I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
My wife and I have a little vegetable garden in our backyard that we have been cultivating for a few years. Each year we plant our little plants, and wait with great expectations for yummy tomatoes, peppers, and more. Each day I go outside to check on the garden to see if things are growing, are any veggies ripe, or are there any weeds to pull? Imagine my disappointment if I went outside each day and over the course of the summer nothing changed. No growth in the plants, no garden fresh veggies. No matter how much fertilizer, water, and sunshine the plants just stayed exactly the same. I would wonder what went wrong, because if a plant is living it grows, period.
My guess is that you would not fault me for feeling that way about my “stay the same” garden. Gardens are supposed to bear fruit, no fruit= something is wrong. Yet often as Christians and churches we think that it is perfectly ok to be a “stay the same” garden. We might even encourage ourselves that if we stay the same we are not dying. But Jesus makes this critical statement in John 15, if you are connected to God you WILL bear fruit and you WILL grow. There is no stay the same option with God. You are either growing or dying, you are bearing fruit or not. Jesus does not create a special category for those who are more mature or have been Christians longer, there is no way to get to a place that you no longer need to grow. As Pastor Bob Bouwer puts it, “Everything that is living grows.” So instead of asking ourselves or our churches, “How are we doing, how are we making sure we don’t die or shrink? How do we stay the same?” Let’s start saying, “How are we growing? How are we growing in faith, what are we tangibly doing so that we might continue to grow?”