I recently spent a wonderful two and a half days at 3DM’s Discipleship and Mission Workshop here in Calgary. It was filled with some great practical teaching along with some awesome conversations with various church leaders. Being around so many “kingdom-minded” people was refreshing and energized my heart. I have a lot to process and write about but that will have to wait until I wrap up my ministry at Westbourne this coming week.
That being said, one of the main things that the Lord spoke to me about during the course of this workshop, was the fact that all these current changes in the life of our family are an opportunity for us to abide in Him and have some necessary pruning take place. We all know the familiar passage of John 15:1-11 on this topic and I was encouraged by the following thoughts from Mike Breen on it:
“Let’s take a closer look at the first-century process of growing grapes. At the time of Jesus’ incarnation, a vine would be cultivated, planted, and left to grow for three years before being allowed to bear fruit. Every time it tried to bring forth a bunch of grapes, it would be cut back. After the third year, the grapes would be allowed to grow on their own. By then the branches were strong enough to support the weight of the grapes without breaking. After the harvest, the branches were pruned back for a time of nourishment and rest before the fruit-growing season began again.
Bearing fruit is the most natural thing in the world for a branch. It doesn’t do it by straining to push out a grape. Looking at our lives, however, it would seem producing fruit-making disciples is strenuous. If fruit bearing is not coming naturally in our lives, could it be that we have not spent the proper season abiding? Could it be that we are overgrown branches, too weak to support a single grape, let alone a bunch? Pruning is not the fun part of life. We seldom see churches displaying banners advertising “40 Days of Pruning,” or small groups practicing “pruning yourself to a better life.” But if a grapevine is not pruned regularly, the branches grow spindly and weak. There is no abiding time when they gain their strength for the growing season.
We need to learn when it is our pruning time. This seems unproductive at first glance. After all, aren’t we supposed to be pressing forth with all of our energy to do the work of the kingdom? In a word, no. We are supposed to pattern our lives after that of Jesus. It is not our energy and determination that impresses God, it is our living in the manner he made us that will produce the fruit he intends for us to bear. Pruning is not automatic for the branch. Left to its own plans, it would continue to grow, increasing in size but decreasing in strength, endurance, and health until it would be unable to hold the fruit it is intended to bear.
We need to have times of pruning in our churches, times when most, if not all, activity ceases. Times of rest and abiding. This runs contrary to principles taught in most church growth courses and seminars. From abiding we grow, from growing we bear fruit, from bearing fruit we are cut back … When the Lord is moving you into a time of pruning and abiding, surrender to him. There is much grace to be found in the place of abiding.”
Mike Breen & Steve Cockram, Building a Discipling Culture, pp 108-109