Truth Matters: Pastor's Blog
We live in a world where people feel free to say anything they want about anything even when they know nothing about that which they are commenting on. It is a funny mixed up world where some condemn Christianity and embrace so many other forms of religion without knowing much of anything about them. Daily I am confronted with a snarky comment or pronouncement that is an indictment of my faith that is based on something that is patently false or untrue
One of the things that people say to me is that they no longer go to church because church is just there to make people feel bad and guilty and they are tired of all of the rules. I assume that they are referring to "the law". If this is the case, it would be a good idea to learn something about the history of the law and what it really means for modern Christians.
Law is important because without a code of law, civilization could not exist for very long. When everyone does what is right in their own eyes, the world becomes a chaotic place and the weak become harmed and marginalized. However, too many rules become cumbersome and oppressive and we begin to act like puppets. God made us, so of course, he knows this!
God did not give the Israelites the Mosaic law to ruin them. He gave them law so that they would be elevated and would fulfill the statement, “Be holy because I am holy!” Jesus did not give us the Sermon On the Mount in an attempt to paralyze us with guilt. He gave us the law to act as a mirror. The law is God’s mirror for God’s people! When we come in from a windy day it is the mirror that tells us which hairs are out of place and we comb them back into place. The law is there so that we might self-examine and grow our character. The law is our mirror and the mirror makes us see our real selves. For if we never really see our real selves, how can we ever strive to be holy? If we have no mirror we have no idea what to change.
Do you want to know what the bible teaches?
We are God’s treasured possessions. We are not just animals roaming the earth.
Because God is holy and set apart he wants his treasured possessions to be holy and set apart.
The law gives God’s people organization and vision, it gives us meaning and it draws our attention to a Holy God.
The fact that an omnipotent God would care so much for us should give us a sense of dignity and purpose.
The law acts as a mirror for our betterment and the story of the Israelites demonstrates this. In just one generation they went from being a dependent slave class of former wanderers to living into their role as chosen people with an inheritance; a nation, a strong and vibrant kingdom of priests. If we view the law correctly and use it correctly, the law should do the same for us. We should view the law as the vehicle by which our character grows, our dignity is elevated and we too become set apart as quite different from the world-- perhaps more truthful, more fair, more compassionate -- more holy.
The Benefits of Cross Bearing
Here is the wonderful thing about the crosses that we carry. They, in the end, bring us to a greater understanding of Christ. Every cross we carry improves our vision. For Christians, cross bearing is part of the process of gaining sight. Crosses help us see the full picture and build relationships. Cross bearing brings us closer to understanding Christ and builds relationships with one another.
Sadly, I think the modern church ignores or suppresses the idea of cross bearing. We live in a culture where the "super-fun", the "super-positive" are valued to such an extreme that people feel real shame if their life is anything different. When did we get this idea that Chrisitanity is all about our perfect appearance? That nothing negative is ever supposed to happen to Christians and that if it does we had better hide it with all our might? When did Christianity become about self-centered thoughts, cozy sayings, and self-help nuggets? When did we decide the perfect picture of a Christian is someone with a latte in one hand and a bible in the other?
I read an article this week about a leper colony in Paraguay. After diagnosis, those who had leprosy were sent to the colony. Some families were broken, marriages ended, and ties with friends severed. At the colony the patients suffered through much. Food shortages, poverty, and wartime hardships.
At some point, medicine to cure leprosy was given to the Paraguayan government. It was given for FREE. Yet, the Government decided that they would not dispense it for free, but instead would require payment. Many in the colony only suffered more and grew worse as they waited to raise the money to pay for the drug that they should have been given for free.
The people of the colony dealt with so much hardship; separation, illness, shortages and now unfairness and dishonesty. They lost their normal lives. Crosses were carried.
Eventually the colony was no longer needed and the area was officially closed by the government. Interestingly though, the people did not leave. They stayed and this is what prompted the article that I read. The article wasn’t really about leprosy but instead about relationships. The title was “Love in a Leper Colony”.
The people had grown to know and love one another because they had carried crosses together. The understood one another and they understood God more deeply because of those crosses.
The author wrote:
A few common threads emerged as I talked with these people.
1. The people that were still there had endured hardship and suffering
2. The hardship strengthened their faith and engendered greater faithfulness.
3. They held to a deep faith and focused on their moral values in the face of these hardships.
The question was asked, “Does our comfort and affluence become a threat to our relationships? Human to human? People to God? I think it does and I think that is what has contributed to our idea that cross bearing can no longer really part of the Christian faith. Instead, Christianity is all about feel good moments, super-fun music, happy latte drinking with engraved bibles and superficial Christian talk and sayings.
