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Are we on the brink of a new Reformation?

If you could have a big tree with only a little fruit or a small tree with lots of fruit, which would you choose? It’s about a choice, right?

But we’ll get back to that in a second.

I’ve noticed there seem to be two things I can do with Jesus. Either I can increasingly look like Jesus, or I can make him look like me.

I can look like Jesus or I can try to make him look like me.

The funny thing about Jesus is that I’m never sure we give him quite enough credit. Sure. He came to earth, left the throne of heaven, took on the nature of a servant and died on the cross in our place, rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Yes. All that happened.

But we really don’t give his three years of ministry much reference.

Here’s what I mean: We think Jesus was the Son of God, but when we read the Gospels, do you think he was the smartest person who ever lived? Most accomplished? Best fisherman? Best evangelist? Best church planter? Best movement leader? Best discipler? Most successful leader?

For instance, in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, Jesus gave the most detailed strategy you will ever find in the scriptures for how to evangelize, and then we see the exact same strategy used in the early church. Shouldn’t we be using that same strategy? I’m guessing we’re not arrogant enough to think we’ve come up with a better strategy than Jesus. (Example: for most churches, the evangelism strategy is “invite your friends to church and then let the professionals take over. We’ll do the heavy lifting if you get them here.” Not exactly Jesus’ strategy!)

We acknowledge what Jesus did on the cross, but what about what was started before the cross? What about the movement he began that changed the course of human history when it was released and catalyzed after the Resurrection and Pentecost? If being a disciple is “who Jesus would be if he were me” (Dallas Willard), shouldn’t we be learning the patterns and practices of the best whom ever lived if we too want to change the world for the Kingdom?

Yet often when we look at the Western church, I’m not sure we see many of the practices of Jesus among the way we lead. Though…that’s starting to change!

Back to the original question: Big tree/little fruit or little tree/lots of fruit?

It feels that at some point, we might have lost our way. Perhaps we became more concerned with success than fruitfulness. Jesus says we evaluate things in the Kingdom on their fruitfulness…but somewhere along the way it became about the size of your tree. Now having a big tree is a fine thing. Just know you’re only successful in evaluating yourself against the size of other trees, and God has never been terribly concerned about tree size. Just fruitfulness. That’s it. The point of a tree isn’t how big your tree is but how much fruit you have. It’s about fruit! And in the Kingdom, fruitfulness is always about reproduction. (Specifically, reproducing disciples…multiplying Jesus’ life into the life of others who can then go and do the same.) Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 8.53.46 AM

My experience tells me having a big tree doesn’t mean you have a lot of fruit. In fact, what I’ve seen happen a lot more often is people going after the big tree and hoping to get fruit, rather than going after fruit and knowing you get the tree along the way.

Choose the best, and you always get the good. Choose the good, you very rarely get the best.

Are we trying to start or lead churches, create Kingdom movements and aspire to all the breakthrough Jesus saw apart from the way Jesus did those things? Am I trying to make Jesus like me or do I honestly believe he was the best in the Kingdom business?

The Reformation was a significant moment because among other things, it put the Bible back in the hands of the people. But when we look at the church of the last 100 years, I have to wonder if we have been more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.

This is the gut check question: If you had to choose between being known as a movement leader but not really having one, or actually being a movement leader but no one knowing it…which would you choose?

Tree or fruit?

Here’s the good news: I believe we are on the cusp of a new Reformation, one that sees the kind of fruit we saw from Jesus’ ministry, because we, once again, embrace not simply what Jesus did on the cross but the way he led and made disciples. Yes. I think we are on the tipping point of a new Reformation and it is about putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people. Because when we equip the people of Jesus with the patterns, practices and way of Jesus, it will once again be ordinary people equipped to do extraordinary things.

The key is to embrace the mission of Jesus AND the way of Jesus. He’s just the best there ever was!

Hopefully you hear what I’m trying to convey clearly. I’m not suggesting we should go after a new Reformation. I’m suggesting it’s already happening. And maybe we don’t see it on every street corner yet, but I see it happening all around. A small group of communities, ready to be bloodied in going through the wall first, who are getting the beachhead of breakthrough for the rest of the church.

