There are three things necessary for a plant to grow; water, soil and sunlight. You would not be surprised to know each of these are represented in the Bible and discussed in Matthew 13 in the parable of the sower. The water is the word of God, the soil is the heart and sunlight is the Lord Jesus Christ. When the Spirit of God brings the light of God’s word to the heart that is prepared to receive it, we see the miracle of spiritual birth occur as that soul places his/her faith in the finished work of Christ for salvation. It is amazing to consider how God brings forth life. We can study, and study creation and it will always leave us in awe of our Creator.
Just as there are three elements required to bring life in a plant ,there are three internal elements required to see a plant survive and become fruitful. Those three elements are potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. When water, soil and sun conditions interact with a plant with the proper amount potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus, the plant will grow mightily. That is what God desires for his disciples and his church.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. John 15:5-8
HBF is a discipleship church because that is God’s mission (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-23, Acts 1:8-9, Colossians 1:18-29, 1 Peter 2:9-12). We, like a fruitful plant, have been pruned so we can bring forth more fruit. Though we have already sprung from the Earth and bore fruit, God has placed within his body the necessary ingredients for God to bring forth a tremendous season of fruit.
I recently heard a man share a testimony concerning the pruning of his plumb trees. He noticed they were not longer bearing fruit as they once had, so he trimmed them back and waited until the next season to see if they would prosper again. The next summer they didn’t bear fruit, so he trimmed them back again. After waiting another year, he didn’t like the results, so he cut the tree to the ground. The problem was not actually the tree, it was the husbandman’s timing. After cutting his tree to the ground he found that it takes two years after pruning a plumb tree for the fruit to appear on the tree. Learning this lesson, he applied it to his other plumb trees and found that he had a bountiful blessing of fruit.
Fruit bearing is a process that requires great effort, great patience and great faith. It requires great effort to prepare the soil and provide the environment necessary to see a tender plant. It requires great patience to plant, nurture and wait for fruit. As the husbandman of the plumb tree found out, patience is required to see great fruit after pruning. Seeing fruit also requires great faith! God doesn’t ask us to do what is possible, he calls us to believe him for the impossible. The scope of God’s mission is so immense that it can only be accomplished by God’s grace and in his power.
Water, soil and sun, mixed with the richness of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus in the DNA of a plant, produces results that we call natural. In truth, these cannot be explained without the providence of God’s divine hand upon his creation. So is the power of the gospel sown in the heart of man and proclaimed by the body of Christ. It goes forth accomplishing the purposes God has for it, as we sow it in abundance as faithful disciples taking time to stop and nurture the tender plant that springs forth in the way.
Where are you in the process of bearing fruit? Have you ever received he word of God in your heart? Have you been supernaturally quickened (brought to life) by the Holy Ghost as you received the gospel of Christ? Have you committed yourself to the divine care of the word of God, the Spirit of God and the church of God to see divine growth through the process of discipleship? Are you following Jesus? Are you following Jesus in such a way that others are following your example? Are you fruitful? These are the questions we all need to ask. If we are in the vine, we should bear fruit. (Galatians 5:16-26)
With much fruit comes much labor.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Acts 6:1
It has been a few months since we frequented this passage of scripture in Acts on Sunday morning, but it is important we review the principles of God’s word as we prepare to select Deacons in 2019. This will be Heartland’s eighth time to select Deacons since our establishment in 2002. Just as seven is associated with perfection and completion (Genesis 1-2, Revelation), the number eight is often associated with “new beginnings”. Since the resurrection of Christ Jesus, the church has been meeting on the first day of the week (the eighth day) to celebrate the resurrection.
As we enter 2019 we transition from our 2018 theme of “Faith to Faith,” to our 2019 theme of “Faithful with least, faithful with much,” we are in a season of “new beginnings. One of the things that thrills my heart is the health of HBF. God has trimmed a lot of things at HBF, so we can see more fruit for God’s glory. Over the past few years, God has reduced ministry activity, ministry budget and staff, yet God has left us with an incredibly core of members who seasoned and mature in ministry along with an entirely fresh generation of disciples. HBF is in a different season and opportunity of spiritual growth as a body. In years past, as God positioned us for growth, some of the elements were the same. We will always need pure water from the word of God, tender soil in our hearts and the light of Christ to grow by the quickening of the Spirit. However, Heartland is not a baby church as she once was. She is established and has a root system that is stable and able to deliver nutrients to the tender buds that God has and will continue to provide.
