It takes 10 years from planting for a pecan tree to become a fully producing tree. It takes 22 years, on average, to raise a college graduate. It takes 40+ years, as a rule, to produce an elder in the Lord's church and how many more years on the job until he is truly "seasoned" as a leader and effective shepherd?
How long does it take to develop a "good" Bible class teacher? How long does it take to "grow" a good youth group?
If you want corn. or tomatoes, or squash, you only have to plan ahead by a few weeks. But some things take a lot longer than that. When it takes 10 to 40 years to grow something to maturity, it requires some long term planning and commitment to produce it!
Growing a fruit tree takes many years of work before the first harvest, so those who grow orchards must proceed with great vision and look far into the future to see the meaning of their work. caring only for the mature trees that are producing now, without continually planting new trees for the future is not only shortsighted, it is a guaranteed plan for going completely out of the orchard business!
Likewise, a church that does not give careful attention to planning and planting for the future will cease to exist. Examples of this abound all around us.
Good shepherding requires constantly caring for the mature sheep, constantly caring for the mature sheep, constantly maturing the strong young sheep, and CONSTANTLY bringing new lambs into the fold. If any one of these groups is neglected, the long term welfare of that flock is in serious jeopardy.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, ... do you love Me...?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him a third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep." (jn. 22:15-17)
- Tim Orbison