I know we have not plunged very deeply into the subject of what a biblical church looks like and the book of Acts, but one thing I know is that God’s church is built one person at a time. As we reDiscover church, I hope we discover without question that we must be multiplying the gospel that lives in us, as well as in others. I thought about family trees, and how if for whatever reason a person is not able to reproduce themselves through marriage and bearing their likeness through the fruit of the womb or adoption, that their physical family lineage is terminated with them. It is possible for a physical family’s name to become extinct. It’s not quite that way in the Kingdom, Jesus and his Father do have a family tree, but it will never be terminated. In God’s family tree, there will be no branches that don’t reproduce, He’s a faithful and consistent gardener. You see, His family tree can’t be terminated, for God is life.
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
A literal interpretation of these words is sobering, Jesus is literally saying, those that bear no fruit will be no part of my family. But devastating the disciples to utter dependency is Jesus’ goal. These are actually words of hope! Until we realize that we are nothing apart from Him, we won’t be bearing fruit like we should. The solution of fruitlessness is not a personal mustering up of good, righteous actions for the purpose of finding favor. The solution is to remain in Jesus and in His Words, and if we remain utterly desperate and dependent upon Him and totally fixed on the Glory of God in our lives, we will reproduce. God is pleased with us when we are hidden in Christ, the sacrificial Lamb. The gospel is living, and those that believe and receive the gospel are also living and will bear fruit.
I realize that “fruit” is used broadly here, and defining all the varieties of Biblical fruit is beyond the scope of this post. Ultimately, healthy branches aren’t deemed such just because they had fruit that looked and tasted good, but by having the ability to reproduce over and over again through the seed that it’s fruit carries. Wise branches (people) remain in the vine, remember their dependency on the vine for life, and with gratefulness and contrition obey the commands of the master because we love Him. The obvious and most natural function of true Christians is that they multiply Jesus in people. This is real Church growth, and this is how the world knows we are His.
Before we embark on a mission to reclaim what has been lost with Biblical church practice, we must always remember that the Church is simply a group of people who remain in the vine through faith in Jesus. And then the power of Jesus in us impacts and influences others we come into contact with to the gospel. And no matter what our church or any church looks like or does in practice, if God’s people are not being multiplied one soul to another, life on life, through obedience to the Great Commission, it’s not church. One of the first steps to reDiscovering the missional movement we see in Acts is to remember this is all about God’s love for lost people. I believe our love will match God’s love for the lost when we realize that we once were lost and are recipients of this AMAZING GRACE! Praise the Lord.