April 25, 2018

Generosity: Bearing Fruit

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With Spring finally entrenched and summer on its way, we can turn to the many biblical images that relate to gardening and farming.  You don’t have to be engaged in either one to appreciate the images, though it certainly will give you a deeper understanding of why Jesus and the prophets used these common examples for his teaching.

Most of the time we are simply beneficiaries of the end results of farming.  We go to a grocery store or local market and pick out fresh vegetables and fruit.  The end result is the most visible and most important part of farming or gardening.  What does it matter if we have a garden or farm but do not bear fruit?  In fact, if drought or storm or other catastrophe destroys crops too often, farmers go out of business.  And in our local community gardens, I see plenty of plots that are not cared for adequately, so the weeds take over and the well-intentioned gardener abandons the plot – usually without getting much fruit.

Jesus sent the disciples to “bear fruit.”  (John 15:8).  In his book Bearing Fruit, Lovett Weems suggests that fruit-bearing would be a good gauge of effective ministry.  It relates to the measure used by most businesses – outcomes.  Activities, events, emphases are only as good as the results they produce.  That’s why so many non-profits send donors brochures that show what they are doing with the money received.  Compelling stories that show the fruit of their effort.

Thus, when it comes to stewardship, we want to see the results of our investment, whether it be financial, time or energy.  Visible, compelling images of children learning, youth helping on mission trips, adults making a difference in our communities or having their lives changed by the gospel.

Bearing fruit, as any farmer can tell you, takes a lot of knowledge, time and effort.  And, while much still depends on God, who gives the growth and provides the soil, rain and sun, the end-result is evident, satisfying, and a cause for which to give thanks.

So how is it going in your part of the vineyard?  What are the fruits of your labor?

Larry Smoose,

Synod Generosity Team

 

May and June also are times when our nation celebrates Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  I have attached a copy of colleague Rob Blezard’s Stewardship Toolkit which you may find helpful.