Session 2: Talking to his disciples, His future church leaders, Jesus said in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit… ”
There is one thing holding these disciples back at this point from producing fruit. It is the very same thing that will also hold us back if we don't work to overcome it.
I was thinking the other day about the setbacks our world has experienced this past year - Covid issues - social injustice issues - political turmoil. There have been hurricanes in Louisiana and wildfires in the west. There have been school closures and job losses… the list could go on and on and on. Bringing it closer home, the church as a whole has been forced to make some major changes. Many were forced, many were needed.
Changes in strategy and changes in how we are going to reach more people with the gospel through online ministry and other opportunities, I believe, have helped to position us to become more relational and more in line with the Book of Acts in our approach. However, it is tough.
Though many of the changes were needed, change is still amazingly tough. Let’s face it, most of us don’t like change. Many of us in the church, especially as church leaders, have gone through some of the most difficult changes and challenges in our lives in this last year. Some of us make these difficult challenges even harder on ourselves MENTALLY because we don’t like change.
John Maxwell, on a recent podcast said something very simple, yet very profound. He said, “What happens TO me and what happens IN me doesn’t have to be the same.”
“What happens TO me
and what happens IN me
doesn’t have to be the same.”
What happened to us last year and even into this year was horrific. It was shocking. We could have never fathomed a year like we just had. At times it feels like it’s just a bad dream. Yet, in reality, our world and our personal lives are forever changed because of these events and circumstances. I hear the phrases about “going back to normal after COVID” from pastors and ministers. I hate to break the news to you. This world is forever changed. The church is forever impacted. Our personal lives are forever different. This world is not ever going back to “the way things used to be.” It is only moving forward to what is to come. Many of the changes in the church world are not ever going back. We are moving forward with what’s to come.
Change is inevitable. We are always changing. There’s nothing any of us could have done to control any of it. So, while we grieve the old way of life, it is important we move forward with what’s to come. We have to realize what’s happening TO me is not something I can always control; what’s happening IN me is something I can control.
How you move forward with bringing forth fruit in your life as Jesus commanded doesn’t begin with what’s happening on the OUTSIDE of you. The success of fulfilling the call to bring forth fruit in your life starts with what’s happening on the INSIDE of you. We have to be better on the inside than we are on the outside. We have to grow and improve the inside of us - the mental and spiritual aspects of our lives.
Your success as a church leader in consistently doing great things for the Lord – in bringing forth fruit - is heavily contingent on what happens on the inside of you. What we desperately need right now is church leaders who are willing to admit we don’t like everything that’s going on around us and that we may not have the answers that will fix what’s going on around us. However, we are going to go and bring forth fruit with the help of the Lord. We’re going to use this time as an opportunity to retool some things in our lives. We are going to use these circumstances as a chance to get rid of the cobwebs in our minds and lives. We are going to figure out how to dig deep within us, how we can grow and become better and more effective church leaders in the midst of very tough situations.
I’m not sure we should be asking ourselves the question of WHEN all of this is going to be over – or when the messes around us are going to come into order – because it really doesn’t even matter! I think the more appropriate question is simple. When I get control of the internal of myself and quit allowing so many external factors to influence my internal life, then ultimately the question becomes: When am I going to give the control of my life and leadership over to Jesus Christ?
The number one reason church leaders are not producing the fruit
the Lord desires of us is because of the mental game within us.
The stronger you are on the INSIDE, the less OUTSIDE circumstances are going to impact you. You have constantly remind yourself of the wisdom of John Maxwell - that what happens TO you does not have to control what happens IN you. It is so important that we somehow become responders and not reactors to the things around us. As terrible as some of these major life circumstances are - and all of the other things that have risen in our personal lives – I’m certain we all wish these things would have never happened. Yet, as terrible as it is, these things have forced us to put a mirror to our hearts and faces and evaluate what is most important in our lives.
Many church leaders and church members have operated for years in a consumer mentality, asking always, “What can the church give me?” We think, somehow, “If I just preach a good sermon on Sunday, dedicate babies, and bury the dead... that’s all that is needed and expected.” From there, the question is what validation and benefit can the church give to me? However, it seems to me, this turmoil has sort of separated the wheat from the tares. It has caused a distinct division in those who are just consuming and those who want to produce fruit in the Kingdom of God. It has forced us to evaluate more deeply what we really want in ministry and in life.
For some, that hasn’t gone so well. For others it has been a tremendous motivator to sort of step up your game, to get more serious about what you’re doing in your life for God, to make the needed changes to be more God-centered in your life and to make the needed changes in your life to improve your internal self. I realize we don’t like the pressure; yet it is forcing us to dig deep, to make the mental and spiritual changes within that will really make a difference in this end-time world.
Evaluate your life through the lens of these questions:
What positive things have come from
the negative external circumstances in my life?
How can I use those circumstances to
propel me forward in what I’ve been chosen to do?
Spend some time processing these two questions and your unique answers to them both.
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