It would be a good idea to read the first two blogs in this series about the Church to set the groundwork for this one, “Looking to Leave Your Church? Don’t! At Least Not Before You Discover What Satan Is Up To!” and “Dissatisfied With Your Church? Most Assuredly, God Has an Answer!” These blogs look at how the devil is deceiving Christian people to leave church families and how God’s truths defeat these lies and deception, plus encourage us to inspect our true motives for leaving and not treat church membership nonchalantly. This teaching examines the devil’s desire for us to disconnect and God’s amazing answer to attach and abide!
The devil’s unholy disconnect!
Relationships are actually intricate webs of connectedness. In fact, relationship defined is “a significant connection or similarity between two or more things, or the state of being related to something else.” A more in-depth definition looks like this: “The connection between two or more people or groups and their involvement with one another, especially the way they behave toward and feel about one another.” Keep these definitions in mind to understand the damage done when we do not treat relationships with the respect due “significant connections.” Church is not just a building or institution but it is people living in a dynamic, loving “relationship” with Jesus Christ and each other. In other words, Church is people who have significant connections with one another. Thus, when the devil can get people to slowly disconnect from their body of believers he is able to effectively disable the Body of Christ.
Obviously there are situations, jobs, and activities in life when it is both natural and necessary to disconnect and move on because they exist primarily to prepare us for another level. Educational pursuits, starter jobs, and athletic teams fit this category of “stepping stones” to the next thing. But when we put “church” in this category, treating it as a stepping stone, a convenience, something to do for the time being, or an “as needed” activity we have fallen prey to the devil’s ploy in getting us to disconnect from significant relationships. By adopting this attitude we think moving from church to church is as natural as moving from elementary school, to junior high, to senior high, and to college. Or we think it is like moving job positions, gaining one promotion after another, or moving from pee wee league to the majors. These are all natural transitions in life that happen or do not happen based on talent, effort, and development.
But church moving is not a “natural” transition even though the devil has deceived people and pastors into thinking it is. If we believe it is “natural” for people to regularly move from church to church, seeing it as part of life, we do not discern the unholy disconnection and we stop respecting the significant connection we share with our family in Christ. To show how the Church has bought into this deception here is a quote from a pastoral blog: “Leaving a church is a natural part of life for various reasons. Whether it’s because of a re-location, or your schedule changes, or your needs change, or you disagree with something the church is doing, or it’s just time to move on – all are valid reasons to go.” Friends, when “valid” reasons trump what the Word of God has to say, we eliminate personal responsibility and in effect determine and do what is best for “us” rather than what is best for the Kingdom of God. We demonstrate a willingness to move by our own desires rather than by the Spirit of God. And we miss the point of being in a body of believers!
If it were not enough that the devil entices us to disconnect from our churches or treat them merely as a transition in life, take it a step further and think about how he keeps people who are “not” in the Church from being attached. Another pastor wrote this on his blog “If you don’t like our church, just stick around – because the people here change about every two years.” Take a moment and ponder this statement. It was probably meant as humorous but it seems as though we forget we are talking about God’s children, the body of Christ here! What a grim reality for the Church! With this attitude it would seem even pastors have forgotten what Church is to look like and the purpose for which we exist. The rapidity by which people come and go in churches is a travesty to the body of Christ. Probably worse is how flippant and casual we are about the ever-changing membership. But God has an answer for this disconnection from relationships and the “un-natural” transition we see occurring in the Church!
God’s answer to the unholy disconnect – A holy attachment and abiding!
In John 15 Jesus describes relationship and connectedness in terms of a vine. He said He is the Vine, His Father is the Vinedresser, and we are the branches. We are attached to Jesus and one another! This Vine relationship is a beautiful mold of the universal Church which is then used to craft our individual churches. As you can see by the pictures below, the branches of grapevines are indistinguishable one from another and the fruit is visible. (Jesus did not say “grape” vine though other Scriptural references would infer grapevine)
When we look at a grapevine we see branches and grapes growing on them. From the grapes we make juice, wine, jellies, jams, and other delicacies. When we look to Jesus (the Vine), we see Christians (the branches of the Vine) and Christian character (fruit).
Notice the fruit is not in reference to good deeds as many people have thought. The fruit we bear through abiding in Christ is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) The same Greek word for “fruit” is used in John and Galatians. From this fruit we “naturally” produce (bear) the character of Christ and we literally diffuse the fragrance and knowledge of Him wherever we go. Of course, good deeds come as a result just as juice and wine come as a result of doing something with the grapes.
When we do not see this fruit in the lives of fellow Christians we begin to question the validity of Church and the people with whom we are in significant relationship. This is when the devil gets busy planting seeds of doubt, disapproval, disappointment, and dissatisfaction in our minds. What are we to do when we do not see the fruit? Do we just move on and try some other church? Do we give up on Church altogether?
The answer to all these questions is the same and is found in John 15. We choose to abide in the Vine and be a fruit bearing branch! We do not swerve and are not swayed from our place in the Vine! John 15:4,5,7 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
To abide in Jesus means we sit down and dwell with Him choosing to remain, settle, and inhabit His presence! Abiding in the Vine intimates the idea of permanence, continuance, a willingness to tarry, along with implying we stay with Him in a state of expectancy. By choosing to “abide” in Christ we have the promise of bearing much fruit. What do we do when we do not see fruit in others? Abide in Christ and continue to bear fruit! Do we move on and try another church or leave Church altogether? No, we abide in Christ and continue to bear fruit! We stay with a willing and expectant spirit, abiding in Him not inspecting the other branches. When we are busy being about our Father’s business we do not have time to be frustrated with the lack of fruit on other branches of the Vine. Nor will we be entertaining the idea of going elsewhere because we are busy bearing fruit, having the character of Christ formed in us, right where we are at.
Of course, remember fruit is visible on a grapevine and the branches intertwine. We are not blind or ignorant to the lack of fruit in the lives of other Christians. It is ridiculous to think we are not affected by the lack of fruit or the rotten fruit on other branches. We ARE affected because we intertwine. But that only means we abide more passionately desiring to bear more fruit, lest we begin to rot or cease to bear fruit ourselves as a result of others. We trust the Vinedresser, our heavenly Father, to prune and cut away at His own will and discretion. We delight ourselves in the fact we are attached to the Vine, intertwined with other branches because He has grafted us in, and we expect to bear fruit. When we see other branches not bearing fruit, let it motivate us to spur them on in their faith journey. Let us continue to abide, receiving our lifeblood from Him, bearing fruit, taking our cues from the Vine not from society!
His plan is for us to attach and abide in Him and with one another. God’s answer more than effectively combats the devil’s unholy attempt to disconnect us! I pray we begin to see Church in a whole new light! That we see relationship and not transition! That we see the Vine not an institution! That we see Christians not disposable relationships! That we look to bear the character of God not look to do good deeds, knowing they will follow. That we believe God has a plan for His Church and we are part of that plan! That we believe His Kingdom comes and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven! In Jesus’ Name, the most holy Vine we pray – Amen!