The result of the denial of cross bearing has been that people in the church feel that they are somehow not good enough to be in the church if they have made mistakes, if they have sinned, if they have junk and messes in their life. That is sad. Jesus would rather see a group of people, working together through hardships than perfect people looking pristine and looking down their noses. Jesus tells us that things are going to get messy. Things are going to be rough. I hope we embrace this and that we say, “Well, okay. Let’s go!” and that we will pick up the cross and follow him.
I thought about jumping into our next sermon series next week and decide to sit back and take a month to address some issues of superficiality in Christianity so that perhaps we will start taking Jesus seriously and think about the fact that there really is a cost to discipleship. We really must bear crosses. So, as we look at some diverse topics over the next two weeks think about it and realize that at least Peter, when confronted with the cross, was honest enough to say, "I'm not sure I want to do that," and decided to wrestle with the idea. Let's try to be like Peter and not do the modern thing of ignoring or hiding the crosses we bear.
Christian Doubt - Doubt and Unbelief are NOT the Same Thing!
People doubt for a whole variety of reasons.
Some doubt Jesus because they are subconsciously fearing that their life may change or they may have to change if they trust him.
Some doubt because they demand self-sufficiency. Trusting in Jesus means that one is admitting that they do not have the ability to do everything on their own. Trusting Jesus means doubting oneself and that seems to be a cardinal sin in our century!
Some doubt because they don’t value themselves. They doubt the grace, goodness and love of God and cannot believe that they could be fed with those things.
Some doubt because they carry unhealed personal wounds. When something bad happens to us or we hear of something bad it often triggers doubt. We ask, “Why would a God of love allow this terrible thing to happen?” We say,”God must not really be very powerful because he didn’t stop this bad thing from happening.” Until those personal wounds close, the doubt often oozes out.
Some doubt just happens and has no origin that we can pinpoint. Some doubt just hits us like a brick and we don’t know where it came from. We wake in the middle of the night, we are driving home in the afternoon and we just feel doubt.
Some doubt because they just can’t see the possibility. What is being offered doesn’t seem like enough, and doesn’t make sense.
Doubt is certain for every human heart.
Christians have a tough time admitting their doubt. There are several reasons for this.
First, we know that the biblical record tells us that God is grieved by our lack of faith and trust. He is disappointed when we doubt. So, we fear doubt and worry about doubt. This is understandable but we actually do a lot of things (every day in fact) that grieve God and he handles it all quite well. He actually expects that we will grieve him. We pretend that we don’t doubt which is really silly considering that God already knows every crevice of our heart.
Second, we think we must be second-rate Christians if we doubt. We say that isn’t true but I can’t tell you how often I have heard Church members complain and gossip about another Church member who admits confusion, a lack of understanding our doubt. It happens and this just baffles me. Isn’t the Church where we should be if we want to work our our doubts? Shouldn’t this be the safe place?
Instead, the Church becomes the place for only those without doubt; for only those who are perfect in every way. Churches like to give the impression that everyone present is sanctified!
I took note this week of how many churches have logos or mottos that say something like,
“A Place where God’s love is shared” or “A Community of Grace!”
All of that sounds so good but the truth is that if we were all honest we would have mottos that say something along the lines of:
“A Community of Doubt” or “We Know God Loves Everyone and We Are Working on That!”
My point is that we have created this idea that we need to appear perfect and that we cannot allow doubt to creep in or we are not really Christian.
Last, I think we are afraid to let ourselves doubt because that means that we have to take a dark, cold look at the alternative and we often would rather just go along without thinking than have to really consider all of the alternatives. Dealing with doubt isn’t easy.
There are some lessons that we could learn:
1. Doubt is certain. There is not a human heart that will not experience doubt. This is something we need to accept and live with.
2. Jesus was phenomenally gracious and kind to those who doubted. He was very gentle and kind to those who had doubt. In this instance he doesn’t chastise the disciples in any way. He doesn’t even demonstrate any of his ample wit or sarcasm. I think we need to understand that he expects us to doubt and that he will bring us out of that doubt. I think as well that we need to treat one another’s doubts more gently!
