In our daily meditations over the last couple of days, we have been talking about believers being the Body of Christ in this world. This kind of organic unity with Christ, spoken of by Jesus, is that He is the Vine, and believers are the branches. The fruit that comes from this organic union with Him will draw many into the Kingdom of God. The branches can’t bear fruit unless they remain in the vine (John 15). We are talking about an intimate love relationship with the God that created us. People today are longing for a relationship with God that is genuine.
I remember a story that John Wimber, the founder and church planter of the Vineyard Movement of churches, shared an event during a conference where he was the main speaker. Before John was involved in the Vineyard group of churches, he worked for Fuller Theological Seminary and extensively taught church growth. One time at a teaching conference, John was taking time to introduce his topic; a frustrated pastor and delegate stood up and stated that he already knew the things John was saying, but when was he going to get some advice on getting his church to grow! John patiently told him that he would have all his questions answered in a short while. A little later, the man again became impatient as he hoped to learn some new method that would catapult his church into more significant growth in numbers, standing up in the crowd, he said, "Yes, I know all that, but when are you going to help me grow my church?" John just looked at him, and at that moment, the Spirit of God gave John a wise, intuitive answer. He asked the man a loaded question: "Okay, how many more like you do you want?" The man fell back into his seat and exclaimed, "I don't want any more like me! I want them to be like Jesus!"
The truth John Wimber was stating was that often the followers go as the leader goes. If we want our group or church to embody biblical truths, the people must first see those truths in the leaders! If we're going to grow spiritually, we must follow the Maker's instructions. True life and reproduction can only come from an intimate union with the True Vine. Think of it; all life in nature is born out of intimacy. Why would it be any different in the Church's growth, the Body of Christ, a living organism? Many leaders have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road to growing the church. These failures are especially true in the Western Church today. Pastors desire to make our churches comfortable for non-believers. The goal is to draw the lost to hear the Gospel by removing the roadblocks by making the church "a seeker-sensitive" or relaxing environment.
This moving of roadblocks is an idea close to God's heart since He sought to remove the religious obstacles obscuring the image of the heart of the Father from the people of His day. The Lord often challenged the Pharisees and taught people using simple stories they could understand. Unfortunately, in many churches today, we have focused on a performance-oriented event and put a greater emphasis on professional presentation and less emphasis on the One we are presenting. Speaking the Word of God is in itself powerful. In contrast, our performance can often seem based on human effort. We need to connect to the divine source—Jesus in an intimate relationship. When we connect people to Christ through His Word, He has the power to transform lives. Do you believe this? We cannot afford to forget or push to one side the Lord from being the One living in His people. People want the "real deal," the true Living Bread that alone can satisfy. Keith Thomas