What launches renewal in a congregation? Jesus said fruitfulness is connected to abiding. In John 15:5 he told his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain [“menon” = “remain”, “abide”, “stay”] in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Churches that nurture abundant life in Christ can expect abundant fruitfulness. What does abiding look like in a congregation? John 15:1-17 provides hints about the primary activities connected to abiding. These activities should be central in the life of a congregation’s leadership team and then, in turn, spill into the life of the congregation as a whole.
Here are 5 activities of remaining in Christ that increase fruitfulness:
Activity 1: Imbed the Bible in Everything
John 17:7 Jesus said “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you”. A REVEAL survey examined thousands of congregations and discovered that high impact churches imbed the Bible in everything they do. Renewal councils and congregations must invest in discovering/applying Scripture. How could council meetings become Bible discovery gatherings?
Activity 2: Pursue radical Obedience
John 17:10 “If you obey my commandments,” says Jesus, “you will remain in my love”. The Old Testament story of Achan and Ai (Joshua 7) is a cautionary tale of what happens when there is sin in the camp. Those who have a passion for renewal must develop practices of examination, repentance and restoration. With David we should pray, particularly, for the ability to discern our hidden sins (Ps. 19:12).
Activity 3: Nurture Loving Relationships
John 17:12 Jesus’ abiding plan includes this simple command, “Love each other as I have loved you”. Jesus loved us, sinners as we are, all the way to the cross. Our love for others, even for those who hurt us, must mirror that love. Renewal congregations are healthy congregations where conflicts are addressed, wrongs are forgiven, and people disagree without drawing blood. Relational waters must always remain sweet.
Activity 4: Develop Practices of Attentive Listening
John 17:15 Jesus said, “Everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you”. Jesus loves to share with us all we need to know. The challenge is learning to listen to what he is sharing. Listening demands taking sufficient time to bring important decisions to the Lord and waiting for his response. Unity and resolve greatly increase when God’s people, together, hear Jesus’ voice.
Activity 5: Pray, Pray, Pray
John 17:16 Someone said, “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.” Jesus said it this way, “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name”. Someone observed, “It is amazing the number of ‘coincidences’ that happen when God’s people pray.” James said, “You have not because you ask not.” Prayer is the beating heart of renewal. How can you invest more deeply in a life of prayer?
Abiding is so essential to the fruitfulness of a congregation that councils would do well to discuss and develop a plan that nurtures a deeper life in Christ. That plan should begin by asking, “What will we do as a council to invest more deeply in Scripture, to live lives that honor Christ, to nurture loving relationships between us, to listen attentively to the Spirit and to increase prayer?” Once those questions have been asked and answered for the council, move on to ask and answer those questions for the congregation as a whole.