3. Bertrand Russell said, “The stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt”. I think this is true. A certain amount of doubt means that we are using our brains. God expects us to puzzle things out and use our God-given intelligence. When we do that we will experience and confront doubt. If we never, ever feel the smallest sense of doubt it probably means that we are not thinking very much.
4. Faith that is challenged and tested by adversity, questions and doubts is usually the stronger faith in the end. Every stress causes it to grow back stronger.
We are a body of believers and we are a body of doubters. The beauty of this is that we can come together and share our strengths and our weaknesses and come out better for it. When we are slipping and falling down we can count on our brothers and sisters to reach down and remind us that Jesus does bring us out, that he does provide, and that we can truly trust him. Likewise we need to be ready to reach down and pull up our brothers and sisters when they are tired, worn and doubting.
Remembering the Good and Rebuilding After Doubt and Hurt
As I have said before, "Doubt is normal."
Doubt is not the same as unbelief. Doubt happens for many reasons. Sometimes God gives us a remedy for our doubt and at other times he lets us stew in it so that we can learn by working our way out. Sometimes he forces us to see the things that make us susceptible to doubt or have caused our doubt, and at other time he allows us time to remember the things we have forgotten in an effort to slowly bring us around from our doubt. Jesus says, “Do you not remember?”
We see this in the passage from Mark chapter 8 (14-21) when the disciples doubt Jesus' ability to feed thirteen men a picnic lunch after they have seen him feed thousands! We expect Jesus to feed them to remove their doubt, but he does not. Instead he calls out their doubt, cites reasons and factors that contribute to their doubt and then asks them to remember when he came through for them before. He lets them work through the doubt themselves and does not offer a quick fix.
Marriage counselors often use this strategy when helping couples rebuild a relationship:
The problem is identified and named in simple terms.
All of the things that contributed to the problem or made one susceptible to the problem are identified so that they can be avoided in the future.
Then, after tearing things apart and looking at all of the things that made a troubled marriage susceptible to weakness and fragmentation, the counselor will say, “Do you not remember?” They will ask couples to bring in pictures of their happy times, their marriage, their courtship, and they will take time to remember all of the things that brought them together in the first place. In this way, the couple starts building up again and they realize all of the good things that they had forgotten. The foundation is what we have experienced that was good and true.
This doesn’t mean that everything is magically made perfect, but it does mean that rebuilding from the foundation can begin. Slowly, through the "remembering", the hurt will heal.
Jesus uses this strategy with his disciples and sometimes he uses it with us.
The problem of doubt is identified.
We look at what made us susceptible to the doubt. In this case Jesus suggests hypocrisy and worldliness -- anything that removes our focus from God.
We look for strategies to minimize those things that make us doubt.
And then he takes us back to the foundation to begin rebuilding.
Doubt is normal. It is not the same as unbelief. Sometimes God sends a quick fix and at other times God gives us time to think. In doubt? Claim that doubt! Examine what led to that doubt and then remember the times that God came through.
Miracles, Signs and Wonders
Many people ask why there do not seem to be miracles, signs and wonders today. They wonder why it is that truly miraculous events occur constantly throughout the bible yet today we don’t see the same thing. They say, “In the Bible, people were experiencing signs all the time!” Many feel that because miracles don’t seem to extend into our time that they are just myths, or parables, or even complete fabrications. Many see the lack of signs and wonders today as proof that God doesn’t really exist.
Well, as is often the case if we are not careful, there are some false assumptions behind the question..
First, miracles in the bible are not constant! The reality is that they come in little spurts or bursts. Think for a moment how great the span of years the historical record of the bible covers. I know there is great debate about how great that timespan might be, but in the end, even at the shortest estimate the biblical record covers a very long time span. There are great swaths of time where there are no miracles. In fact, the vast majority of people who have lived overall, as well as the vast majority who lived during one of these miracle spurts did not witness any miracles Think about your miracle from last week, the feed of the four thousand. I doubt that many in such a large crowd were even aware that a miracle had occurred. Some would have known but in so large a crowd many would have just been thankful and wondered where the food came from. Think too about the population of the world. Even if all four thousand people realized that they were witnessing a miracle, they would have been a fraction of the entire population of the east much less the world. Now, think of all of those people who have lived. A miniscule amount have witnessed a true sign, wonder or miracle.
Second, if we look at the signs, wonders and miracles we see that they were not just given for any reason but instead are used quite strategically to either help a struggling believer or confirm some major truth from God. Miracles are not constant and certainly not random. They are done when there is a reason to point to a greater truth.
