If you could have a big tree with only a little fruit or a small tree with lots of fruit, which would you choose? It’s about a choice, right?
But we’ll get back to that in a second.
I’ve noticed there seem to be two things I can do with Jesus. Either I can increasingly look like Jesus, or I can make him look like me.
I can look like Jesus or I can try to make him look like me.
The funny thing about Jesus is that I’m never sure we give him quite enough credit. Sure, he came to earth, left the throne of heaven, took on the nature of a servant and died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Yes. All that happened.
But we really don’t give his three years of ministry much reference.
Here’s what I mean: We think Jesus was the Son of God, but when we read the Gospels, do you think he was the smartest person who ever lived? Most accomplished? Best fisherman? Best evangelist? Best church planter? Best movement leader? Best discipler? Most successful leader?
For instance, in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, Jesus gave the most detailed strategy you will ever find in the scriptures for how to evangelize, and then we see the exact same strategy used in the early church. Shouldn’t we be using that same strategy? I’m guessing we’re not arrogant enough to think we’ve come up with a better strategy than Jesus. (Example: for most churches, the evangelism strategy is “invite your friends to church and then let the professionals take over. We’ll do the heavy lifting if you get them here.” Not exactly Jesus’ strategy!)
We acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross, but what about what was started before the cross?
What about the movement he began that changed the course of human history when it was released and catalyzed after the Resurrection and Pentecost? If being a disciple is “who Jesus would be if he were me” (Dallas Willard), shouldn’t we be learning the patterns and practices of the best who ever lived if we too want to change the world for the Kingdom?
Yet often when we look at the Western church, I’m not sure we see many of the practices of Jesus among the way we lead. Though … that’s starting to change!
Back to the original question: Big tree/little fruit or little tree/lots of fruit?
It feels that at some point, we might have lost our way. Perhaps we became more concerned with success than fruitfulness. Jesus says we evaluate things in the Kingdom on their fruitfulness … but somewhere along the way it became about the size of your tree. Now having a big tree is a fine thing. Just know you’re only successful in evaluating yourself against the size of other trees, and God has never been terribly concerned about tree size. Just fruitfulness. That’s it. The point of a tree isn’t how big your tree is but how much fruit you have. It’s about fruit! And in the Kingdom, fruitfulness is always about reproduction. (Specifically, reproducing disciples … multiplying Jesus’ life into the lives of others who can then go and do the same.)
My experience tells me having a big tree doesn’t mean you have a lot of fruit. In fact, what I’ve seen happen a lot more often is people going after the big tree and hoping to get fruit, rather than going after fruit and knowing you get the tree along the way.
Choose the best, and you always get the good. Choose the good, you very rarely get the best.
Are we trying to start or lead churches, create Kingdom movements and aspire to all the breakthrough Jesus saw, apart from the way Jesus did those things? Am I trying to make Jesus like me or do I honestly believe he was the best in the Kingdom business?
The Reformation was a significant moment because, among other things, it put the Bible back in the hands of the people. But when we look at the church of the last 100 years, I have to wonder if we have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.
This is the gut check question: If you had to choose between being known as a movement leader but not really having one, or actually being a movement leader but no one knowing it … which would you choose?
Tree or fruit?
Here’s the good news: I believe we are on the cusp of a new Reformation, one that sees the kind of fruit we saw from Jesus’ ministry, because we, once again, embrace not simply what Jesus did on the cross, but the way he led and made disciples. Yes. I think we are on the tipping point of a new Reformation, and it is about putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. Because when we equip the people of Jesus with the patterns, practices and way of Jesus, it will once again be ordinary people equipped to do extraordinary things.
The key is to embrace the mission of Jesus AND the way of Jesus. He’s just the best there ever was!
Hopefully you hear what I’m trying to convey clearly. I’m not suggesting we should go after a new Reformation. I’m suggesting it’s already happening. And maybe we don’t see it on every street corner yet, but I see it happening all around. A small group of communities, ready to be bloodied in going through the wall first, who are getting the beachhead of breakthrough for the rest of the church.
It’s already happening!
At the end of the day, I don’t want a big tree. But I don’t want a small tree either. I want an orchard. I want a Kingdom movement where reproduction of Jesus’ life within individuals and communities is happening on every level. I’ve seen this happen before. I know it because I’ve seen it. And I think we are starting to see glimmers of this reality again. Lord, may it be so! May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores.
Related Preaching Articles
By Sermoncentral on Mar 22, 2017
Many of us today who think of ourselves squarely as your friends take exception to some of your views — some in greater measure than others — and I expect you, of all people, would be least surprised to hear of it and receive it.
By Fred Craddock on Mar 19, 2015
Fred Craddock literally wrote the book on preaching. He reminds us, "Movement is more important than structure."
By Sermoncentral on Jan 6, 2014
The list isn't long, but it's killer. Some people just shouldn't lead God's church.