Last week Mike Breen released his new book, “Leading Kingdom Movements”. This is the fourth installment from Mike and the 3DM team focusing on transforming churches with a culture of discipleship and spiritual formation. Today I ordered my copy of “Leading Kingdom Movements” and would likewise encourage you to do the same here.
In promotion of his new book, Mike has done a short blog series questioning the state of Christianity and declaring the possibility of a new reformation in our faith. Not so much one based on theology, but on missiology, and how the church makes disciples. You can check those posts out here.
Mike’s parallels of Christian movements and apple orchards reminded me of a post I had written several months ago that originally appeared on the website for Healthy Churches Thrive!® (Disclaimer: Healthy Churches Thrive! is a registered trademark of Church Doctor Ministries/ Church Growth and Analysis Center in Corunna, Indiana.)
Mike has been described as one of the greatest apostolic influences of our day. I am no way claiming to be in same stratosphere as Mike, but I did want to point to the apple analogy and offer my thoughts as a complementary reading in this reposting.
While there are many parallels to be drawn between apples and Christians, I want to focus specifically on six that relate to the health and reproduction of both species. As you work through these metaphors, ask the Spirit to help translate the allegory from biology to theology. Better yet, process these items in terms of ecclesiology, or the study of the Church and missiology, the study of the Church’s mission.
- To begin, both apples and Christians receive their life from a tree. While there are a variety of different apple trees, take for example Gala, Red Delicious, and Honey Crisp trees, there is only one Tree that Christians receive life from. That tree is the cross of Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve ate of the wrong tree in the Garden of Eden. Instead of eating from the Tree of Life, they chose independence and separation from God by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (see Genesis 3). Jesus is the Second and Last Adam. His redeeming work on the cross reversed the fall of humanity and in his death; he reconciled all of creation back into right relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).
- Apple trees and Christians often grow the best when planted in fertilized soil. People with a lot of “crap” in their lives are usually more receptive to hearing the Gospel.
- Apple trees and Christians grow and are strengthened by the deepening of their roots. Spiritual nourishment comes from an active faith. Like digging in the soil, Christians and the Church have to get their hands dirty. Sometimes this happens through a community or ministry service. Other times it is through life on life discipleship. In either case, though we are cleansed new in Christ, faith is still often messy.
- Apple trees and Christians are easily identifiable by the fruit they produce. Apples are among the most widely recognized fruit we have in the West. How great is it when people see the Spirit moving in the life of a believer? Christians are to live lives of worship, a breathing testimony of God’s grace. Jesus told his disciples that by our love for one another, the world will know we are His (John 13:35). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul lists love first among the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22). In Christ, love has fulfilled the old law.
- If not handled properly, one bad apple could spoil the bunch. If conflict and sin in the church are not corrected by the biblical model described in Matthew 18:15-20, the Enemy may use the rotten fruit to taint the rest of the church.
- Donald McGavran once stated that “inside of every apple is an orchard.” This parallel speaks volumes to the church. Within every believer is the Holy Spirit. Like apples, Christians possess within their DNA the spiritual capability to reproduce exponentially. Think of orchards as movements. If you want your church to see more “trees” for God, then you will need to plant more seeds.
Christians and churches are a lot like apple trees. God did not intend for them to just barely survive. Rather, God wants Healthy Churches to Thrive!