I had a revelation burp today. Actually, it’s not something new, but something said long ago.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruith
He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I wondered if Jesus was only speaking about individuals, or does this analogy work with groups as well. Take churches for example. I wonder about the survival about our church right now. Sure, I can be optimistic. I can also be aware by the harsh reality of Scripture. Scripture isn’t sugar-coated. The Gospel isn’t light and fluffy. It’s real, dealing with the grit of actual, relevant life.
So I wonder about our little congregation and it’s part in God’s sovereign plan of salvation for every tribe and tongue in order to bring glory to His Name. What is our part? Are we to live or die? I don’t want our little church to die, but let’s be realistic here. Churches across America close each day. Has God failed? Is the Gospel no longer relevant?
I believe the answer is no. God hasn’t failed. God has pruned. God has cut off dead branches. Branches that bear no fruit. Not just individuals, but groups as well. Churches. Denominations. God trims off that which bears no fruit.
Remember Jesus. He cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit. I believe He curses churches for not producing fruit. Does that statement sound extreme? It should. It also reflects Jesus’ attitude toward the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodecia in the book of Revelation. Jesus wants growing churches, growing because they are connected to the Vine. Anything less, He cuts off, He spits out, He removes His lampstand for the Glory of His Name.
I weep for our neighborhood. I weep at the thought of no viable church existing in a neighborhood of hundreds, perhaps thousands. I weep at the thought of a “For Sale” sign posted in front of the sanctuary.
I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not remain in me,
he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers;
such branches are picked up,
thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish,and it will be given you.
This is to my Father’s glory,
that you bear much fruit,
showing yourselves to be my disciples.
It’s to our Father’s glory that our church bears fruit, much fruit. Granted, many churches out there bear bad fruit. But we’re not bearing fruit. I don’t think we want to bear fruit. I think we want to pass it off as God’s will.
How dare we sit on our asses and say, “Must be God’s will”. If God wills our churches to be complacent, His word also declares that He also wills to cut them off eventual burning in the fire. Indeed, perhaps it does please God to let churches grow more and more lukewarm, in order to bring judgment and restore honor to His name.
When we gather and are not shocked about the rows of empty pews, but breathe in the satisfied air of complacency? When we supplant the birthright, privledge and duty to declare the Gospel to all the world, starting right where we are, and replace the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment with the Great Complacency, have we not considered trivial the cross of our Lord and Savior? As our due reward, at the end of our careless strut of faith, our Heavenly Father will open His arms and declare, “You wicked and lazy servant! Throw this worthless servant outside.”
I may sound preachy, with fire and brimstone and all that. If anyone in my congregation read this, they’d likely be furious. Let them. But it pisses me off to see the Church that withstands the gates of hell fall completely apart because of complacency. It infuriates me that some of these dead branches favor potlucks and socials over the Gospel of grace that delivers us from death.