How to Rebuke with Compassion

You'll probably need to use these tips sooner than you'd like.

A majority of pastors are "feelers," meaning that the feelings, the dignity, and the approval of people tend to rank high in their decision-making process.

Since I am by nature a "feeler," having to rebuke someone has always been difficult for me. I would rather be rebuked than to rebuke. Why? I struggle with the confidence that my judgment of a person's actions or attitudes is the correct one because I tend to see many sides to every story. I fear the possible loss of a relationship. I do not like to wound people.

I've found the following principles of rebuke are helpful:

  1. Make sure there is no way your rebuke can be misunderstood.
  2. Never rebuke someone when your anger is hot.
  3. Don't rebuke in writing or by phone—only face to face (and, if necessary, with a witness).
  4. Don't destroy the other's dignity.
  5. Make sure you have the whole story.
  6. Make sure to clarify your own motives and purposes.
  7. Make sure to identify the implications of their behavior.
  8. Always provide an opportunity for the person to acknowledge wrong and gain a new start.

A single man in our congregation was behaving inappropriately toward women. He badgered some women with unwanted phone calls. His conversations were reportedly marked with sexual suggestiveness. The situation required rebuke and, if that was not effective, discipline. I asked this man to meet with me.

"I have been made aware," I said, "that a number of women in our congregation are offended—some quite angered—by things you have been doing. Let me be specific. You have raised inappropriate sexual subjects in conversation. There have been women who have reported that you have phoned them in a manner that they consider harassment. I'll ...

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