Preaching Articles

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.

Mike leads 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church. He and his wife, Sally, have three children.

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Ephrem Hagos

commented on Mar 25, 2013

What the world needs is nothing less than FIRSTHAND KNOWLEDGE, based on personal vision of Jesus Christ, a.k.a., ?the faithful witness: the first-born from the dead?, with powerfully multiplying effects. This was the ?solid food? in the training (Matt. 16: 13-28), in the Premiere (Ibid. 27: 50-56), in the intensive 40-day rehearsal for the rehabilitation of unbelieving disciples (Acts 1: 1-5) and in Simon Peter?s message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Mar 25, 2013

What the world needs is nothing less than FIRSTHAND KNOWLEDGE, based on personal vision of Jesus Christ, a.k.a., the faithful witness: the first-born from the dead?, with powerfully multiplying effects. This was the ?solid food? in the training (Matt. 16: 13-28), in the Premiere (Ibid. 27: 50-56), in the intensive 40-day rehearsal for the rehabilitation of unbelieving disciples (Acts 1: 1-5) and in Simon Peter?s message on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

Kevin Brown

commented on Mar 25, 2013

One thing to note is that the battle is not about the size of the tree but the purpose of that tree. Not all tree are designed to produce edible fruit. Large trees typically are worst for fruit production, but provide something that smaller fruit trees do not. They are called shade trees. On a hot day that is their fruit. We are designed for a specific purpose, not to conform to the plans of others but fulfill the plan that God designed us for.

Rev. Larry West

commented on Mar 25, 2013

Great article. Good points, especially with the people themselves taking God's word and going forth. Too many get sidetracked with "groups" or "movements" and get lost in the crowd. We need "next door" soul winners and teachers in all of our churches. We need to avoid trying to conform the church to business models.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Mar 25, 2013

I like Mike Breens idea picked up by Larry west No4 , that we should be fruitful . We need reminding often . But , perhaps we should be looking at Paul rather than Jesus , because when the Lord was in Israel it was made plain He had NOT come to preach to the Gentiles . He didn't come to preach and teach christianity , but to win and convert a people to God . As for the Reformation , Luther , despite realising from the scriptures that we are justified by the grace of God through faith , could not even solve the 'eucharist; problem properly and kept other vatican doctrines and practices . Which may be why today Popes and popery get full world coverage and lead the biggest church in christendon with all their medievel doctrines intact with more added . ?.

Mark Baker

commented on Mar 25, 2013

"A New Reformation"? Yes ... sort of... For the first time we have a Pope who is a "Jesuit." [Many will say, "So what?"] The Jesuits were founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola with the specific purpose and goal of destroying and reversing "The Reformation." [Re-establishing salvation by grace alone/faith alone ... The supreme authority of the Bible ... over man and his "traditions," etc.] Also, it is becoming trendy to "go back to Rome" by current (soon-to-be-former) "leaders" of the "reformed." Ever-increasingly popular Tim Keller (a Presbyterian/reformed leader) said of mystics (those who rely on feelings, experiences, subjectivity, "mystery," and unbiblical practices/techniques to discover God outside of the Bible) and Catholics, ""The best things that have been written, almost, are by Catholics during the Counter Reformation: IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, St. Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, St. Theresa of ?vila.....great stuff."

Mark Baker

commented on Mar 25, 2013

"Hopefully you hear what I?m trying to convey clearly." No, I don't. But perhaps it is my fault, however, my concern is that the lack of specifics are intentional (as in, the postmodern/emergent belief that this is the right way to communicate). What, specifically, is the "movement"? How, specifically, does the written Word play a part, and how much do subjective sources play a part? What does "missional" mean to you? For many, it explicitly does NOT mean missions (seeking to share and spread the gospel), it means changing your city and society through "being missional," the social gospel (of works, changing the government/society, getting people to like Jesus by good works) and not the true gospel, and through the exceedingly ANTI-biblical "social justice" (if we properly understand what people are REALLY saying when they say this phrase). My guess is that the author is more in favor of these ... but I pray that I am wrong.

Michael James Monaghan

commented on Mar 26, 2013

I wont apologise for posting again . Anyone can partake. It's available . But I wonder what the grand sounding title ' the global home for an organic movement for biblical discipleship ......' means . I wonder if Mike Breen is a 'Kingdom now ' devotee , where people are to do their part to make the world a better place so to allow Christ Jesus to return .? Mike says 'May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores ' . ???.

Greg Carr

commented on Mar 26, 2013

Very good article. For too long the western church has allowed the pastors and leaders of the church to do the work. You are correct, this is not the model Jesus had for us. Pastors need to equip their congregations to go and evangelize. Yes, pastors need to be doing this work as well, but it should never rest solely upon them, remember the old adage, sheep make sheep. If each person in our churches reached at least one other person by leading them to Christ the Kingdom of God would grow in the Western church. If the leaders of the church are doing their job, preparing the church to do the job they are supposed to be doing then we have a kingdom movement that God can smile at. Remember, the kingdom of God in then, it is in the future, and it is now.

Mark Baker

commented on Mar 26, 2013

MJM, you are right to be concerned. I did a little more research and the more I learn about him the more he is emergent/emergent friendly (e.g. they are subtly and overtly against and attacking and undermining "traditional" or "conservative" Christians/Christianity). They do emphasize "Kingdom Now"/"Dominionism" and the here-and-now over the eternal. They are also intentionally nebulous (not necessarily with the intent to deceive), so the lack of clarity and specifics of what he REALLY believes also points in this direction. As I pointed out "missional" is also very "emergent" (depending on the definition, of course). So, when an emergent talks about "The Kingdom" they often have a decidedly different definition and goal, yet many undiscerning people join in, assuming the same goal and definition. They do so often to the point where it is too late. They have been deceived!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Mar 26, 2013

@Mark, thanks for taking the time to research the author's true beliefs and sharing them with us. Far too many people on this site will take what is being said as "gospel truth" when it is anything but.

Doug Conley

commented on Mar 28, 2013

I'd suggest getting information on the Reformation Movement.

Mark Elijahson

commented on Mar 28, 2013

Some salient comments but we don't need another half baked reformation that leaves the Church wallowing in pagan compromises and the traditions of delusional men. We need a full on restoration back to our foundations and roots and we need to get on with the gospel of the kingdom, long abandoned by the church in it obsessive focus on the elementary principles of the gospel of salvation which it has screwed up immensly.

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