Here is the full question from the Salt & Light Conference attendee: “Shouldn’t we say that growth and multiplication are complimentary, where we see growth in Acts with Peter’s preaching during the day of Pentecost first and the process of discipleship done throughout the church thereafter by Paul with the Corinthians or with his spiritual son Timothy telling the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ or Peter with the Jews in 2 Peter 1:12?”
My studied conviction is that something fascinating happens when you overlay Jesus’ three promises regarding fruitfulness in John 15 with the A.P.E.S/T. section from Paul (Ephesians 4:12).
Jesus affirms that those who abide in him will be pruned by the Father so they will
- bear fruit (John 15:4)
- bear much fruit (John 15:5)
- bear fruit that lasts (John 15:16)
His analogy is powerful and significant in Israel’s history. In the vine and the branches analogy we know fresh grapes and wine are the fruit being referenced. Papa God tends the branches to ensure they have optimum opportunities to produce grapes. Their fruitfulness is fundamentally about abiding in Jesus. Later, the way grapes become “fruit that lasts” is via wine making. In Israel’s history there were crops that were incredibly significant for sustaining life and as economic resources: wheat, barley, olives (for oil) and wine were life sustaining. They were bartered and sold by people in this nation right at the point of convergence of two major trade routes: shipping vessels on the Mediterranean Sea and cross land caravans coming from far eastern regions of Asia and the southern regions of Africa.
The Hebrew word “shalom” is most often translated “peace” but it probably would be better translated by something like “flourishing.” It is a wholly positive word about well-being. Fruitfulness is about wholeness. God created the world and man and called for all of creation to be fruitful and multiply. He works so we will flourish—becoming and producing everything we can and were designed to bear.
The critical piece for us to do in response to God’s purpose and ongoing work is to abide in the vine, to stay connected to Jesus and his life giving nourishment (sap as it were). Every new grape has seeds for replication.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers are the functions Jesus has graced the church with “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Ephesians 4:12). The body of Christ flourishes when every part is being equipped. Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers all have essential functions to see each part equipped, empowered and bearing fruit.
Wine making takes more resources than starting new vines. But without the new vines, there is a limit to how much wine can be produced. Apostles and prophets are especially significant to getting new groups started among new people groups and in new places. Paul and his missionary band were the tabernacle-like portable church. They reveal the incredible value and need for the church on the go, seeking out where God desires to be working next. Evangelists and pastor/teachers follow and are critical empowering every new believer to begin “bearing much fruit” and arriving at the place where “fruit that lasts” can be produced, too.
In DMMs the evangelists who bear much fruit are insiders to the culture who are quickly involved in reaching their friends and neighbors. They are like the many plant cuttings which are taken off a growing vine and re-planted to result in many fruitful vines (all taking their DNA from Jesus). Wine making is about preservation. It is about long-term access to the life-giving resources given from the vine. You don’t start by building your wine press, you start by planting a vineyard. It is my conviction that Church Growth models lead with what should follow. Far too often, they also export lots of foreign culture. They have taken far too much DNA from the business world, I fear.
Yes, addition (“much fruit”) is complimentary to multiplication (“bear fruit), but there is an orderliness we need to recognize and honor. And we must recognize that preservation comes even later in the cycle.