“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Over the years I have read a lot of books and attended a lot of meetings about starting new churches and revitalizing existing ones. Some would ask: “Why is that so important? Why can’t we just leave things the way they are?” The answer is simple. From the very beginning God said: “go and multiply.” In the passage above Jesus clearly states that disciples glorify God by being fruitful. Faithful disciples are always seeking to make new disciples. Why? Because that is their business. That is how discipleship is demonstrated!
Here is something I have learned from all the books and meetings: all churches are in one of three postures; incline (life, health, and growth), recline (life without health or growth), or decline (the first stages of death). Statistics tell us that 80% of American churches are either reclining or declining. THAT is an alarming statistic – or it should be!
It’s all about vision and purpose. Now, you have to think carefully about this . . . If a church’s objective is to care for the needs of its members, be able to meet it’s monthly financial obligations, maintain facilities adequate for it’s present needs, and have a full range of ministries for the people who attend; then that church’s objective is to be a church in recline. It is a church that has chosen surviving rather than thriving. The stable and comfortable church is a church that believes it has already fulfilled the call of Christ to “go and make disciples.” It has become a church on the recliner – a spiritual couch potato – a body that has become blind to its purpose and has fully misunderstood its purpose.
I know it’s hard to believe that a church can be too stable. But clearly, fruitlessness is a symptom of lifelessness, or at least unhealthiness. Having established the principle, let’s do a little Bible study . . .
First, the good example:
Jer. 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
Then the bad examples:
Luke 13:6-9 – “Then [Jesus] told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ "‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’"
Matt. 21:19 – “Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.”
Pastor Keith Andrews