Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The One Sine Qua Non of Church Health

John 15:1 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser." God planted Israel as a vine, but that vine had failed to yield fruit (Isa. 5; Jer. 2:23; Ps. 80). Our Lord here proclaims that he stands in Israel's place as the true vine- the vine that does not fail to give life, tended by the Father Himself (cf. 15:2, which I've written about here).

John 15:4-5 says,
    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
If we abide in Jesus, we will be fruitful. Bet the farm on it. Jesus is the perfect vine. The Father is the perfect vinedresser. If we are in him, we will be fruitful.

If we do not abide in Jesus, we can do nothing. We will bear no fruit in our own lives and in our churches. We are useless, except for being burned as firewood (15:6).

This is significant, since bearing fruit is in fact how we glorify God and prove to be His disciples (15:8). Christians recognize that glorifying God is the central purpose of our life. Fruit-bearing discipleship is what glorifies Him, and we attain that by abiding in Christ.

Jesus told us all of this so that we may share in his joy, which means that our joy will be full. Note it well: when we glorify God as fruit-bearing disciples by abiding in Christ, we become maximally joyful. This is an exciting prospect.

We might lay this out more simply like so:

Abiding in Christ --> Bearing Fruit/Discipleship --> Glorifying God --> Fullness of Joy

Not Abiding in Christ --> Spiritual Death & Worthlessness

The writers of this blog love the Church. We are often frustrated by her to be sure, but we love her. This is the major reason why we write, that in some small way we might contribute to her overall health. To this end we strategize constantly. We try to think carefully, then articulate clearly problems and potential solutions in the Church.

But as I read John 15 this morning I was reminded of something that is often so obvious that we fail to think about it: if church leaders are not abiding in Christ, all the strategizing in the world is a waste of time.

Brothers and sisters who love the Church and seek to lead it to health, I beg you: abide in Christ. If you fail to do this, your ministry is worthless. Abide in Christ through prayerful reliance on the Spirit (16:13), through Bible reading and memorization (15:7), through meditation on the overwhelming love of Christ (15:9), through obedience (15:10), and through love for other Christians (15:12-13).

Abiding in Christ is the one sine qua non of church health. Abide in him, and do it constantly. This is what we need above all else in our churches: leaders who abide in Christ.


Chris TerryNelson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Faris said...


Any particular reason you deleted your comment? It was a worthwhile critique, I think, at least in the respect that I myself debated whether or not to flesh out "abide" more in the post, but decided not to for brevity's sake.


Anonymous said...

I spent this morning pre-reading several books on spiritual formation. One of the key themes in each was the absolute necessity of relying and focusing on Christ. Abiding is at least this and you have capture the necessity well in this post. All our deep thinking, good planning, and faithful practices are of no avail if we do not abide in Christ.

This is indeed the sine qua non.