It’s already happening!

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 8.54.14 AMAt the end of the day, I don’t want a big tree. But I don’t want a small tree either. I want an orchard. I want a Kingdom movement where reproduction of Jesus’ life within individuals and communities is happening on every level. I’ve seen this happen before. I know it because I’ve seen it. And I think we are starting to see glimmers of this reality again. Lord, may it be so! May we see a Kingdom movement wash upon these shores.

 

If these longings resonate with you, here are three things you can do to step more fully into this groundswell:

  1. breen_bookSlideREPOST. Repost this link on twitter, facebook or your blog.
  2. RESPOND. Leave a comment on this post. Here’s the question: Where are the places you are seeing breakthrough in putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people? We’d love to hear about it!
  3. READ. We just released a new book on this subject called Leading Kingdom Movements: the “Everyman” notebook on how to change the world. You can pick up the ebook by clicking here. We think you’ll love it. Write a review. Read it and pass it on to a friend. The thing we are most concerned about is getting this idea out!

 

 

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56 Responses to Are we on the brink of a new Reformation?

  1. Marty 2013/03/05 at 9:05 am #

    We want tree fruit at mushroom speed. In a culture that microwaves minute rice we have to embrace focused directional attention in a single direction over time. At the end of the day the tortoise always wins.

  2. Scott 2013/03/05 at 9:10 am #

    Slow deconstruction is beginning to move us into kingdom reconstruction. Conversations and lightbulbs over people’s heads are beginning to brighten as they think about the possibilities.

  3. Dennis 2013/03/05 at 9:49 am #

    18 months ago I pulled together a team of folks to begin looking at the future of the church. While they thought it would be a simple program it was really more about loving and learning together. Our team lost one couple; however our one team launched three small groups with two still actively loving, learning, and leading our whole church. Our losses have hurt; our growing fruit is hopeful!

  4. Jay Gamelin 2013/03/05 at 10:52 am #

    This is so true, yet so hard to get started. I have to fight my own desire for success (die to it, they say), and teach myself and others to evaluate by a completely different measure (fruitfulness as opposed to size). I am new on the path, seeking to lead our church through this, and yes, making some kingdom progress in my covenant identity. But man, do I daily have to die and rise on this one. Lord, have mercy.

  5. Chris Beard 2013/03/05 at 11:19 am #

    Brilliant post Mike. Our community of faith is undergoing a process of unlearning and relearning which is slow, deliberate, and quite frankly…difficult. We are combining a gradual structural change with the theological paradigm shift and we are seeing small glimmers of light which seem to be small holes being poked in the dark canvas that has hindered the growth of the gospel in our lives and in our church, revealing the light of truth behind it. Praise be to God and may the Holy Spirit be unleashed!

  6. Peter 2013/03/05 at 11:24 am #

    good stuff. focusing on the vine, yoke easy, letting God make the fruit happen… incredibly refreshing. so many of our peers have been burnt out on wonderful contemporary modern (and dare i say post-modern) programs. come all who are thirsty

  7. Yvonne 2013/03/05 at 11:57 am #

    Where are the places you are seeing breakthrough in putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people?

    Campus Ministry one of the least funded areas of many denominations!

  8. Mark 2013/03/05 at 12:24 pm #

    I love the inspiration and insight. In the end, doing trumps talking. But doing has to follow talking if it is to have direction. Here the talking comes from a doer with a proven track record!

  9. mjannett 2013/03/05 at 3:30 pm #

    Love the image of orchards. We need all sorts of churches of all sizes bearing fruit. In my own experience as one who has been discipled in a group, and am now discipling my own group, I can see sprouts just after 2 months! Imagine what God will do throughout our lifetimes! Great stuff from Breen and crew, yet again.

  10. Elvis 2013/03/05 at 3:45 pm #

    Next Bishop of Durham. You read it here first.

