Are we REALLY pursuing a productive life that actually makes the world a better place and helps people connect to God? Please don’t answer that question yet.
I want to be productive and as a leader (to bear fruit), I want to lead others to be creative and productive as well. When you are producing and creating in a ministry setting, life is exciting, people’s lives are changing for the better, people are receiving Christ, growing in their new faith, sharing their new life with friends and family, wrestling with deep life change, launching out in radical faith to share the love of God with those around them, and giving generously of their stuff with joyful hearts. They are loving their neighbors well, giving grace and forgiving quickly.
There are also some really great bi-products of being productive, you look good as a leader because everything you try seems to work and because you look good as a leader people tend to think that God is with you, regardless of whether or not this is truly the case. I mean you have to be doing something right… Right? But these are also very dangerous bi-products.
Truth is there is a very defined spiritual process that brings about a productive, creative, fruitful life. It goes like this,
Abiding in Christ to > growing in Christ > bearing fruit for Christ > being cut back for Christ’s sake.
WHOA STOP! Love the first three, but that fourth one?
Yeah we know what pruning is when it comes to a plant, a garden, a vineyard, a shrub or a fruit tree, but we would rather just ignore the way Jesus used the term. And from a leaders perspective I feel like many other leaders have “pruned” this verse out of their bibles.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit… Jesus in John 15
But when we fail to recognize and embrace seasons of pruning several things happen.
-There is an overall lack of evaluation. You can’t possibly evaluate in seasons of fruitfulness with as much scrutiny and carefulness as you do in season of pruning. The fruit masks some true problems that you can only see as things are pruned back.
-It is easy to say you trust God’s plan when production is happening. After all you don’t have to look very far to see the results right? But there is no greater opportunity to trust what He ultimately wants to produce than when you feel the pruning.
-In times of fruitfulness we tend to take God’s activity for granted. I look back on the baptism celebrations that happened in the past – where so many people were celebrating deep and real life change. I kind of got used to those celebrations to the point where I realized that I took them for granted. When you go without those, you feel a greater sense of desperation for the visible parts of God’s activity to show up again.
-Fruitful times also lull us into a feeling that we humans are the real producers. I mean WE ARE THE BRANCHES RIGHT? And fruit doesn’t grow off the trunk does it? NO, it grows off the branches. It grows out of our lives as leaders and into the people closest to us. It’s fruit that is personal because you are watching it happen because of your love, care and leadership. But when you feel the pruning, you are reminded that no branch produces anything really. As branches we are just conduits from the vine to the fruit. God produces the fruit, he just uses us as channels.
-So why does Jesus talk about pruning? Well maybe this is the greatest lesson of all.
…and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
Pruning is essential for more production. In fact that is why God does it – not to harm us, test us, frustrate us, or cause us harm. He does it so that we can produce EVEN MORE!
Now as a leader, you have to keep this in mind because seasons of pruning mean that nothing you touch “turns to gold.” Pruning is ugly and it leaves the plant looking ugly. You don’t look very good as a leader and people tend to conclude that God must not be with you and /or you must be doing something wrong.
Just smile and know that sometimes the only thing you did wrong was that you were fruitful in the first place… and God is getting you ready for EVEN MORE!