July 10, 2017

Healthy Churches … Are Fruitful and Multiply

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A Note from Luminex: This morning’s blog post is the seventh in a 11-week series on “Healthy Churches.” Each week, one of our stable of leaders/bloggers will share thoughts on a significant aspect of healthy churches. Enjoy!

“Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, ESV) means much more than “have babies.” It is a critical God-given function for all humanity, and even more critical as a call for God’s called people. Yahweh not only charged the first man and woman to “multiply,” he repeated it multiple times to his people – to Noah after the flood, to Jacob (through Isaac; again as God renamed him Israel), and to the nation of Israel as a whole (Lev. 26:9), about the remnant returned from exile (Jeremiah 23:3). God intends that his people will bear fruit and multiply. And not only that: Each time, God equates fruitfulness with multiplication. The concept of “fruit” includes multiplication because fruit is the bearer of seed, the source of reproduction. This is a critically important biblical theme – God calls all of his people to reproduce; it’s part of our DNA.

Jesus and his followers also emphasized fruitfulness and multiplication. John the Baptist emphasized that normal faith-filled Christ-followers bear fruit from repentance, while “fruitless trees” are destroyed (Matt. 3:8-10). Jesus clearly explained that the gospel seed, planted on good soil, inevitably bears fruit, multiplying the thirty, sixty or one hundred times (Matthew 13:23). The parable of the talents (Matthew 25) emphasizes fruitfulness and multiplication; those servants who risk using the Master’s gifts in order to multiply them are rewarded equally. The only servant reprimanded was the one who refused to risk using what he was given to multiply it.

Jesus further clarified that, as the source of fruitfulness in our lives, fruitful branches are pruned so that their fruitfulness will multiply (John 15:2).

Clearly, God intends that his people will be fruitful and multiply
It is not intended only for individuals; it is a command to the people of God as a community, the church. Individuals are called to multiply righteousness and good works resulting from Christ-like character (Galatians 5:23-24); and together Christians are called to live out the call to fruitfulness and multiplication. The entire Trinity is committed to fruitfulness and multiplication: the Father purposed and commanded it, the Son made it possible, and the Spirit implements it in his people. It is in our Christian DNA; to not multiply and bear fruit indicates there is something wrong, something unhealthy. So, here we must take a moment to ask ourselves a hard question:

Is my life characterized by fruitfulness and reproduction? Is fruitfulness and multiplication part of our church’s DNA? If not, why not?

Are leaders being coached? Are leaders apprenticing emerging leaders? Disciples being mentored? Churches focused on planting new congregations? Are groups planning, praying and pursuing new members? Are serving ministries multiplying, both in number of people involved and numbers served? Are ministry teams multiplying at all levels?

Once again, God intends that every Christian and every Christian congregation will be fruitful and multiply, no matter how old or young, or how large or small. Multiplication matters.

There is no doubt that focusing on fruit-bearing and multiplying takes significant effort. It is hard work. Fruitfulness and multiplication result from consistent, intentional effort. They must be core pursuits in our vision and mission. They must be highly-valued aspects of our individual and corporate identity. They will not happen by accident. So far, we’ve looked at fruit-bearing and multiplication as God’s purpose for us. Now, let’s look the benefits of making them high priorities in our personal lives and congregations.

September 12, 1962: JFK told his audience at Rice University, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone…”

He understood the value of doing hard things. First, doing hard things organizes us. Putting fruitfulness and multiplication at the top of our vision, mission, and values means that everything else, every program, process, or experience, is measured by its furthering of those goals. It organizes our ministry and financial priorities. It measures our current and proposed ministry direction and focus. Second, doing hard things measures our best energies and skills or gifts. Remember TANG orange drink? (Yeah, I know, I’m dating myself). It was a direct result of research necessary to get to the moon. Many other technological advances were direct results of the moon commitment. As so it is with fruitfulness and multiplication: when we make that our goal, we do the things that are necessary to achieve that goal. For our personal lives, that may mean we learn to embrace spiritual disciplines that we had previously ignored. For our congregations, that means we let go of programs and processes which don’t help us become more fruitful and lead to multiplication. For leaders, it means we take a stand to keep them at the top of the goal list, and we constantly keep them in front of the congregation so that they are seen as part of the DNA of every Christian and every Christian Church.

Finally, the priority of fruitfulness and multiplication measures our health and maturity; only maturing disciples of Jesus Christ highly prioritize the goal of fruitfulness and multiplication. If we want a no-nonsense indicator of our true spiritual health and maturity, take an honest look at whether they are top priorities in our lives and churches. Often, these divine purposes for God’s people are afterthoughts, at best. They have been crowded out by distracting demands, financial pressures, or biblical ignorance. Obeying God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” will re-prioritize our lives and congregations. It will cause growing pains. And that’s where much of the good comes. Being forced to make hard choices to keep “being fruitful and multiplying” our top priority will train us to let go of the “lesser things” so that we can pour our lives into God’s Kingdom purposes. Here’s to you…being fruitful and multiplying! (I’m drinking my TANG now).

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