  11. Randy Ezra Rainwater 2013/03/05 at 5:25 pm #

    As my friend Greg Boone says, apple farmers are really apple tree farmers. An orchard of trees that are producing not only has great fruit, but it is also fun to play in. Thanks Mike for showing me more of how to have an orchard to play in and produce fruit that blesses so many!

  12. Lisa Bergren 2013/03/05 at 5:31 pm #

    15 months into our 3DM process, we are seeing such excitement in our congregation…people feeling empowered and emboldened to disciple as Jesus did. We are most definitely experiencing the first fruits of our own, internal reformation. I anticipate in the next 6 months we’ll begin to see that spread outward. So blessed to be walking the Way, shoulder to shoulder, with my brothers and sisters at 3DM, covered in the dust of Jesus’ sandals! Thanks for all you do to lead us forward…

  13. bobrognlien 2013/03/05 at 9:47 pm #

    I am so grateful to be getting out of the tree business and getting into the fruit movement! Thanks for showing us the way Mike. If the first Reformation was about putting the Word of God back into the hands of the people, it seems this new Reformation is about putting the Work of God back into the hands of the people … so glad to see Discipleship and Mission reclaimed in our time!

  14. St 2013/03/06 at 4:49 am #

    Interesting dilemma is that to do this a leader/minister needs to be desperately careful not to set up programmes or ministries that will only work if they invest all their energy in themselves. Jesus said ‘Go, I am, sending you…’ (Not that I am Jesus etc.)

    Strategy:

    1. Have loads of ideas about good things to do but don’t do any of them until someone else has the idea, then support them to lead it.

    2. As soon as you have competent leaders export them.

    3. Be Christ-centred in al you do, good news to the local community and a resource to the wider church.

  15. stuart mcc 2013/03/06 at 7:20 am #

    I have been praying for a missional revolution for 5 years and am encouraged by the signs. I co-lead a missional community reaching out as part of http://www.kairoschurch.net in harrogate under direction of @kairoscarey.

    This is a fab post and it hits the nail smack-back on the head into the wooden cross and out into the orchard!
    Thanks foreadinh and writing Mike :-)

    • stuart mcc 2013/03/06 at 7:22 am #

      Last line ought to have said:

      Thanks for leading and writing Mike :-)

  16. Matt Branaugh 2013/03/06 at 10:32 am #

    Mike–God blessed you with something prophetic here. I can’t share this fast enough.

    One more extension of your parable: The pruning of our trees. Last spring, a matured crabapple tree in our backyard had overgrown branches in many places. In fact, so much so that they were pushing into the side of our home. We hired a professional service, which came out and trimmed many branches, while altogether moving many more. What happened? An explosion of crabapples throughout the spring, summer, and fall. We couldn’t keep up! The tree produced thousands of crabapples.

    In connection to your piece, I’d say we want orchards of fruitful trees, not singular big trees with little fruit; and regardless of the size of the tree, we want a well-pruned tree. What “branches” in our churches have grown stagnant, perhaps have even died, and overgrown into nuisances, distractions, or embarassments in need of removal or trimming? Think of the fruit we might see God produce if we made those hard decisions and scaled our churches back to one basic purpose: teaching people what it means to be fully devoted followers of Jesus?

  17. Laurence Keith 2013/03/06 at 11:39 am #

    HI,

    My only problem with all of this is the worldview it is intimately linked with. Why do you need to feel like we’re on the brink of a new reformation? Why so grandiose? You’d probably all say ‘because that’s where we are in history’, like Ms Tickle, but i think there’s something deeper underlying that that could do with a bit of kairos engagement. Something to do with the need to feel significant.

    answers on a postcard!

    • Mike breen 2013/03/11 at 5:35 pm #

      Come on Laurence! You think I need to feel significant? M+

  18. David Warren 2013/03/06 at 4:11 pm #

    Like any other reformation, it is very much needed and will be different than what we intend, but more Christ centered. The church has been asleep far too long. Time to wake up and be the church in every area.

