The essential way to grow a church is to be faithful with our Fruit!

Remember: Christ did not give up on us when things went from bad to worse with our sin. His grace, forgiveness, and perseverance came to us anyway!

A Fruitless Church is a Big Problem!

One of the main problems I have seen in the churches I have served and consulted for or have researched is the lack of Fruit from its leaders and members. We have to see this as a travesty before our Holy God. It can come from the over-focus on the personality of a leader who is prideful or a preoccupation with a trend, giving no regard to the percepts of the Word, or the basic lack of kindness when you visit such a church. Some churches are good at one or two of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of the rest of the Fruits. Maybe you will see big smiles from the pastor who is a good teacher, but sometimes impatient and cold—perhaps even smug. This can be from focusing on the Gifts of the Spirit while ignoring His call and Fruit of the Spirit. We have church leaders and pastors concerned about being deliberate and intentional, thinking that “my church is exclusively my ministry; this is all about me.” They are all about building a legacy to themselves and how they want to build their church to and for themselves, something which they rationalize away using statistics, pop psychology, and business trends while ignoring the Word.

How many people, in an average, good church, practice the Fruit of the Spirit in that church? Well, we do not know yet. The initial research is all over the map from a mere twenty percent 20% to a quantity of eighty percent (80%) of church leaders who deem themselves fruitful. In the mean time, those under their leadership show a small deviation; a measly eighteen percent (18%) to an over seventy percent (70%) see their leaders as bearers of fruit. How many practice it at home? How many practice it at work? This is the research we are seeking. When we know what we are doing with our faith and fruit and see what Christ calls us to do, perhaps we can improve our church’s workplaces and our homes!

It seems, from our initial research (our partner the Schaeffer Institute) and experiences, that most Christians respond to their faith with a rear end firmly planted in a pew that goes nowhere near fruitful service or glory to Christ. They hold on to a will that does not allow conviction or change to their routine or life. Thus, church is just a club for comfort and not a “huddle” to strategize and put forward how to play the game of Christian life after receiving our orders from the Coach. We need to know that Christ calls us to change our minds like we change the oil in the car. Look what Romans twelve tells us to do: “devote themselves to him; and avoiding conformity to the world.” In other words, we are to be changed, fruitful people so we can be change agents to others. Not to be infected by the world, but to help it along toward His purpose. We cannot do that when we are poured out to our will and desires only and not to our Lord. Oh, that we can be: “…conformed to his holy will”… “to think humbly”… “to exercise faithfully”… to mutual love, diligence, patience, hope, prayer, hospitality, compassion, and condescension …. “and becoming conduct towards all men”! Our devotion to Christ must be rooted in the mind and then let the Fruit translate it to the feet and the rest of our bodies in between—the body of us as human beings and a body of believers in relation to all those around us, which is our duty (Rom. 12:9-13).

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The Essential Role of Fruit in the Church

Does your church have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control pouring from its leaders and most of its people, on your campus and into the streets where its people are? If not, something is terribly wrong!

Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel!

This begs for a question: why do so many Christians see their faith as “on hold” until when it may be needed, and/or are doing nothing or just what they can get away with?

Is the Fruit of the Spirit in you and in your Church?

How many of us have ever ventured into a church that was filled with unkindness, where we were ignored or even mistreated and where the church seemed more like a thorn bush than a fruitful vine…a church filled with a bad atmosphere from the bad spiritual breaths of its people making smog instead of the sweet fragrance of God’s presence and love?

As a pastor, I have a tough battle to make sure my flock behaves so that Christ would be pleased. And of course, I need to set the tone. I can try my best to set an example so I am not a thorn bush, and I can teach; but I cannot make them behave! I can model, teach, disciple, urge, and pray. But, real, authentic Christian love comes solely from a real, authentic Christian formation. This is caused from the Fruit of the Spirit growing in each of us. If someone is not growing in the Lord, he/she is not willing or able to treat others with love and respect, nor is he/she able to model and do and be as Christ exemplified and taught. Care, compassion, and a real affection for others will be moot, love will be stifled, and kindness absent; and no matter how good the campus, teaching, or mission are, all that will be noticed is an annoying noise. The church will be an irritating and frustrating club of stubborn prideful people, devoid of harmony and brotherly love—devoid of Christ! Do we really want that? If not, what are you willing to do about it?

No one wants to come to a club where the people are angry, bitter, immoral, impure, corrupt, into idolatry and witchcraft, and full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness…and so forth!

