How can we bear ‘fruit’ in our shared life as a ministry area? And what fruit should we bear? These are the questions that we will have explored together in our first Ministry Area service of the new year, which will have just taken place by the time this month’s magazine is distributed.
This word, ‘fruit’, comes from the wonderful image of the vine and the branches, shared by Jesus with his disciples in John 15.1-8. This is a rich picture, which recurs throughout the history of God’s people. And one of the reasons I love it so much, is we’re assured that this fruit will grow naturally when we live according to God’s plan for us.
In these days, this wonderful picture of the flourishing vine can seem a long way removed from the reality of the challenges we are facing. As a Church, we are living in difficult times. Many churches, parishes and ministry areas are really struggling to make ends meet — and our ministry area is no exception! Many, like us, are also struggling to find people with the time, energy and expertise to enable growth to happen.
At times like this, our tendency is to want to focus on self-preservation — on keeping the lights on and our buildings open. But, while often this motivation is with future generations in mind, it can cause us to lose sight on the most important question of all — why? Why keep churches open? Why seek to grow in number? Why seek to secure our finances? We need to know why we’re here, what our purpose is, before we can start to think about how we can plan for growth.
And that’s precisely why it’s so important to take some time to think about the fruit God might be calling us to bear. What might that fruit look like for us as a ministry area?
Could it be the fruit of faith, as we grow together in our knowledge and love of God, becoming better equipped to live faithfully in our whole lives? Or the fruit of hope, as the community around us grows and flourishes, and issues of injustice are challenged? Or the fruit of love, as people in our communities who might be isolated are able to find their place in a loving and welcoming church family?
When we focus first on thinking about the fruit of God’s work in us and through us, rather than the difficulty of our current situation, we start to realise why we should be doing what we’re doing. We can start to grow a picture of the shared future together that God has in store for us — a future that I continue to believe is even better than we could possibly imagine!
Taken from the May issue of the Ministry Area Magazine, available in churches this Sunday.