  19. Miriam Cates 2013/03/06 at 5:23 pm #

    Fantastic blog Mike, very thought-provoking. This is something we are considering in trying to grow our business, and it is very helpful to think about the difference between success and fruitfulness. It is tempting to measure success in terms of number of employees, size of office, scale of clients but we are realising that is not an indicator of fruitfulness. (Memorable quote from the UK business TV programme ‘The Dragon’s Den’: “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality.” – could this be re-interpreted for Kingdom Movements?!)

    This has definitely inspired me to look again at how we can replicate Jesus’ growth strategy in growing the business which is our Kingdom Movement.

  20. Greg D 2013/03/06 at 5:44 pm #

    And, planting a tree that will eventually produce an orchard sounds daunting. But, if the fruit on the single tree is reproducing, it won’t be. Planting the initial tree will take some time. But, once it starts producing fruit, the harvest will come.

  21. Patrick 2013/03/06 at 9:18 pm #

    Appreciate your wisdom and insight. I love the challenge of big tree vs. fruitfulness. I opt for the orchard. Thanks for this.

  22. Jerry Edmonds 2013/03/07 at 10:17 am #

    Very timely post. I was delivering a message last week based on the parable of the soils. The final point was that we are to focus on being fruitful, without worrying about how much fruit others are producing. Produce all you can; produce what God has called and empowered you to produce. That is the clear message from Matthew 13: 8 & 23.

  23. Aaron Carpenter 2013/03/07 at 1:11 pm #

    Thanks, Mike. Great stuff. I have seen breakthrough in discipleship and mission in a community of high school students in Moon. Breaking through the wall has been a bit bloody as you mentioned, but glory to God in how he is using ordinary kids to transform the world for his Kingdom.
    Grace and Peace

  24. Matt Erickson 2013/03/07 at 1:59 pm #

    Great stuff, Mike. Thanks for challenging us toward fruitfulness in Jesus’ sense of the word.

  25. Mark Carey 2013/03/08 at 9:51 am #

    This is great. Simple, straightforward & challenging…… this post challenges me yet again to contribute what I can through & with Kairos Network Church and partnering with others to release multiple communities of fruitful disciples. I’ve started reading the new book – I love it!

  26. Scott 2013/03/08 at 11:03 am #

    Great article. The Orchard is great image of the goal of Christ. Being part of denomination becomes difficult to overcome the need for success in want of fruitfulness. If you take fruitfulness over success, then you are classified as a poor leader with poor vision who is trying to keep people happy to keep your position as a pastor. I want to look like Jesus instead of Him looking like me. Thanks for your insights. I hope more of us get on board with the desire to look like Jesus and desire fruit.

  27. Kye James 2013/03/08 at 3:40 pm #

    You seem to want to see the fruit of the tree more than you want the tree to grow. This is unbiblical, this will never lead you to a “new reformation” because it is not the heart that led the reformers to the first reformation. The tree grows and bears fruit naturally; if you neglect the tree, no fruit will come.

    Take the Third-Wave and seeker-sensitive movements for example: They share your ideals. They want to see the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit, and the “fruit” of ministry to unbelievers, but these movements create false converts and poison the body of Christ.

    You do not need to continue creating new manuals, or inventing creative new ministry programs. The old way of the old reformers worked.

    Furthermore, Christ’s methods were not put into practice by His disciples. Christ accompshed His work and His work alone. No man is supposed to accomplish what He did. He created the church, He builds the church, we are the church. You are not Jesus.
    Focus on the church and the church will grow and bear fruit. Abide in Christ, not in methodologies.

  28. Elle 2013/03/08 at 5:03 pm #

    I would like to see churches/pastors/people whatever stop thinking about trees and orchards and growth for one second and spend more time noticing and nurturing the broken Christians right under their noses, and in their pews/seats. I’m very disillusioned with the “church,” (never with God or Jesus, just the so-called “body of Christ). You only seem to matter when you’re uber-involved. It’s kind of disgusting, when you think about it.

  29. Anonymous 2013/03/08 at 8:13 pm #

    One of my regular prayers for years has been that God would keep me anonymous, but do amazing things through me. Helps me keep the focus on Christ and not on my name and reputation. So I’ll gladly be a little tree that Lord willing will start an orchard. One of my favorite quotes is “An infinity of forests lie dormant in the dreams of one acorn.” And for the forest to begin, the acorn must die.

