“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
18 months along the Path of Renewal, stories of transformation are emerging - and we will find ways of sharing those. But much of the work in which we have been engaged is foundational - involving changing mindsets. Those kind of changes are not immediately visible but pave the way for the future.
It is preparing the ground, taking time to discern the will and calling of God. Discerning what God is asking of us as well as identifying those things that it is time to stop doing.
Few of us have difficulty with Jesus words on pruning those things that bear no fruit.
In practice, it's not easy in the church to stop things, even when they've long since stopped fulfilling their purpose. But, with some effort and sensitivity, managing expectations and acknowledging folks' sense of loss, we can resolve to lay aside some long cherished programmes or activities.
But, perhaps more difficult, is the intentional pruning of those things that are fruitful, either to make them more fruitful or to clear space and energy for something else that God is calling us to instead.
Why tamper with something that is working?
Or give up the things that affirm us?
Why risk the established for the new and unknown?
Just because something is apparently healthy and "achieving results" doesn't mean that it is what God wants us engaged in.
And, if it isn't easy to stop those things that are no longer serving their purpose, how much more difficult is it to give up those thing that are working and that we may even enjoy?
This is the task to discernment to which we are called: to constantly ask:
- What are the priorities of God for this time and for these people?
- Where do we detect the heart beat of God in the communities we serve?
- Where, today, are we being invited to join God in mission?
- What must we stop doing to make way for a new season of fruitfulness based on obedience?
Grappling with the thorns of faithfulness, pruning, obedience and fruitfulness are the tasks to which God calls us in the work of renewal. The vine and the branches.