I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! –Galatians 4:12-20
I can totally relate to Paul here, from my experience in the first town I’d served in after seminary.
When I first arrived there, I was greeted almost like royalty, or with honor as if famous. People helped me with everything in terms of settling in, finding a home, etc. But soon after preaching the Truth, they did the opposite. Suddenly, they were fighting to get rid of me. I was now their enemy. All I did was speak/teach the Truth (my Sr. Pastor agreed with my message, but was powerless in defending me).
Long story-short: As time went on, things got better, I made genuine friends and the ministry was as a tree of ripe fruit in season…although I was still being treated as an enemy from those who didn’t want to hear the Truth. The louder people soon convinced enough of the quieter ones to get rid of me. I hung around a little while longer, then moved back to Chicago.
For my sake and that of my new bride, it was good to return to Chicago. But in terms of those who looked up to me as a Spiritual leader, it would have been better if I’d stayed, for within a year’s time, many who were previously on fire for Jesus had either allowed their flames to die down, or just fizzled out. Though I tried to disciple many long distance, it became evident that it’s a whole lot easier to disciple somebody when you’re present with them. I still try to mentor and disciple many of my former students today (as they’re all adults now), but since I’m not there in person, it’s easier for them to listen to others who are there, even if they’re false teachers, or just wrong…because they’re there, with them longer in the day. I may be able to chat with them online at night or on FB, but the false teachers are with them all day, influencing their beliefs and understandings.
It’s just easier to teach/disciple in person than in distance. And no doubt, if we showed up one day in person, my correcting/rebuke would make more impact, as well as (or quicker) lead them to repentance and return to the correct direction.