Allison Mangrum – Worship Leader
This spring I planted a couple citrus trees and a vegetable garden. Every morning I water the garden and check on the progress of each plant. I marvel at the citrus trees and how after only a couple months in the ground, they already have noticeable growth. I was really excited when our zucchini plants started blooming squash blossoms. But you know what the best part is about feeding, watering, and checking on my garden and fruit trees? The anticipation. Sure, a couple inches of growth and a few squash blossoms are exciting, but those are just signs that the plants are gearing up to do what they are intended to do—bear fruit! But what if, after years of caring for, feeding, and watering my trees and garden, they continued to grow taller, fuller, and greener, but they never bore any fruit? What if they soaked up all the nutrients given to them, but never reciprocated by bearing fruit? They might make decent shade trees, but at the end of the day, they wouldn’t be doing what they were created to do.
I recently had the privilege of attending a worship leader gathering with worship leaders from all over the country. One of the speakers, Aaron Keys, made the comment that the modern church is the most informed and least transformed the Church has ever seen. Ouch. Read that again and let that sink in for a bit. The modern church is the most informed and least transformed the Church has ever seen. What does this mean? It means that we are a well-fed body of believers who attend church services on the weekend, sing a few praise songs, soak up the scriptures, and then return home altogether unchanged. It means that we are taking up the prime sunny spot in the garden, drinking our fill of water, and eating our fill of plant food, but we aren’t bearing much fruit.
Growth is important. It’s vital for life. If you stop growing, you die. But, God did not design us to grow for growth’s sake. He does not want us to download a bunch of scripture into our brains so that we can pat ourselves on the back because we know so much about the Bible. In John 15:5 and 8, Jesus says,
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (emphasis mine)
We are to remain connected to the vine so that we continue growing. But the end goal is not our growth. It’s bearing fruit. In verses 9-17 of this same passage, Jesus makes it clear that the fruit we are to bear is love. We are to love others the way Jesus loves us. So how do we know we are bearing fruit?
- We know that we should humbly consider others more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), but do we reflect that in the way we treat the overwhelmed waitress who messed up our order or the guy from the cable company who keeps putting us on hold because he can’t find our current account info?
- We know what the Bible says about trusting God and not worrying (Proverbs 3:5; Matthew 6:25-34), but do we continue to make fear-based decisions in an effort to control our lives and the world around us?
- We know that Jesus calls us to care for the fatherless and the widows (James 1:27) and to love the unseen (Matthew 25), but are we living that out by helping the kids in foster care? The homeless? The refugees?
- We know what the Bible says about tithing (Proverbs 3:9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7), but are we giving back to God what is His? Are we grudgingly giving the bare minimum that is required or are we giving generously to advance God’s kingdom?
- We know that Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies (Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 5:43-48), but are we making an effort to know and love the people next door? The people at school and work? The people who look, sound, dress, live, and believe differently than us?
I like shady trees just as much as the next gal, but if my orange tree doesn’t bear fruit, I will feel cheated out of my investment. If my vegetable plants bear leaves and blossoms, but no veggies, they are no better than weeds, taking up space and resources, but not producing any benefit to my garden. Jesus doesn’t want us to gorge ourselves on all of this knowledge and then keep it to ourselves. He wants us to share it with others, feed others, love others, and pour into the lives of those around us in order to advance His kingdom. John 15:15-17 says it best:
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“… for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (emphasis mine)