Bearing Fruit

A few years ago, my friend from church, Terri Tschaenn, gave me a single piece of a cactus that was broken off from her huge cactus plant. I put it in a small pot not knowing what to expect, and I have to say that thing has grown so many shoots and sprouts and whatever new chunks of cactus might be called…..I am now onto a third pot myself and it has been pretty cool to see that thing grow and spread! While I am still learning to be careful with the nasty little prickers, I can tell I am going to have cactus to share! So, if I gave one chunk of cactus to 12 friends, and in a few years they gave one piece to 12 more friends, imagine how fast Terri’s cactus could spread. In fact, she told me that several other people she knows have cacti started from her plant.

As Christians, we are called to remain in the vine and produce fruit. One way we see the evidence of fruit is in disciples. John 15:8  tells us:

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Bearing fruit to God’s glory is not found in the number of likes on a post that happens to have a Bible verse in it, not in the number of people who show up at our “church” event or the people who follow us/like us/or think we are really “nice”. Fruit isn’t measured the way society measures it at all. In fact, probably most numbers society uses for a gauge of success would demonstrate the exact opposite in the sense of bearing fruit that Jesus asks of us.

Jesus had his disciples. Paul had his team. Scripture speaks of a called-out body of people loving one another, teaching, edifying, building up, holding accountable, sharing, confessing sins, forgiving sins. We all have a circle of influence and relationships, and those relationships with followers of Jesus are the ones prioritized above all else in no uncertain terms.

Matthew 12:48-50

New International Version

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we are to call ourselves a Christian or follower of Christ, we had better seriously consider those we yoke ourselves with and recognize that our church family is our family. We all benefit from being discipled and from discipling and we have a responsibility to seek those with spiritual maturity and a shared relationship with God to grow alongside as brothers/sisters.

-Jennifer Hall

For those following along with the yearly Bible reading plan, you can read or listen to today’s Bible passages at BibleGateway here – Job 19-20 and 2 Corinthians 11

A Quality Church – and Your Part in It

2 Corinthians 5-9

Welcome back!  I felt like these five chapters really covered a lot of ground today!  I will only be touching on part of the message presented here for the sake of keeping it relatively short, so I truly encourage you to find someone in your world to read and discuss with the points that stick out to you!

 One portion of this message that stuck out to me in particular was found in chapter five verse 11: “Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.  We are completely open before God, and I hope we are completely open to your conscience as well.”  I really admire this idea of being just as open to other believers as we are to God.  To me, this means sharing our pains, fears, hopes, prayers, and praises with the body of believers we surround ourselves with. 

Paul brings up the idea of being open again in chapter six describing how he wants the relationship between himself and the church to be like parents and children with good communication (6:11-13).  That kind of relationship may look different for everyone, but in general, the relationship that a parent and child have should be based on trust, respect, and love.  Paul is talking about how the relationship we have with other believers should be the same!  To provide an example of this Paul describes how happy he was that Titus had come to visit this church specifically because Titus was refreshed by the church (7:13).  Whether it is to a visiting member from another congregation, someone who attends every Sunday, or someone who may only be passing through, people should leave the church feeling refreshed by their time spent with us. 

Continuing on in chapter eight verse 24 Paul is boasting about this church’s love for others in his letter and encourages them to continue to do what they are doing.  Paul doesn’t say anything regarding the physical appearance of the church, how good the music is, or how young and cool the pastor is.  OK, that may not be applicable to the church in Corinth at that time, but I think you get my point!  What makes a church a quality church is their ability to build up the body of believers, to refresh them, so that they may go out and continue their work.  This is only possible when believers in the church are open with one another and have that relationship of trust, respect, and love.

When you look at your own church, what do you boast about?  What makes you proud to attend?  Do you feel like you can be open with the other believers there?  And if not, I encourage you to dig a little deeper… Paul writes about people who sow sparingly reaping sparingly (9:6).  I think this concept applies to a lot of areas, including what we take away from our own church.  If you are looking for a church where you can find strong connections, yet never attend a Bible Study, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are trying to find a church that is energetic and full of life, but you never come with a smile on your face or a praise to share, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly.  If you are disappointed that your church rarely has visitors, yet never invite your coworker, neighbor, or friend to a service, you are trying to reap generously what was sown sparingly. 

Being the church does not just mean showing up on a Sunday morning.  It means being open, it means showing respect and love, and it means being actively involved.  Without each one of us taking part in refreshing one another, the church is just a building.  We are the Church, and we each must do our part to make it all it should be.

-Sarah Blanchard Johnson

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Corinthians 5-9.

Tomorrow we will continue with chapters 10-13.