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Summary: HOw the secrets that grow a Bonsai tree will kill a church.

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Pruning and Pinching

(On Not Becoming a Bonsai Church- Part 2)

Luke 19:11-26

Recap: What is the first secret to keeping a Bonsai tree small?

Keep the pot small.

This week I want to share with you two more secrets for keeping the Bonsai small. They are things that sound unhealthy for the tree and perhaps you would say, “Why would you possibly do that to a tree?” Well, we should ask, “Are we doing these things to our church?” and if we are… “Why would we possibly do that to our church?”

The first one is…

Pruning the roots.

That is right… cutting away some of the roots.

Annually… or bi-annually… the tree has to be removed from its pot, the dirt shaken and combed off the roots and the roots are to be cut back.

Why would you do that? Remember: the first secret… keep the pot small? Well, the small pot means the roots would have a tendency to grow to the edge of the pot and curl up. The tree would become root bound. When a plant becomes root bound, it begins to starve and die. The way to avoid becoming root bound is to cut the roots back.

Result: the tree will remain small and healthy.

How does this relate to churches? Many churches regularly go through the process of pruning the roots.

I love this picture.

How do churches prune their roots?

1. Enrollment Pruning

Many years ago… back in the 1950s… Baptist churches were very big on records. Members were given tithing envelopes and on the front they checked off boxes like… present, attending worship, bible brought, bible read, lesson studied. They also began to give out attendance banners to the class that had the highest percentage of its members present.

Some classes began to realize they had some “dead wood,” some members who did not come and those members were hurting the percentage. So, in order to increase their attendance percentage, they would remove or prune members from the roll. Some churches even performed annual pruning.

What happened to those whose names were pruned from the roles? Many got angry and quit. Others just fell by the wayside.

I like to think that we are much wiser and smarter today. But the truth is there are still many churches that still prune names.

I like what Ken Hemphill said, “Our primary goal is not to boast about the percentage of members present, but to reach the unsaved in our community and to care for those in our fellowship. We’re not caring for anyone when we prune them from our roles. We simply lose contact and opportunity for ministry. The church that goes through the annual process of root pruning will invariably remain small.”

Listen… businesses today pay thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars every day and every month to buy names.

Do you see the irony?

Churches are pruning away names

Businesses are paying for names

Names the businesses get are only potential customers.

Names on our roles are people for whom Jesus died.

2. Combining classes

Often churches combine classes because they have two small ones and the members feel better about the class when it has more faces… so they combine them.


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