“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8
What a privilege we have to walk alongside Jesus in bringing glory to the Father by producing kingdom results. Once we experience the fruit Jesus has chosen us to produce, it goes far beyond a call or duty and quickly becomes our joy and underlying purpose in life. There is nothing quite like seeing the transformational power of Christ at work in our family, church and greater community. Telling the stories of salvation, hearing the testimonies of changed lives and seeing the restoration of broken people take place before your very eyes makes every ounce of effort worth it.
I am thankful for every story of fruitfulness that takes place in our church, but, like you, I would like to see more of it. I long for the days when this is not just happening in a few lives, but in tens, hundreds and thousands of lives. Call it revival, call it awakening, but I just want to see the fruit of Jesus Christ overflowing in our churches and communities. So how do we get there?
I believe there are a few simple steps we can take to build the momentum needed to see more fruit in our churches:
1. Choose an attitude of honor and celebration.
Every time you hear a story of transformation, honor the people involved and celebrate with them. I am often amazed at the lack of joy and enthusiasm from believers when a story of life transformation is shared. Even though we do our best not to show it, skepticism can be our first reaction. Questions like “I wonder how long this will last?” or “Do they really understand the sacrifice it takes to follow Christ?” emerge rather than understanding this is a step in the journey toward becoming like Jesus. If you are really concerned, get involved in people’s lives. It will change your perspective immediately.
Our churches will produce more of what is celebrated, honored and rewarded. The same is true of our denomination as a whole. Truly honoring the fruit being produced in our churches will bring unity to our great diversity. Celebrating together produces an unstoppable momentum.
2. Harvest the fruit that is ready.
There is low-hanging fruit ready to be picked all over the place. We must simply ask the right questions, challenge people to appropriate next steps or conquer our fear of having a spiritually engaging conversation. In your church, do you ask people to take next steps that are not only understandable, but attractive to them? Challenging people in a relevant way, one that makes them think, is attractive and sets the stage for life change even if they do not respond the first time.
3. Identify barriers that keep fruit from growing.
This is a straightforward objective but not an easy one to talk about. It takes courage and a tolerance for pain to dig out an infection that is stunting growth and fruitfulness. What is keeping people away from your church? Are there insider attitudes, poor communication or a church leadership style that won’t allow for growth? We must not allow ourselves to blame a “dark world” out there for a lack of fruit. On the contrary, this sets the stage for great fruit to emerge.
4. Create the environment for ongoing fruitfulness.
What systems and structures do you need to put in place for your church to regularly produce fruit? If you are wondering if this idea is biblical, Jesus had an amazing leadership development system as well as an incredible connection system. A system is simply a method your church can use that allows for people to connect, understand and be engaged in kingdom priorities. It is critical that you don’t just copy other systems you have seen succeed. Learn from those who have had success, but create your own unique systems and structures that will work in your local context.
These four steps should produce questions that get you started taking the necessary steps to be more fruitful. Get the right people around the table and get started on it. Make sure there are actionable steps that come each time you meet together. Otherwise this will become one big messy conversation that never produces anything for the kingdom.
If the concept of honoring fruitfulness stirs a passion in you, we will be working on this throughout the General Conference 2015 workshops. All are welcome to join us, and I trust this time will create the environment for greater fruitfulness throughout our denomination.
Mark Hirst is the Honor Fruitfulness strategy team facilitator for General Conference 2015 and the lead pastor of Living Water Church in Dalton and Massillon, Ohio.