In the last few weeks I have often been reminded of the many ways that a congregation can make a difference in people’s lives. Our experiences of worship are uplifting, there is a genuine desire to welcome all who come, and the leadership of the congregation seems hungry and ready for what God has for us next.
Conversations outside the worship space speak to our missional initiatives, small group ministries, and our commitment to raising a new generation of people in “the way that leads to life.” These are only some of the ways that we speak of fruitfulness.
In the gospel according to John chapter 15 we encounter these words from Jesus:
15”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
Jesus has just finished reminding the disciples to be agents of peace, that to love is the greatest commandment, and that they will have a comforter, the Holy Spirit to help them live into this way of life. Fruitfulness is only possible if we are the branches fed and nourished together by Christ-self.
Commitment to fruitfulness means that we are committed to discipleship. If our efforts at growth, kingdom transformation, and mutual care are not rooted in our desire for all people to experience God’s salvation then we are missing the mark. You can read more about a commitment to discipleship here but for our purposes I will say that fruitfulness is an outgrowth of a discipled people.
Commitment to fruitfulness also means that we are committed to numerical growth. This growth is not to be the end in itself but instead it comes from our desire to share the good news with others–because we have experienced grace we want others to experience it–and because we have shared the good news with others then “the Lord adds to our number those who are being saved.”
Commitment to fruitfulness means that we are committed to tending and nurturing the vine that is Christ and nurture others as they are grafted into it. This means that we are committed to a worship life that helps all who come to offer their sacrifice of praise in ways that help them grow deeper and stronger through the story we call faith. It also means that we are constantly initiating pathways for all who enter our campus to find a discipling community that models the way of Jesus through accountability, mutual care, and loving service in the world.
Fruitfulness takes intentionality, accountability, and alignment. We must focus all of our resources–people, money, facilities–towards our congregational mission. We must also be willing to constantly assess through discernment, asking the question “How is it with the soul of our congregation?”
I am thankful for these six weeks . . . I continue dreaming, hearing, and visioning. But most of all I continue praying for all of us, the people called Grace Community, that we are guided by the one who continues to grow the vine of God’s kingdom!