These are the key words Paul talked about in Romans, chapter one. It is the same with a local church; who wants strife when care and friendship are called for and needed? People will come to a place where there is love and joy, where they are treated with kindness, cared for, allowed to work on themselves while being shown patience and the composure of Christ from the leaders. We need to know that we display Christ by our attitudes and actions. If we do not do this right from what Jesus modeled and taught, we will get our churches all skewed upside down and wrong. We will be the church of the thorn-bush, a fruit-stand devoid of fruit, a place of dysfunction instead of a church of Jesus Christ and His transforming power!

What makes a Church Healthy or Unhealthy?

This comes from a big problem we have in most churches today, that is the tendency of leaders not effectually growing in the Lord and thus do not practice their faith and this dispenses down to the congregation. And the outcome is a church that has missed its point and reason for being; as its people, who Christ has brought in, go without being taught or discipled because the pastors and leaders are not being taught or discipled. Being mature means you know not just Who Christ is, but His impact has gone deep and has occupied all aspects of our life and faith. Life is all about Him and not about selfish ideas or perceptions. We have gone to His throne and His priestly duty has been received, our Milk, and then the meat is feasted upon, His wondrous precepts and Truth. So our faith is real, personal, fully transformed and becoming fully engaged followers of Christ seen by a life well lived. If we want to be an impacting Christian pastor or lay leader in a church that impacts its community and world, we have to be eating the meat of God’s precepts with passion and conviction, in love and in truth and then sharing it with others.

Healthy churches have a deep love and gratitude to Christ and desire to equip and empower the people He brings them!

They seek to serve in humbleness and effectual faith. They value people and do not depend on their programs, rather on Christ; they allow Him to produce what He wants, when He wants. They grow from the inside of their faithful journey before it is exercised outward. Inward faith is formed before outward faith is expressed. The average healthy church is where people feel good about God and others; they display personal, spiritual, and relational maturity and have hope and life in Christ, all because they are growing in the Word and Spirit. Gossip is absent and conflict is dealt with; spiritual growth is glorifying our Lord, and the Fruit of the Spirit is at hand. The pastors and leaders model to the people a faith that endures as they look to Christ.

© 2008, Research from 1998- 2007, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org

Other Significant Growth Factors that come from these top Seven

That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5: 19

8. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have leaders who focus on Christ and serve Him. Their leadership style is not by will; it is by being a servant. “Servant Leadership” is modeled and practiced.

9. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have people that are disciplined and growing in Christ. This is the reason they are loving and caring, practicing the “one another” passages. They are enamored by God’s presence in their church and life, and thus place Christ first, acting on His character and call! They are not selfish or inwardly focused, but care for others and focus on their community and world.

10. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have a system of pastoral care. They train their staff and leaders to immediately respond when they hear of a church member in need. They hire licensed, qualified people and/or train and assign trained deacons or care workers; also, a key person is in charge.

11. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have effective evangelism, stewardship, and discipleship. These programs come from those top seven factors! As people are transformed, they can be taught and motivated. They also tend to spend at least one-third of their resources of budget and talent in outreach and missions.

12. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have a well thought out, biblically empowered vision and mission statement. This is clearly defined by a purpose that points to Christ, and strategies on what God has called them to do and be. In addition, the people know this and are willing to act on it. It is one thing to write it out, but another thing to act it out. The vision does not lead the church; rather, it s a motto that encapsulates the work of the Spirit and the precepts of Scripture that calls, empowers, and employs the church. A vision is a sign to show what is happening and help others see the direction of the church so they know where to go. A vision will not motivate or lead, just as placing a label for soda on a can of water does not make it a soda.

13. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ tend to organize and mobilize their people according to their Spiritual Gifts! The people are more content and motivated so serve in a team manner when they serve in their area of their giftedness. The quarrels and apathy will dry up as the energies are redirected and channeled in a godly way. People will function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit.

14. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ empower the people in their care. They are training, discipling, recognizing, and encouraging their people, especially those in critical roles. They do not see or use volunteers just as helpers or as people to control and manipulate, but as the essential tools and prime resources with which to glorify God, enablers of the goals of missions and needs to be reached. These churches see the pastor as the trainer for the congregation. If the senior pastor feels they do not have the gifts and abilities to equip and train others to do ministry (what the biblical principle of a “pastor” is), the church hires or build teams around them that do! If the training is not done, the church will fail! Some pastors are great teachers, but cannot do anything else. A pastor must operate in his gifted area, and encourage others who will compensate for him in the areas where he is weak or does not have the time.

15. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ are willing to and do confront sin, evil, gossip, slander, manipulators, and heresy in the church—immediately! The leadership puts down gossip and solves conflict quickly. Healthy churches move ahead in purpose and unity.

16. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have pastors who are real, joyful, and authentic, and lead healthy, disciplined lives. Their leaders are learning and growing in community with one another, willing to go beyond their prejudices and fears and embrace Christ. They are willing to publicly repent, apologize for past mistakes, make improvements, and change. They do not have thick skin as much as loving hearts, and they give people grace and room to grow. They are not afraid to step on the toes of others, but remain loving, listening, and firmly uncompromising to the Word.

The number one reason a church is effective in its outreach and missions is?

…because of its real, authentic worship. 

Why? There is a direct correlation between authentic service and authentic worship! Worship has a real, effectual purpose to discover and glorify God as LORD over all, including our daily lives, even when we do not see it. He is the center and reason for our worship; He is the principle center of attention, the focal point, the centrality, and the Supreme One we reference, acknowledge, and glorify. Worship is our opportunity to commune with Him, to be in union with Him who is the Lord and Creator of all, to come into His presence at His throne room and allow our hearts to be broken so we can give Him our best, our primary attention, and our foremost adoration. And, when we do this with authenticity our gratitude becomes contagious and God uses this as a display for His goodness and thus we become contagious for the faith! 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 

Worship is seen as a response to God—our gratitude for who He is and what He has done. Thus, people respond with their service, too. Churches that do not have “real” worship have little to no missions, or the people in it are from other churches. These churches do not overemphasize the “seeker,” and ignore discipleship! They do not turn their worship into mere entertainment. Real, heartfelt, God exalting adoration must be the focus of the worship service. These churches never just entertain, lift up the leaders, or become presentation orientated. They see worship as the Bible teaches; God is the audience and we are the performers who praise and glorify Him! These churches are still able to make their services friendly and creative, but the focus is to glorify Christ. In biblical theology, we do church—from faith, fellowship, and outreach on to service—for One and only One reason: TO WORSHIP CHRIST! Effective churches get this; ineffective churches do not (Psalm 100; 138:1-4; Col. 2:9).

The number one reason people grow spiritually is?

…by being encouraged to read through the Bible, do devotions, and practice the disciplines of the faith as modeled by the leadership.  

From our thirty years of research the churches who equip and disciple their people, not just in the basics of the faith, but also in how to be Christians in their daily lives and to live their lives to His glory thrive! The pastors and leaders teach and model passionate spirituality; they challenge and model for their people how to grow beyond themselves in achieving spiritual passion and conviction and are joyful in doing so. From this pool, new leadership is formed and recruited. Churches that cannot find leadership have people who are not discipled, and who are not willing or do not know how to lead. 

        We can master the entire Bible and even be totally transformed by the Word, but, if your leadership principles do not come from it, then nothing from your ministry will come from it, it will meaningless and nearly worthless. This is one of the main points of the book of James. True leadership also comes from our faith and maturity which comes from the application and result of a life transformed. You may attempt to lead your church or ministry or life and seek to do good works without Christ, but the results will not be good. In leadership and maturity, we must allow ourselves to be established in the disciplines of the faith. We must get in the Word daily–not just now and then. We cannot allow obligation and guilt to be our response to our Lord. If we do, it comes from our pride and laziness or, in other words, from our sin nature. We need to respond to Christ from gratitude that our sin nature has been covered by Grace thereby creating in us a willing and loving heart to model maturity, the character of our Lord (Matt. 7:24-27; Gal. 5:19-26; Rom. 12:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 1:10-14)! 

You search the scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life.  But the Scriptures point to me… 

John 5:39

The number one reason why people are stimulated to serve is?

…because the Bible is taught in a real, effectual, and applicable way.

They want to be a part of it. The people who leave because of the Bible teaching are the people who do not want to be challenged or convicted. These people will not serve anyway and will not give, but they will cause trouble. We are called to reach and care for them, but as the Bible says, these are the “tares.” God asks us to cultivate His wheat. (John 3:5, 30; Gal 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)

If the Bible is not where you place your trust and leadership formation from, then where is your trust and where will it lead you? We cannot have the Words of Jesus without the Bible! The Bible is the chariot that carries the voice of God!

We as the people of God who have been saved from our sins by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ have a call, a mandate: to preserve His Word, to be led from His Word and to proclaim His Word, the Bible. We must remain steadfast in this call to our individual selves, as well as our neighbor and especially as we lead others for Our Lord and to Him.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

Hebrews 2:1-3

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Psalm 119:9-12