I have a black thumb.
Hello, my name is Jamie, and I kill plants.
Truly, I have tried to grow various types of greenery, but it never ends well. So because of this sad reality, I leave the outdoor work to my husband.
Every year, in late winter, hubby takes up the task of pruning our Crape Myrtles. The website Fine Gardening explains, “Correct pruning [of Crape Myrtles] yields gracefully shaped trees with more blooms that are held upright on strong stems. Also, flowers arrive earlier than do those on unpruned or mispruned plants.” And to these truths, I can verily testify! My hubby’s pruning efforts never go to waste as each year we are met with an abundance of gorgeous blooms come summer time.
I was reminded of my spouse’s shearing of those Crape Myrtles after reading John chapter 15 during my quiet time. In that text, Jesus explains to his disciples at the last supper, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
When I first read this, I was a bit confused. Why remove (prune) good, healthy and fruitful branches? How could that possibly yield more fruit?
Now remember, I have a black thumb, and this is accompanied by a good deal of ignorance in the laws of gardening. So in order to understand what Jesus was trying to say in John 15, I did a little research, and this is what I found.
Pruning is necessary to promote growth in plants. And evidently, as Jesus was trying to point out, it is also necessary in the life of the church.
Reasons God Prunes His Church
1. He prunes us to stir growth.
Pruning involves cutting away fruitful branches in order to facilitate new growth. Growth that will end up being even more healthy and abundant. I have seen the spiritual side of this principle at work in my own church.
When my husband and I first joined the church we continue to attend today (17 years ago), we were both actively involved in children’s missions programs on Wednesday night. However, the attendance in these programs, although good, was stagnate. Additionally, children were learning about the Lord and missionaries, but the curriculum was lacking an emphasis on bible study and scripture memorization. So while these programs were good, there was clearly room for improvement.
After looking closely at our options, the decision was made to cut those events and search for something new. And while my husband and I had our reservations about removing these activities that were producing fruit in the lives of those in attendance, we knew more could be done to attract a greater amount of children and pour out a greater investment in those lives. So while it was painful to let go of these programs, the cuts were made, and God used a new children’s curriculum to double the amount of young lives our church was pouring into for His kingdom.
It’s hard to let go of good things, but it’s the only way to make room for greater things.
2. He prunes us to inspire productivity.
In the course of my research on pruning, I discovered how vineyards grow top notch grapes. They cut half of the grapes from their vine and throw them away. Yes, you read that right; they toss out half of the crop!
Evidently, grapes are lazy, and in order to get them to produce better grapes, it is necessary to cut half of them away from the vine. This, in time, will force the remaining grapes to work harder and pull more nutrients from the soil creating the finest wine ever tasted.
I believe our church is in the midst of learning how God at times employs this technique of cultivation. Sadly, of late, we are seeing many good, fruit producing, children of the Lord leaving our church family. Each person that chooses to depart is a tremendous loss! However, as grape growers can attest, the loss of some amazing grapes can force the improved production of the remaining grapes, and I have begun to see that principle play out in our church. Those that remain in our body of believers are producing more for the Lord than before our time of pruning. Although we are no longer great in numbers, I see greater things being done for the Lord. It’s the principle behind John 3:30 at work: “He must become greater; I must become less.” Less is more, and I am excited to see the continued results of this pruning time in our congregation!
3. He prunes us to make us stronger.
Pruning is a very interesting topic! On the Vintage Tree Care website, I found this additional information about the subject: “Pruning a tree can influence in what way the tree grows. With proper pruning, a tree can be made to grow into a certain configuration of limbs and branches that is more ideal for the structural integrity of the tree.”
Proper pruning improves that which is pruned, and this reality should make every church currently going through a season of change hopeful. Perhaps God is working to improve the “structural integrity” of your church? Remember, He knows what storms are coming that you will have to withstand. Or perhaps, as is the case at my church right now, He’s attempting to repair damage done by a storm that has already swept through?
Whatever the reason, it may not make sense to us, but the tearing away of fruitful foliage can produce a greater amount of quality fruit. As long as we leave everything in the hands of the master gardener, there is nothing to fear. He can work all things together for the good of those that love Him. (Romans 8:28)
As I sat outside today, I noticed the foliage donning new colors. I watched as some of it began to fall from the trees. It was snowing, leaves. In that moment, I was reminded that soon enough it would be time again to prune back the Crape Myrtles.
Ecclesiastes chapter three reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
If today, you find your church going through a season of transition, be encouraged. He is at work! As I leave my Crape Myrtles in the more capable hands of my husband, trust God with your church. He knows exactly how to get those “gracefully shaped trees with more blooms that are held upright on strong stems.” Joyfully yield yourself to His pruning.