Even though I grew up on a farm, I know very little about gardening. To be honest, most vegetables and I don’t get along. If broccoli and I made eye contact at the local Piggly Wiggly, it would be very awkward. We haven’t spoken in years.
Jesus, on the other hand, seems to know a lot about the subject. He actually refers to his Father as “the gardener” in the book of John.
“I am the true grapevine, and my father is the gardener.” John 15:1
But it’s really the next verse that catches my attention.
“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2
Google defines pruning like this: Prune – to trim by cutting away overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.
So, is it possible that Jesus is saying there are things in our life, or things in our church, that often need to be cut away in order for us to produce the most fruit? I think so.
Henry Cloud says it like this in his book Necessary Endings.
“Pruning enables rosebushes and other plants to realize full potential. Without it, they are just average at best and far less than they were designed to be. If you think about it, there should never be an average rosebush. By nature, there is nothing average about them at all. They are designed for incredible beauty and lushness. But if not adequately pruned, they never make it.”
I think Jesus would say, replace the word rosebush with Christ-Follower or church.
There should never be an average Christ-Follower. There should never be an average church. Cloud goes on to say:
“A rosebush cannot reach its full potential without a very systematic process of pruning. The plant has enough life and resources to feed and nurture only so many buds to their full potential. In order for the bush to thrive, a certain number of buds have to go.”
So, how do we go about determining what needs to be pruned out of our lives, or out of our churches?
Cloud gives three suggestions.
- Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones,
- Sick branches that are not going to get well, and
- Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.
We all have bad habits that we need to do away with.
We all have ministries within our churches that died years ago, that we’re keeping on life support, in order to keep the mourning to a minimum. And we’re all guilty of filling our calendars with far too many good things that are keeping us from doing the best things.
But, if we’re ever going to reach our full potential as Christ-followers, and if our churches are ever going to reach their full potential, we must be willing to go through the sometimes painful process of pruning.
What are some of the benefits of this idea of pruning? What are some things you need to prune out of your life or church?