“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.” — Matthew 7:18
Sometimes thinking too much really does hurt.
Lately, God has been striking my head and my heart with the idea of helping those in need, reaching out to whom Jesus called “the least of these.” And He has been calling me to encourage my church to take a painful look at itself and determine if it is indeed the body of Christ, if our community looks at us and sees Jesus or if we’re just another church among many who does some nice stuff sometimes to help people.
In his forward to Brandon Hatmaker’s book Barefoot Church, Ed Stetzer said, “The gospel of Jesus Christ, embodied and proclaimed by the church, remains the only hope of the world, which means it is also the only hope of the poor and disenfranchised.” If you have had any experience with some of the things I have written in the past about the state of “American” Christianity, then you have an idea why Stetzer’s statement troubles me.
As I read further into Barefoot Church, though, Hatmaker says this:
“Let’s stop complaining about the church we see and start becoming the church we dream of.”
It was this statement that poked at my heart and my head and since reading it I have been feeling like something big is building inside of me, or like a strong voice is screaming from the inside and I have to share its message.
It doesn’t take much for me to realize that it’s not WHAT is inside of me, but WHO.
How quickly I forget that Jesus said, “If you abide in me, I will abide in you.”
As I grow and mature, reading more and more of God’s Word, I feel this stirring and unsettling pull to take Jesus more seriously and apply His words to my life and challenge the church to apply His teachings, as well.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus uses a tree to demonstrate false prophets and how they can be identified by their fruit. I’ve read that section several times. I’ve participated in Bible studies, heard sermons about it, read meditations and devotions about it. But when I read it today, my focus changed.
If the bad tree refers to false prophets, then the good tree must refer to the church.
The body of Christ produces good fruit. True representatives of Jesus, who seek to embody and proclaim the gospel, will produce good fruit.
But some fruit trees need to be shaken in order for the fruit to be shared with others. (Tweet that!)
That is the thought that has unsettled me all day long today, because I know God is calling me and all believers to shake their good trees in order to share the good fruit with a world in need.
Churches are full of great people who love God and who want to see a church that serves the needy, a church that seeks to share the gospel with those who need Jesus. But a lot of them are disappointed when that doesn’t happen.
Because many Christians aren’t becoming the church they want to see.
We are the church. We are the body of Christ. If you have accepted Jesus, embraced His sacrifice for you, then you and all other believers are the church. When Jesus speaks to His followers, He is speaking to you and to me, not only to pastors or missionaries or “someone else.”
I’m not a tree shaker. I’m more of a tree climber. I’m more of the guy who will shimmy up the tree, pick some fruit for you, and bring it down. I will share my faith with you, if you ask. I will help you move furniture, mow your lawn, clean your house… if you ask. I rarely take the initiative without some sort of invitation.
I really think this is the reason a lot of hurting, suffering people see the church but don’t see Jesus. They see us gather, they know us by the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the books we read. But they don’t see Jesus in us. They see the tree, but they don’t know what kind of fruit it produces… until someone comes along and shakes it.
Jesus was a tree shaker. He rocked the world of the religious elite of his time and brought good news to the poor, the imprisoned, the brokenhearted. He exposed the bitter fruit of the Pharisees and reminded our world that God is love, that righteousness and truth can be found by following Him.
After His death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus’s disciples became tree shakers. The early church was made up of a group of tree shakers. You would know them by their fruit. You would recognize them because, as my friend Bob Goff would say, they leaked Jesus.
My prayer today is that God would follow me through this. I have a lot of questions for the church and for myself.