The Fruit of Renewal
“You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.” — Luke 6:43–44, The Message
If there is one thing Christians of all stripes agree on, it is the need for renewal in the church. In this series of articles, I have explored the implications of Mark Sayer’s book, Reappearing Church, as Christians grapple with losing their cultural influence and search for avenues forward. Wanting to see renewal, praying and contending for renewal, gathering with others to form a renewal “remnant” are all prerequisites to seeing renewal expand and take root.
I’ve talked about the soil of renewal, how the hostile soil we find ourselves in is both a severe threat and incredible opportunity. But the challenge has been laid at our feet, to “worship with the patterns of our lives.” These patterns are the seeds of renewal and form the genetic code for the necessary transformation to occur.
At this point, we need to get a vision for why we are contending for renewal. A domesticated vision of church would have us believe the goal is to grow Sunday attendance, gain back political power, or fill the offering basket. But renewal subverts temporal markers of success and starts a movement instead.
Mike Breen calls this the “red-hot center” of renewal. Instead of domestication, “churches become apostolic hubs, bases of renewal, spreading presence-filled believers out into the world.” — pg.179, Reappearing Church. God’s presence and power turn striving into easy victories and empowered, quickening ministry. “What before was a struggle to break up the dirt to plant kingdom seeds now becomes the harvesting of fruit.” — pg. 181
Renewal movements spawn personal and corporate transformation. This is the fruit! There is a high probability of failure if we submit to the aims of the status quo. There is no retreat or retrenchment. John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement of churches, said before his death in 1997 that we needed to “take the best and GO!” As a young church planter, I took that admonition seriously and it eventually led to a severed relationship with the movement that launched me. The truth is, renewal and transformation are costly! We should be prepared to lose position, prestige, and even financial security.
The lack of quality of the church’s fruit should be obvious by now. Diseased fruit does not come from a healthy tree. When abuse gets covered up and victims demonized…disease. When leaders are allowed to remain— and even celebrated as — narcissists “for the sake of the Gospel”…disease. When getting votes and issue politics trump (excuse the pun) the radical, transformational power of God’s kingdom at work…disease. The heart of renewal is not satisfied with healthy fruit being choked out by disease. As Jesus said,
“Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” — Luke 3:9, NLT
I believe there is an incredible opportunity in this age for diverse followers of Jesus to come together under the flag of renewal. We are not going to agree on theology, politics, or church models. The temptation will be to argue about the disease and its cause rather than contend in prayer for its cure.
The fruit of renewal is a church transformed into Christlikeness. Leaders will stop being religious entertainers and will be consumed with empowering and financing the Spirit-inspired ministry that is birthed among the people. The church will wrestle deeply with Scripture in healthy ways that build up rather than tear down. Prayer, silence, and solitude will be central to the church’s worshipping practice. The Holy Spirit will be no longer be pushed to the margins as irrelevant, weird, or “not for today”. The church will regularly invoke God’s presence to inform and empower everything she does. It is this fruit — if it is truly good and comes from a healthy tree — that I hope will spark a revival in this generation.