Fruit of the Spirit, Part XII
Does your church have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control pouring from its leaders and most of its people, on your campus and into the streets where its people are? If not, something is terribly wrong!
Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel!
This begs for a question: why do so many Christians see their faith as "on hold" until when it may be needed, and/or are doing nothing or just what they can get away with?
Is the Fruit of the Spirit in you and in your Church?
How many of us have ever ventured into a church that was filled with unkindness, where we were ignored or even mistreated and where the church seemed more like a thorn bush than a fruitful vine…a church filled with a bad atmosphere from the bad spiritual breaths of its people making smog instead of the sweet fragrance of God's presence and love? As a pastor, I have a tough battle to make sure my flock behaves so that Christ would be pleased. And of course, I need to set the tone. I can try my best to set an example so I am not a thorn bush, and I can teach; but I cannot make them behave! I can model, teach, disciple, urge, and pray. But, real, authentic Christian love comes solely from a real, authentic Christian formation. This is caused from the Fruit of the Spirit growing in each of us. If someone is not growing in the Lord, he/she is not willing or able to treat others with love and respect, nor is he/she able to model and do and be as Christ exemplified and taught. Care, compassion, and a real affection for others will be moot, love will be stifled, and kindness absent; and no matter how good the campus, teaching, or mission are, all that will be noticed is an annoying noise. The church will be an irritating and frustrating club of stubborn prideful people, devoid of harmony and brotherly love-devoid of Christ! Do we really want that? If not, what are you willing to do about it?
The essential way to grow a church is to be faithful with our Fruit! No one wants to come to a club where the people are angry, bitter, immoral, impure, corrupt, into idolatry and witchcraft, and full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness…and so forth! These are the key words Paul talked about in Romans, chapter one. It is the same with a local church; who wants strife when care and friendship are called for and needed? People will come to a place where there is love and joy, where they are treated with kindness, cared for, allowed to work on themselves while being shown patience and the composure of Christ from the leaders. We need to know that we display Christ by our attitudes and actions. If we do not do this right from what Jesus modeled and taught, we will get our churches all skewed upside down and wrong. We will be the church of the thorn-bush, a fruit-stand devoid of fruit, a place of dysfunction instead of a church of Jesus Christ and His transforming power!
Remember: Christ did not give up on us when things went from bad to worse with our sin. His grace, forgiveness, and perseverance came to us anyway!
A Fruitless Church is a Big Problem!
One of the main problems I have seen in the churches I have served and consulted for or have researched is the lack of Fruit from its leaders and members. We have to see this as a travesty before our Holy God. It can come from the over-focus on the personality of a leader who is prideful or a preoccupation with a trend, giving no regard to the percepts of the Word, or the basic lack of kindness when you visit such a church. Some churches are good at one or two of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of the rest of the Fruits. Maybe you will see big smiles from the pastor who is a good teacher, but sometimes impatient and cold-perhaps even smug. This can be from focusing on the Gifts of the Spirit while ignoring His call and Fruit of the Spirit. We have church leaders and pastors concerned about being deliberate and intentional, thinking that "my church is exclusively my ministry; this is all about me." They are all about building a legacy to themselves and how they want to build their church to and for themselves, something which they rationalize away using statistics, pop psychology, and business trends while ignoring the Word.
How many people, in an average, good church, practice the Fruit of the Spirit in that church? Well, we do not know yet. The initial research is all over the map from a mere twenty percent 20% to a quantity of eighty percent (80%) of church leaders who deem themselves fruitful. In the mean time, those under their leadership show a small deviation; a measly eighteen percent (18%) to an over seventy percent (70%) see their leaders as bearers of fruit. How many practice it at home? How many practice it at work? This is the research we are seeking. When we know what we are doing with our faith and fruit and see what Christ calls us to do, perhaps we can improve our church's workplaces and our homes!
It seems, from our initial research (our partner the Schaeffer Institute) and experiences, that most Christians respond to their faith with a rear end firmly planted in a pew that goes nowhere near fruitful service or glory to Christ. They hold on to a will that does not allow conviction or change to their routine or life. Thus, church is just a club for comfort and not a "huddle" to strategize and put forward how to play the game of Christian life after receiving our orders from the Coach. We need to know that Christ calls us to change our minds like we change the oil in the car. Look what Romans twelve tells us to do: "devote themselves to him; and avoiding conformity to the world." In other words, we are to be changed, fruitful people so we can be change agents to others. Not to be infected by the world, but to help it along toward His purpose. We cannot do that when we are poured out to our will and desires only and not to our Lord. Oh, that we can be: "…conformed to his holy will"… "to think humbly"… "to exercise faithfully"… to mutual love, diligence, patience, hope, prayer, hospitality, compassion, and condescension …. "and becoming conduct towards all men"! Our devotion to Christ must be rooted in the mind and then let the Fruit translate it to the feet and the rest of our bodies in between-the body of us as human beings and a body of believers in relation to all those around us, which is our duty (Rom. 12:9-13).
A lack of Fruit is what Christ was so concerned about with the leaders of His day (just read Matthew 23) and why He spoke so much about this and that the coming judgment for our actions and responsibility. We will be held accountable as followers and especially as leaders; thus, we have to know what we are called to do. It starts with knowing Christ and then learning how He wants us to operate. Saved? Yes! To say this another way, as the Book of James asks us, what good is our faith if we misuse it or do nothing with it? Galatians, chapter five, gives us a key template to the Christian life and how to do ministry. And guess what; the churches that are Fruitful-as in the out flowing of the Fruit of the Spirit-are the ones that grow more, not only in numbers, but in faith and things that matter to our Lord! Just look how we will be judged in the eternity to come; our reward will not depend on how well and how often we exercised our gifts, but how well we produced the crop of effectual Fruit. Yes, the gifts and jobs of ministry are important; but the Fruit is the essential essence of our call. This is what is fundamental and indispensable for a capable leader and for an effective church!
© 2000, 2009 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools, www.discipleshiptools.org/