When you really think about it, It isn’t really that strange that we do not seem to experience miracles, signs and wonders as described in our bible. That doesn’t mean that God wasn’t working in the world or with his people, it just means that he was working and watching in a more mundane and providential manner.
If we carefully watch and are tuned in to listening for those providential moments we will know that they are there.
Think of the parents who were told that their baby would not live, and now he is graduating from high school.
Think of the sermon planned in December that suddenly has profound significance when it is delivered in June.
Think of the plans changed at the last moment that resulted in a life being saved.
Think of the impulse purchase that turned into the perfect remedy for a neighbor's problem.
Some call it "luck", and that is ok. We know it is God's careful providence.
The Role of Religion and Morality In the Great Gun Control Debate
Religion and morality do have a role to play in this debate and people of faith need to stand up and remind society that the problem on our hands is not the object (the gun), but our cultural cheapening of life and our insistence on removing the idea of personal responsibility. Evil has always been and always will be among us. Blaming an inanimate object is evidence of our unwillingness to face this reality.
The bible clearly gives one the right to defend oneself and the obligation to defend those who are too weak to do so. Loving our neighbor means that we will come to their defense and sometimes that means using a weapon to prevent greater harm and destruction. There is no distinction between the weapons of the first century and the twenty-first century in this regard. Jesus' followers were armed with swords and Jesus supported this.
As Christians it is our obligation to promote justice in our society and it is a grave injustice when people are slaughtered because they are in a supposedly “gun-free” zone and have had their ability to defend themselves, and others who are weaker, stripped away. What would have happened if one adult in the most recent shooting had been armed? How many lives might have been saved? Forcing any individual into a defenseless and impossible situation is wrong.
As Christians we should never be ruled by fear and emotion and we have an a sacred duty to seek truth that is grounded in reality and fact, and the data and statistics do not support the idea that "gun control" reduces gun crimes and gun violence. Believing that "gun control" will make the world safer does not correspond to reality. For instance, many choose to turn a blind eye to the fact that violent gun crime has risen by 600% since "gun control" was introduced in the UK!
Supporters of citizen disarmament never seem to have a problem with guns in the hands of the police or the state, but this should give us pause. In the last century, over 100 million disarmed people were murdered at the hands of secular police states and armies around the world.
As Christians it is our obligation to take care of the weakest members of society. This means that we should be caring for the mentally ill and we should be defending children, and the recent events indicate that we don't seem to be doing an adequate job on either front.
Over the next few weeks, all of the children, youth, and young adults from our church will be returning to their various schools. With the return of school, many families begin to think about going to church. For some, it is a return to a routine that they have fallen away from, and for others, there is a realization that their children are growing older and that maybe it is time to attend to their children's spiritual needs.
One question that seems to come up as families look for a church is, “Does your church have a youth group?” Happily, I tell them that while we have youth, we do not have a “youth group” and here is why:
Youth groups were formed in the 1950's as an attempt to keep young people from leaving the church as they grew older. I suppose too that it was an effort to make church more relevant and interesting. The problem is that now the evidence is in, and guess what? It hasn't been successful.
The current popular models to which the churches in the United States continue to cling have really failed the majority of our youth. Young people are not all cut from the same cloth and that is why most youth programs often become socializing and entertainment with sporadically placed spiritual messages that just don't really hit the mark. Mentoring done by faithful Christian adults is far more productive than additional peer interactions. (Think about it -- do young people really need more peer interaction?)
New Hope's philosophy is centered around the idea of a "faith community" or "church family" that rarely breaks out into specialized demographic groups. We try to match young people with adults of similar interests and provide a high level of mentoring in and outside of the church. This approach creates friendships and provides spiritual and emotional support. When well-matched mentoring occurs, and continues on through the post-high school years, it is much easier to retain and maintain faith.
The bottom line is that everyone wants to feel loved and useful, and this type of approach allows those feelings to flow across the demographic variances in the church.
Many middle and high school age youth seem to be searching for stability and purpose. While this has always been so, it is increasingly so now with the high rate of divorce, mobility of the population and the increasing economic insecurity. The greatest gift that we can give our children is the idea that their lives are anchored by God who is real and present and to whom they might turn for guidance.
A calmness and purpose seems to fill the life of young people who, because they know and believe that God has a specific plan for their future, begin to seek knowledge of that plan with their faith community.
I'm proud of the youth and children at New Hope. They are confident in their faith and they do seem to have purpose and focus. I would like to think that our church family helped to bring that about!
