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Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people problems.

People are often petty. They fight. They gossip. They judge one another. They manipulate. They act compulsively. They make messes. They make ministry difficult. Specifically, they make ministry difficult for me.

I have often wished that all the painful and time-consuming drama would cease. I have wished that insecure people would stop projecting their insecurities, and that manipulators would cease to manipulate. I have often prayed that people would grow up and just learn to love one another and stay on mission. I have strived for a church of mature Christ-followers.

But people are not born mature. Every disciple is a work in progress. When people become disciples, there is nothing in their past that qualifies them beyond their simple belief in Jesus as their Savior. Their view of God is incomplete. Their baggage is heavy. Their misguided passions will be both carnal and religious.

As you probably know (by definition) a disciple is a learner. Furthermore, a disciple is never finished learning. Discipleship is a lifelong process.

I used to believe that it was my job as a pastor to achieve complete peace and eliminate all pettiness and immaturity. Now I realize that if I ever achieve that, it will mark the death of the church.

At all times, we are inviting unqualified disciples into our family. In fact, they have become our family; as mothers, fathers and siblings, we meet them while they are learning to walk. People heal and mature at their own pace. Discipleship is not a program; it is our lifelong journey.

Will you embrace imperfect and broken people? Can you help people through the slow struggle out of their addictions and their legalism? Can you fan the smoldering spark of love that the world has snuffed out without being offended by people’s brokenness?

I invite you to rejoice in the unfinished business of embracing people whose brokenness makes you uncomfortable. Disciple the immoral. Love the pain-filled angry person. Accept the confused and the misguided. Celebrate baby steps and stumbles.

In Mark 10:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (NIV).

Let’s never forget that discipleship is a lifelong journey. We also have a lot of growing up to do.

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is the senior pastor of Faith Center (Eureka Foursquare Church) in Eureka, Calif.