Tuesday, December 06, 2005
APPLES AND ORANGES by Keith Giles
APPLES AND ORANGES by Keith Giles
As my wife and I begin to move into this new phase of our calling to start a missional house church in a new neighborhood, we've been reading a lot and studying up on the early church and how they operated.
Our goal is not to copy the early church verbatim, but to glean from them a basic method of operation and to understand the core values they embodied.
In this process, I came across a quote that stirred me to think in a new way.
In discussing the way that the house churches exponentially grow outward via a process similar to organic cell division, one author noted that "The goal of an apple tree is not to produce apples."
This made me stop and re-think what I understood about nature and about church.
If the goal of an apple tree is NOT to produce apples, then what is the goal of an apple tree? And more importantly, what the heck does this have to do with planting a house church in the O.C. today?
Here's what I discovered. If an apple tree only produces apples all of it's life and dies, what has it accomplished? At first glance, a lot. It's provided the world with nutritious food and fulfilled one of the basic design elements inherent in its nature. But is that really all that an apple tree is really designed by the Creator to do?
That's when I realized the mistake we all make when thinking of organic structures, as compared to the living Body of Christ. If the apple tree dies without having produced another apple tree, it has failed miserably. Mainly because future generations will never taste of the fruit.
Unless an apple tree produces more apple trees, it is a total failure.
In a similar way, if the Church only makes converts, or even true disciples, and not more churches, then it has failed.
Look at the early church as an example. They quickly spread throughout the known world and "turned the world upside down" with the Gospel. How did they do this? Not by simply making converts or disciples, although this is an important part of the process, but by making more churches just like itself.
What made this process ingeniously easy and effective was the fact that the church was a family-based, household of faith. To plant a new church just like itself all it had to do was outgrow the largest room in the house it was currently meeting in and send out five or six to start meeting in another house in another part of town.
These churches then grew exponentially as each house church sent out more and more groups who then also sent out more and more groups, they quickly took over a region for Christ.
The beauty of this system is that it inspires community, allows the full use of the gifts for the building up of the body, and it costs nothing. In fact, these house churches not only cost nothing to maintain, they could only create funds through the gifts and offerings of the members who gave on a weekly basis to the poor among them, both inside and outside the community of faith.
The early church was known, even by its enemies, as a radically inclusive group that cared for the poor and even buried the dead of the pagans in their city whose families couldn't afford it.
Of course, the Church must produce disciples. It's our mandate from our Lord Himself, but if all we do is create more and more disciples and never plant new churches, we're not fulfilling our organic, natural, God-designed calling as the Body of Christ.
I could write another article all about how, for the apple tree to produce another apple tree, those apples have to leave the tree and then to die in order fulfill its mission. Much like the follower of Jesus is called to die to himself/herself and take up the cross daily to be a productive disciple.
In John 12:24 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
Now, let's go plant some apple trees for the Kingdom.