Next week, on Sunday afternoon we are meeting as a church family at Blue Licks State Park just north of Lexington to pray for each of our children, youth and young adults as they begin this fresh new year. We will pray for their safety and their studies, but we will also pray that they will know the presence of Christ throughout the year and that they will also represent him through their words, thoughts and actions.
If you read this and you are not a member of New Hope, please feel free to join us for this prayer time. If you cannot be with us but would still like for us to pray for your child, please contact me and let me know. (firstname.lastname@example.org) We would be honored to pray for your young person.
Christmas Letters in July
I know it is strange to ponder Christmas letters in July, but that is exactly what I have been doing today. These unseasonal thoughts were prompted by the recent death of someone that I had always taken to be a faithful Christian. What I have since learned is that over the course of the last few years his faith wavered and finally waned to the point of non-existence. The cause of this abandonment seems to be the fact that he suffered a number of setbacks including a terminal illness, and allowed his subsequent bitterness to fester to the point that he decided to ignore God. “Why not ignore God,” he said, “God turned his back on me.” So, now he is gone; passed away; dead.
When I think of this I feel sick and sad. This isn't the first time that I have run across this situation. I used to spend time volunteering in nursing homes and the same story played out a number of times. No matter how much pleading I did, I could never change anyone's mind. Admittedly, I was young and not so full of wisdom so I probably spent more time pleading and less time praying than I should have.
But, here I am again, and this time it is too late to change or inspire. I wonder though if this is a good time to remind ourselves of how honesty in our own life can lead to testimony that might just pull someone who is wavering back from the brink.
I have never been one to write the annual Christmas letter that is a ritual for so many, mainly because I'm too lazy, but I have always enjoyed reading the letters received from distant family and friends. But you know how these letters are—they are only filled with the happy, good and great events in the life of a family. Rarely are struggles, weaknesses and failures brought up. Now, I know some people just don't want anyone to feel sorry for them, so they intentionally conceal the unfortunate events of their life, but the truth is, that most of the time we just want to brag and let people know how wonderful we are and Christians are usually no different in this respect than non-Christians.
I wonder, though, what might happen if we, as Christians, were brutally honest about ourselves in those letters. What would happen if we shared our failures and disappointments and talked about how we dealt with them? I wonder what would happen if we frankly and honestly talked about God in the midst of trouble. I wonder why Christians seem to think that because they are Christian that somehow they should be, and must give, the appearance of perfection on earth.
When others see us suffer, yet continue on with our faith, it provides a powerful testimony that may carry others through difficulty, or provide encouragement to those that are feeling less than confident with their own walk with God. God knows this and that is why the biblical record is filled with both the triumphs of the saints and the sins, shortcomings and mistakes made by those very same saints.
As Christians, we live, we learn, we grow and the process by which we do this will often provide the example and the testimony to shore up, or even create a new and vibrant faith in others.
Celebrating Independence Day as Part of our Worship Service?
As we drove down Richmond Road the other day, I noticed all of the flags that were placed on the median. They looked great and being patriotic it made me feel good to see them! suspect though, that if they were placed there by the city that this might be one of Mayor Gray's line item budget cuts. I also noticed that a number of churches were advertising patriotic pageants as part of their worship services on the third of July. While I'm willing to bet that the patriotic hymns sung and the essays read were spectacular, I wondered if patriotism really has a place in worship.
Though our nation was founded on Christian values, and we should thank God each and every day that we live in a country where freedom abounds, the Fourth of July is a secular event and a man-made institution that should not be part of worship. Worship, by definition, is praise and thanksgiving given to God, and therefore, our focus should be specifically and solely on God.
It is appropriate, however, as Christians living in the United States of America, that we pray for our country and our nation’s leaders during the petitions that are brought forward during our worship service. It is also right, before the worship service begins, to acknowledge our country and those that founded or fought for this nation.
Flags and patriotic music do not belong in a sanctuary for use during worship, but if the room used for worship is used for an event honoring our nation or those who have served our country, it would be appropriate to display the flag and enjoy patriotic music during that specific event. What we need to remember is that the buildings where we worship are just buildings! A building might house many things and many events, but once we enter into the act of worship there should be no secular celebrations that would distract us from our focus on God.
