriously in ministry.


[1] Much of these articles have been gleaned from Ken Sande’s training material contained in his Discovering Relational Wisdom 3.0 and is used by permission of the author.

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