Spring is one of my favorite times of year as seeds sprout and new growth is apparent everywhere. It is sure sign of spring when the two hop plants in my backyard break through the ground and begin their seasonal climb to far reaching heights.
I like hops - they grow fast, require relatively little care, and after a few years produce amazing shade and an abundant harvest. In the early stages of growth, however, hops require daily guidance and invitation to grasp the training lines that will lead them to the redwood trellis that will support their long-term growth and the future harvest. While it is not yet Memorial Day, I am already imagining the abundant fruit these 3-year old vines will produce come Labor Day.
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…” John 15:1-2
The lectionary passage from this past Sunday speaks of fruit and pruning. John 15 states that Jesus is the vine, and that God is the Gardener who prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it may produce fruit in even greater abundance.
In the fall of 2012 I began a new season of intentionally being a SHEEP-HERD: Of being discipled while beginning to disciple others.
Those first few months of discipling others were exciting. Together we were experiencing teaching and training that was producing evident growth (like my hop vines in spring). As the journey continued, the excitement experienced in the early journey was replaced with disillusionment and frustration as the group inched ever slowly toward deployment considering tactics to identify and invite others into a disciple-making journey with them. I began to understand that this was “long obedience in the same direction”. I also began to realize that the journey of making disciples (like the journey of a developing a mature hop plant) was going to take years and require a long-term perspective of careful pruning in order develop branches that would produce an abundant harvest.
The Pain of Pruning:
Just as the winter indicates a season of pruning for plants, I began to recognize a season of pruning taking shape in the soil of my context. This season was important and necessary in order to produce disciples who would make disciples. In this season, I saw two types of pruning emerge. First, that some of the leaders being developed were transplanted “by the gardener” to kingdom soil in new locations around the country. To be honest, this was frustrating and downright painful as some of these folks were demonstrating significant growth and the promise of future fruit. The second type of pruning was the recognition that others in the group were experiencing distractions in different forms and were most likely going to produce little to no fruit. Argh! Pruning is Painful.
Focusing on the Fruit:
As a small church pastor, I am realizing more and more that I need to keep my Focus on the Fruit while remembering that pruning is a part of the process. John 15 reminds me that purposeful pruning is done in order to produce fruit in abundance. A picture of abundance far greater than my expectations is seen in Matthew 13 – providing a thirty, sixty, and one hundred fold harvest. Looking back to the fall of 2012, I could scarcely imagine the growth and abundant fruit the Father was preparing to produce through some of the folks invited to journey with me as disciple-making leaders. God is good, all the time!
Are you experiencing the pain of pruning? In this season of new life, I invite and encourage you to Focus on the Fruit.
Celebrating the Journey!
To learn more about Resources and Coaching related to being a Small church on a BIG Mission – go to www.smallchurchbigmission.org.