A Christians View of the Death of Osama Bin Laden
The local newspaper wanted to know what local pastors had to say about the death of Osama Bin Laden. They were right to solicit opinions because the event was one of those moments where the reactions of the world were mixed and those who try to put the words of Christ into practice were left feeling conflicted. On the street I heard people rejoice. On the street I heard people mourn. Among Christians I heard words of concern that we were not forgiving enough and words of satisfaction saying, "Eye for an eye" -- Justice has been done!
When I think about the deaths of so many innocent people because of senseless terror attacks in the name of religion I feel sick and sad but I feel unaffected by the death of Bin Laden. Possibly some added measure of safety was achieved by his demise, but that will only last for as long as it takes for someone new to fill the vacuum, and the vacuum will be filled. For unlike Christians who are commanded by Jesus to treat even their enemy as their neighbor, those who kill in the name of Islam will always view anyone who does not adhere to their beliefs as the enemy. Many, conveniently, in the name of tolerance, forget that the motto of Islam is "convert or die". This is not a teaching of Christianity and we would be well-served to point out this distinction as often as possible.
About the rejoicing in the streets? Well, I cannot imagine how anyone who lost a loved one as the result of terrorism might have felt upon hearing the news of Bin Laden's death and therefore, I am not in a position to judge their response, but the sight of so many who were tangentially affected by terrorist attacks rejoicing over the taking of any life was disturbing, especially if they claim that they are followers of Christ.
Bin Laden's death would not be considered “eye for an eye” justice by Christians. The commandment was given only to the Israelites and was meant to moderate vengeance -- no longer could anyone seek any sort of retaliation for a crime committed, but instead, all justice sought must be limited to the extent of the crime perpetrated. Christians are called to a higher standard: We are instructed by Christ in his restatement of the law to not seek vengeance against those who are evil.
Christians would also not view Bin Laden's death as martyrdom. The label “martyr” is reserved for those who willingly die rather than renounce their religion, and there does not seem to be any evidence that Bin Laden died willingly nor that anyone demanded that he renounce Islam.
In the end, the only thing that I am certain of is that the Justice of God will rule. If anyone has perpetrated a crime they will face God in the end and this final judgement is the judgement that will be perfect and permanent.
Planting During Holy Week
I'm gardening today and as I plant the little seedlings that I have so carefully nurtured on the window ledge, I am remembering what my grandfather used to do to make his plants hearty and strong. After the seedlings were in the ground a few days, Pop would take his dirty hands and go through them with a wiping motion, causing them to bend to the ground. He would do this every few days or so because he believed that exposing plants to physical and microbiological stress when they were young and new would make the plants stronger and more resistant as they grew throughout the season.
Lately, as a pastor, I keep seeing evidence of the same method in the lives of those around me. Sometimes there are plants around me that are strong and hearty despite the most desperate drought and those “people plants” display an intense and full-bodied Christian maturity. Other times I see spindly seedlings that really need to be prodded to grow spiritually strong. Some respond favorably to stress and want to grow while others resist. Either way, pastors are called to give the words that cause stress in an effort to help those plants grow and thrive... and well, that isn't always as easy as it seems.
As we approach Easter we are often filled with joy and gladness. We want to wipe away all of the darkness and sadness in our lives and that is at it should be for the day. The resurrection is a reminder that God has confronted our greatest need (death) and met it head on.
However, as we prepare to enter worship on the morning that we celebrate the resurrection, it will serve us well to remember what “being a disciple” really means and what disciples should expect from their leaders, and Holy week is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Real disciples are people who are growing in their maturity in Christ. They know Christ – not just as the person that they ask for favors or turn to for help when they have dug a hole too deep to crawl out of-- but they know Christ as the person who prods them to focus outwardly instead of inwardly, to give, instead of demand, and to have a depth of character and abiding commitment that allows them to fearlessly speak the truth and stand up to injustice. Real disciples bear fruit for Christ and don't just ask to have the fruit passed their way because it is easier, more convenient, or because that is they way they want it to be!
Real disciples expect that their leaders will be more than a friendly buddy who will tell them that everything is “okay”. They know their leaders will not always say “nice” words but will speak true words even when it hurts. Real disciples know that their pastors must not be afraid to poke the conscience in order to bring about the greatest spiritual development.
Real pastors cultivate strong, deep, connected and committed people who are not afraid to confront tough moral choices, put their house in order as prioritized by God, and export the gospel and the message of truth found in the resurrection. This is done with many of our expected nurturing methods but also by some of those methods that don't always feel “joyful” at the time. The result however, will prepare us for the times of drought, flood and disease.
It is never to late to start digging and start growing!