I start this essay off by telling you
I’m no harlot. While it’s true I haven’t attended church in a year, there’s
good, Christian reasons for that. I hope some of those reasons will come alive
for you in this essay.
spent most of my almost 40 years of life in church, however. One night, after
looking for new church to attend, I began to bear fruit. What kind of fruit did
I bear? I began pruning the Church. As night fell and I laid down ready for
sleep, something came over me. It was God. I was being pruned by God! He was
doing this so I may bear more fruit.
I believe, is a portion of that fruit.
am I even talking about? Why do I speak in riddles about pruning and fruit? It
comes, of course, from the Bible. In John 15: 1-11, we see Jesus telling his
disciples about bearing fruit:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the
vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not
bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears
fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You
are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide
in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it
abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine,
you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears
much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If
anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and
they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If
you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what
you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this
My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My
time I heard this passage read in church, it was a sermon about suffering. In that sermon, in a rather
contorted way, the pastor said God makes us suffer so we will grow and bear
that time, I have read further such interpretations.
to those views, I take this as a very loving speech made by Jesus. It is also
instructive in that it specifically tells us how to grow in Christ and seek a
better union with God. Let us, then, examine this passage and meditate upon it.
at all clear that a plant suffers when it is pruned. It’s almost specifically
made to be pruned. That’s how it’ll bear more fruit! Fruit, of course, is
necessary for propagation and, thus, even more fruit!
ancient peoples learned about pruning, they discovered how to produce more food
for themselves and others. This was an innovative concept that brought about
many things, including, according to my World History textbooks, the ability to
settle in one place and not scavenge for food.
Why would a plant be made in such a
way that, if one prunes it, it will produce more fruit? I cannot say I know the
answer to that. But, for us, in this analogy, we are to be pruned so that we
may mature, grow and produce our own fruits.
Jesus doesn’t say a thing about
suffering in this passage. Instead, he explains how, when we are a part of Him,
this is how we will come to bear fruit.
Since a plant probably doesn’t suffer when it
is pruned and Jesus says nothing about suffering in this passage, we can assume
that the passage isn’t about suffering. It’s simply outlining how we can grow
This is important.
Many people wish to know how to
grow in Christ.
Every one of us has the capacity.
There’s probably more than what I
will tell you in this essay about growing in Christ. But having been pruned by
God, I’ll share with you the way it came for me so you may be able to use that
knowledge for yourself.
It started with me looking for a
church to attend. I had been to churches before and wanted something new.
This wasn’t just a personal taste.
I wanted, specifically, a church leader who will let their ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and
their ‘no’ be ‘no’ (Matthew 5:37). This meant, of course, I was aiming for a
direct line to God in my church leadership because this simple verse tells us
that anything beyond letting one’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ be ‘no’ comes
from the evil one.
In all of this, I was pushing away
With Matthew 5:37 in my mind, I
prayed as I looked for churches online. I came to want a mature leadership in
I told a friend of mine that I was
seeking a new church and they said, “Go a few times and see if they remember
I wasn’t looking for that in a
church, though. Sure, it’s nice to be welcomed and remembered, but I really
wanted something deeper. I wanted a church leader who would instruct me so I
may grow in Christ.
As I grabbed ahold of Matthew 5:37
in my heart, the extraneous things started to fall away.
Most churches engage in sales and
marketing tactics to grow their congregation.
I wasn’t looking for that.
I was looking for a church with many
mature and sincerely-seeking members.
Sales and marketing tactics
include: offering an insincere welcome, trying to remember your face and name,
delivering cheesy sermons, among other things.
Clutching Matthew 5:37 in my heart,
those things fell away. What was left was the heart of a church where members
are free to grow and mature in Christ.
Later that night, I laid down to go
to sleep. The Holy Spirit came over me. It was the most comforting and loving
experience I ever had. I laid there in pure love and fell asleep.
The next morning, I woke up feeling
wobbly. Not wobbly in my body. Wobbly in my soul.
I had been pruned! Pruned by God!
As I adjusted myself, I felt good
because God thought I was bearing fruit and wanted me to bear more.
The experience after being pruned
is like walking for the first time. None of us probably remember taking our
first steps, but there’s a new freedom of movement that happens. A new dignity
and power. At first, we wobble around, holding onto the couch and side tables
for support. Then, off we go, taking our first wobbly step.
That’s how I felt after being
pruned by God.
But why would God prune me? What kind of fruit was I bearing
that He wanted more?
I was, it seems, pruning the Church!
When we clip away the extraneous, unnecessary
things—the things that take away from the True Vine—we are pruning. I just so
happened to be pruning the church as I sought one to attend. By keeping Matthew
5:37 in my heart, I was snipping away at anything from the evil one.
The evil one, it is typically said,
is Satan. In my pruning, I was clipping away anything from Satan and leaving
the rest—the True Vine—to bear fruit.
This is the kind of thing God
wants! He wants us to be vinedressers like He is!
Note that when God pruned me—and when
I pruned the Church—this wasn’t punishment or suffering. I wanted a mature church
with no hint of the evil one because not only did I want to grow in Christ, I
wanted to commune with other mature believers.
God’s pruning was done in love.
Sure, I felt wobbly in my soul. But I knew I would adjust. And the feeling that
I had pleased God through some actions was incredible.
God prunes where there is fruit
growing. We each can take the first steps to produce fruit by keeping scripture
sincerely in our hearts, praying, and looking to become more mature in Christ
and seeking to be with fellow mature believers.
