Bearing fruit is only half of the equation.
I want the church — your church and my church — to grow.
I’m encouraged when I see the church effectively demonstrating the love of God and communicating the good news of Jesus to a culture with an ever-evolving language. I’m concerned when I see the church struggling to connect with people who are far from God. This concern is grounded both in my understanding of Jesus’ challenge to be fruitful, and my conviction that millions are spiritually dead and hopeless until they trust in Jesus.
But fruit bearing is only half of the equation.
I do not have a green thumb. I’ve purchased a number of plants over the years and have managed to watch most of them die grueling deaths, mostly from dehydration. But I do have enough common sense to know how vital roots are to the life and vitality of any garden variety plant. And typically, the deeper the roots, the fresher the fruits. Jesus even used this as an illustration of the Christian life.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. — John 15:4 NLT
Church planting is trendy, which has the positive benefit of producing a lot of new churches which are hopefully engaged in spreading a biblical message of good news for a lost world.
But when something is trendy, people usually jump in a bit unprepared. Like prospectors running westward in a rush for gold, people pursue fruit sometimes with such hastiness that they fail to put down roots and tap into something deep and nourishing.
When we plant without deep roots, we’re subject to being blown away, washed away and dried up in seasons of drought. Plenty of church leaders get upset and yield to a kind of ecclesiastical arrogance, offering a critical backhand to the contemporary church. This only pushes the walls up further and prevents healthy growth for the kingdom. I’d rather share a challenge and some encouragement.
As we have gone about the work of planting Grace Hills Church, we’ve articulated 10 core values that guide our decision making. I’m blogging about them one by one, and the first and most important for us is …
The Bible is totally truthful and uniquely powerful. It is a complete and perfect guide for life. We will trust, teach, obey and live it out loudly.
When I first heard God calling me to ministry, my father-in-law handed me a copy of Standing On the Promises, the autobiography of W.A. Criswell. It changed my life and set the course of my entire ministry. I knew from my earliest days of preaching that I would always remain committed to the Bible as God’s inerrant, infallible Word. Criswell said,