This was our fourth summer growing grapes on our pergola. It was an abundant crop. We shared bunches of super sweet green and red table grapes with family and friends. I have learned that grapes grow best from vines three years old or more. But without the new growth of this year’s leaves, and the one and two year old vines, the mature vines cannot produce abundant sweet fruit. Not every branch produces grapes, but every branch plays a part.
Every Christian is called to participate in making disciples and church planting locally or internationally. When we talk about Christ’s call to make disciples and plant churches, all too often Christians are saying in their heart, “That’s not me.” They feel that way because they don’t feel mature enough, gifted enough or equipped enough. Would you be relieved to know that God is not waiting for you to be mature enough, but rather healthy enough? In other words, Jesus calls us to spiritual and relational health, not a self-imposed standard of ‘arrival’.
What does it look like to be healthy enough to multiply? Here are five pursuits that make a church healthy enough to multiply.
One of Paul’s great commission statements is found in Colossians 1:28. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” He says this to set the example for every believer in Colossae. Where does the commitment “to present everyone mature in Christ” come from? It comes from his knowledge of the treasure he has in Christ.
Just before this statement he says, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Paul proclaimed Christ, because Christ was a treasure. Here he calls it the ‘riches of the glory.” When you are treasuring Christ by learning from him, praying to him, and thanking him, you are healthy enough to multiply.
Grape vines need pruning. Out of control vines sap the life from grape production. Jesus speaks of ‘pruning’ in John 15 to produce more fruit. Pruning involves truth followed by repentance. When we fail to confess sin with one another, we become that out of control vine, sapping the life out of our church.
Both salvation in Christ and growth in Christ comes the same way. Paul writes that he was “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The first time a person repents and believes he is justified in Christ and adopted as a child of God. The maturing process requires going after the unevangelized parts of our desires and thinking. So a growing Christian is always repenting and trusting. People who transparently confess and repent make a church healthy enough to multiply.
John 15 goes on to explain how healthy vines then bear fruit. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:7-8). As we abide in His Word we ask God for his provision in prayer. This word-abiding prayer is essential to bear fruit. This is why we are focusing on learning to pray from Jesus. As we do so, we become healthy enough to multiply.
When the heart is right, the fruit it sweet. A loving community that seeks to ‘love one another... more and more’ (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10) is a community in which disciple-making flourishes. The love of the saints for each other in Thessalonica cultivated a healthy body that could loudly proclaim the gospel of Christ. The Thessalonian church was known all over the world for its evangelism (1 Thessalonians 1:8). That is directly connected to their flourishing in love. Love boils down to two things. Pray for others and meet any need you can. The more we pray and seek to meet needs, the more our church will be healthy enough to multiply.
It is the truth of God’s word applied to the heart and conduct of a believer that the Spirit of God uses for growth. As we share scriptures that impact us, or that apply to our friends and family, we will all grow. If we sing scripture saturated songs we will help others be healthy. Paul writes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) You don’t have to be an expert in all scripture, you just have to share some scripture that has built you up. Whatever you are learning this week is powerful to help someone else grow. If you simply get in the habit of sharing verses that have impacted you, you will impact others and help them multiply.
Here is the amazing thing. If you pursue these five things, you will be bearing thick clusters of fruit. You will be making disciples, supporting church planters, and bringing God glory.
Every Christian is called to make disciples in the context of a local church. Every Church is called to make disciples by praying for and supporting church planting regionally and internationally (See Acts 8-10). Every church leadership team is called to reproduce leaders generationally (2 Timothy 2:2). That means every Christian and every church has a role in multiplying as part of the great commission.
Our theme for Aspire 2020 is [Re]build: Healthy Enough to Multiply, and it’s not just for elders, elders in training, or leaders. Its for everyone at Faith Bible church. It takes every leaf of the branch and every branch of the vine to produce clusters of grapes. It takes every Christian, new or old, to plant churches and support missions. To what does Christ call you? To be healthy enough to multiply.
Join us for Aspire 2020. Register at aspirenorthwest.com by this Tuesday, Jan. 21, to save $20.