In Acts 6, the multiplication of disciples brought trouble to paradise. Until that point the church thrived under the persecution of the Jews. The threats from without grew the church but the turmoil within threatened her health. As people were added in membership the numbers outgrew their leadership. As they grew, things were missed, widows and their families were getting disgruntled, complaining even murmuring. It was at that point that God brought a solution, so the church could grow forward and accomplish the mission of God in the power of God for the glory of God. What was the solution to the internal strife that threatened the church at Jerusalem? Was it to hire more pastors? Figure out systems to solve all the problems and complaints? No, it was quite the opposite. The solution was to focus on the priority. In Acts 6:4 the apostles decided to be intentional about the word of God and prayer and placed the burden of caring for the widows upon the church body.
This was clearly not a “committee” led church. Many pastors would find themselves out of a job today if they declared that the murmuring of the body was a distraction from the priority of the word of God and prayer.
The leaders didn’t ignore the problem, they declared the solution. In Acts 6:3 they said, “…look ye out among your even men of hones report, full of he Holy Ghost and wisdom, who we may appoint over this business.” In other words, the apostles charged the body with finding those who could meet the needs because their role as leaders was already defined and it was not waiting on tables (see Ephesians 4:12). The only way for an established church to continue to grow is for the body to care for itself. If that doesn’t happen, the church will begin to die. If it does happen, the church has unlimited growth potential (Romans 15:1, Galatians 6:2-4). We see that there are seven men selected in Acts 6. They are the perfect number to provide another season of health and life to the body of Christ.
I would ask that if you are still reading this article, you take inventory of your life. Take inventory of the needs of the body of Christ and select qualified men (Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:8-13) who can care for the needs of the body that are sure to arise as God blesses the propagation of his word. The month of February will be our month to nominate Deacons for HBF. We will offer ballots and options for submitting nominations for the office of Deacon. It is important that the body of Christ examine the character qualities of a Deacon found in Acts 6 and 1 Timothy three before nominating the candidate and his wife.
The Pastors will receive the top seven qualified candidates and present them to the body on March 3, 2019. At that time the body will have a couple weeks to review and resolve any issues concerning any candidate who does not qualify for the office. Upon meeting for training and orientation to the office, the deacons will be installed April 28th, 2019. We pray the grace of God be upon our process that we may accomplish the vision God has given our church until he comes.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Philippians 2:12-16
Upon selection of the deacons in Acts 6, there arose contention over doctrine (what the Bible teaches). It was not the apostles that God used to deal with the dispute, but a deacon named Stephen. Disciples were multiplied, deacons were selected, and doctrine was disputed. It was at this point Stephen gave his life before the Sanhedrin among whom stood Saul of Tarsus. Stephen, one of the seven deacons selected in Acts 6, becomes the vessel God uses to get the gospel where it needed to go on time. When it looked like the church was shattered and scattered, God was just getting ready to reposition the saints for a global initiative that is still resonating through the world as I write.
The average church in the United States begins to decline at the 20-year mark. God forbid that would occur to HBF. We have yet to adequately reach our own community, our own families not to mention the nation and peoples of the world. God has done some great things, but there is still so much more yet ahead of us. Like the plumb tree awaiting the right time to blossom, the membership of HBF needs to prayerfully consider the next steps we take as individuals and a church, so we will be prepared to raise up future fruitful generations.
Right now, we have over 90 people who have been discipled, been established in the four goals and trained to invest the word of God into others! That is insane for a church our size. What that means is that HBF is deep on the bench from top to bottom. We have no lack of knowledge or resources what we need is God’s blessing upon the seeds we sow in the fertile soil of the heart, so we can make disciples that make disciples.
God has blessed HBF with the Word First Bible Publishing ministry. That ministry is a key to the world as we prioritize literally getting the word of God to the world. Like the church at Philadelphia, doors will open, and there will be adversaries, but no one but God will close the doors. We have opportunity to disciple within and see lives changed where we live and opportunity to send as we mature as a body and re-engage with actively reaching the world. It all begins and ends with the individual effort of each member of the body making a decision to do his or her part to be the saint God has saved them to be, so he can do that which God has called them to do. From changing diapers in the nursery to developing new discipleship lessons in diverse languages, God has every member of the body in place to accomplish his mission in his power for his glory. That takes faith, effort and patience.
At length, it is the seed of God’s word, sown in the heart of a disciple that continues to propagate the church of God. It seems too simple but there is nothing more profound than the investment of the word of God into the lives of others in the green house of the local New Testament church. 2019 is a critical year to prepare to disciple. As we do the work of evangelists, pray and sow the word of God, God will get the increase. May we be ready individually as a body to disciple, deac (serve) and invest pure doctrine into the precious souls God entrusts to our care.