Note that I held firmly to the
scripture when I was pruning. I wasn’t being critical for the sake of being
critical. I also wasn’t stepping outside the Church in order to offer
complaints. Rather, from within the truth of the Bible, I found myself clipping
away at unnecessary things found in church.
If you wish to prune anything, you
must do this very thing. Keep God’s goodness in your heart. Hold it steadfast.
Everything extraneous will appear to you and the True Vine will be revealed.
This act is much different from
criticizing for the sake of mere criticism.
A lot of people criticize the Church,
but they do not hold the scripture in their hearts while doing it. In fact,
they may not even care about the utter destruction of the Church at all.
But when you are pruning, you are
seeking to propagate more of the good. The entire purpose is to bear more
fruit. Pruning a plant is different from manicuring a plant or simply whopping
it down. Pruning focuses on the fruit bearing portions and seeks to reproduce
them so there will be more fruit.
I wasn’t punishing the Church at all. On the
very contrary, I was looking for a church home where I may truly grow in Christ.
In doing that, I was looking for the real goods—the goods that are of God and
not of Satan.
Pruning is an act of love. There
is, in fact, a long tradition of sincere and mature believers who pruned the
Church. One such person is Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, a philosopher during
the Danish Golden Age, took Christiandom to task on many things. And he did
this as a Christian. His entire
project, we may say, was the renew Christian faith within Christiandom. Kierkegaard
wrote an enormous amount—and even offered contrasting interpretations of scripture
than what was so often told in church. He developed entirely new concepts and
is considered the Father of Existentialism.
Kierkegaard was a pruner.
In this way, we may join the
collection of pruners within Christianity to bear God’s good fruit in the
When you go about pruning—whether it’s
a person or a body such as the Church—you will not be relying merely on your own
understanding. In Proverbs 3: 5-6, we learn the following:
Trust in the Lord with all your
heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all
your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
pruning, you will not be leaning on your own understanding. Instead, you will
take a bit of the true word of God in your heart. This will make your aim straight.
You will come about whatever needs pruning, and as you hold the scripture in
your heart, the extraneous branches will appear to you.
entire act of pruning is done in the spirit of the Lord. It’s not about your
comfort. Some branches may appear to you that have been a source of comfort for
a long time. Remember, though, that Satan can disguise Himself as comforting.
In fact, seeking sheer comforts of the world may, in fact, be the very thing
the evil one wants.
does not mean that God wants us uncomfortable! Instead, He wants a mature walk with us. That is, in fact,
what this entire essay is about. You must trust that you will grow and God will
carry you to a level where you are not particularly suffering. But growing may
make you wobbly—just as I was when I was pruned.
own pruning, I found that feel-good messages told in church have stunted
believers, including myself. When God was pruning me, He was preparing me for a
better walk with Him; a mature walk.
I have taken spiritual inventories in the past. Let me simply
tell you, the results haven’t been good to my ears. Two of my spiritual gifts
are prophecy and evangelism. I did not want to hear this! It was never my place,
to my mind, to offer and interpret the Word. Yet, here I am. That is exactly
what I am doing!
purpose in our lives is often a mystery until we take the first step God guides
us with. If you go about pruning, God may lead you to places you never thought
you would be.
written things before, but I never thought I would be a Christian writer. I
most certainly never thought I would be instructing people as to how to mature
take a spiritual gifts inventory, be sincere in your answers. You may not like
the results. But it’s best to know your true spiritual gifts—for God will use
think that the number of days you spent in church or the number of years you’ve
been a Christian count toward maturity, think again. This very essay is about
how to grow in Christ and it has nothing to do with time in church. In fact, if
you have spent years in a church that needs pruning, you may in fact be stunted
in your growth, as I was.
no limit to how much you can grow in Christ. Every day is a challenge. I have
found that going with the spiritual flow rather than the flow of the world gets
one to a better understanding and a closer relationship with God.
end, maturing in God is about seeking the Lord, first, and performing Godly
actions, second. The more bold you become in your Godly actions, like pruning,
the more mature you will become in Christ.
A word about suffering.
Since the passage about the True
Vine is often taken to be about suffering, let us discuss suffering in the
Christians, for a very long time,
have been perplexed and have offered various understandings of the problem of
I have a philosophy background. In
philosophy, this problem is typically known as the Problem of Evil. In short, the
question is: Why, if God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, does He
allow evil and suffering in the world? Clearly, He knows about it. Also, He’s
against it and could do something about it.
The Problem of Evil is often taken
to be an argument against the existence of God.
Let me offer a different
interpretation of the problem.
If you are a Christian, you must
believe in evil. Specifically, you believe in Satan. Satan, according to
Christians, is the source of evil.
God could be an authoritarian and come
in to rid the world of all suffering and evil. But that would leave us stunted
in our growth.
Instead, I offer this: Why, if
there is evil and suffering in the world, do we allow it?
According to most Christian
traditions, we have free will. So, we can do something about evil. Also
according to most Christian traditions, we are born with the ability to be virtuous
and good. And, clearly, because many people discuss evil things in the world,
we know about many of them.
Why don’t we stop them?
Keeping your eye on God and holding
steadfast to scripture when you are pruning is, in fact, a way of ridding the
world of evil and unveiling the goodness of God. It also encourages your own
personal growth and maturity. God wants mature believers. Believers who act and
do things. God wants believers who bear fruit.
I hope this short essay has aided
in the instruction of maturity so you may grow in Christ. Remember, this is a
two-way street. We have to do our part. When we do, we will be blessed with a
deeper relationship with the Creator.
In the end, that’s what this is all supposed to be about.
[This essay was initially published on Amazon for .99 cents and can still be found as such here.]