    Unfortunately as I take stock of my life, I haven’t seen tons of fruit yet. I have done ministry the way it’s been expected of me and what comes naturally for me. But the more anonymous I remain, the more hopeful I am that God is answering my prayer, and great fruitfulness is coming. I just aim to incarnate and “die” so that the tree might begin to grow and God’s fame extends to the hearts of my city.

  30. Jaimi 2013/03/10 at 3:39 pm #

    I really appreciate this analogy. I think, too, we need to be applying this ‘orchard discipleship’ into our every day lives and not just into our church families or church houses. I am a military wife and tend to minister within the military spouse community. Many are Christians, some may not be, but building communities of support is important in this lifestyle, so my goal is to just be the one to push the domino over, but not need to be the one to push every domino over. I have seen a little bit of a chain reaction-spouses reaching out to others-and it does not necessarily benefit me on a selfish level (I don’t gain more friends or more popularity, actually the contrary), but knowing the women are building friendships because I took the time to plan a few events is amazing! I wish many knew how simple it was to start to plant an orchard-doesn’t mean you get popular or become a big tree, but the seeds get planted and many trees will thrive even if a few along the way die out. This has been my experience so far, and I know this article has really taught me more about giving and not worrying what I get out of it. I just hope Jesus’ mission is what gets promoted. I know I have so much more to learn.

  31. Patrick Watters 2013/03/11 at 3:53 pm #

    Lots of parallels with the “musings” of others out there who are also sensing something? The house, organic, simple, green church folks. The Emergent Church folks. Others too.

    “The renewal of the church will come from a new type of monasticism, which has only in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time men and women banded together to do this.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/patrick-watters/excerpts-from-celtic-daily-prayer-/502141103176230

  32. jackson 2013/03/20 at 1:47 pm #

    Slow…process. Our church leadership is starting to ask questions that get us back to the basics of following Jesus, which usually feels like a “DUH!” experience. Sad, convicting and slow, but God is merciful and gracious! We are finally asking: What does GOD want? Are we dependent on HIM or are we dependent on ourselves (1 Cor 2:1-5)? What are we adding from American culture to Jesus? We are having to unlearn decades of beliefs and actions that frankly had nothing to do with Jesus. Praise God for His faithfulness, even when we have left our first love, our only hope, and the only One who truly satisfies!!!

  33. Andy Lewis 2013/03/20 at 3:24 pm #

    The breakthrough we’re seeing is God awakening our church leaders to lay down the huge egos fueled by our own insecurities, and begin humbly and more quietly spending more time “equipping the saints for the work of service” than we do spend our time equipping ourselves to do all the work for the saints. Then flowing out of our equipping work with a much smaller group of people who want to become disciple-making disciples, we’re seeing the regular people in our church (the people so many of us seminary trained church leaders would have once considered the “things that are not” according to Paul in 1 Cor. 1: 28) spread the Gospel in their own personal sphere of influence. The other breakthrough is this – we’re learning to celebrate fruit as scripture defines fruit rather than celebrating a bigger tree. We’re learning that success = faithfulness – doing the best you can with what you have where you are (with credit going to Mark Batterson)

  34. Bill 2013/04/11 at 2:10 pm #

    So, we don’t measure on size. Instead we measure on the amount of fruit? Despite claims to the contrary, you are still trying to measure success. But, fruit is a byproduct of something else that is going on. And it is not necessarily produced in a measurable, linear fashion. And we do not have the necessary tools to discern exactly why we are seeing certain fruits(i.e. results).

    So what will be the next measuring stick? Faithfulness, Love, Persecution? Anything will be just as useful as fruit, which is to say not useful at all.

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  38. len hjalmarson 2013/08/05 at 11:52 am #

    “More influenced by the Enlightenment than the Reformation.”

    The Reformation, too, saw Enlightenment influence. In opting for a sterile aesthetic, the whole notion of embodiment began to erode. Similarly the “priesthood of believers” was never fully fleshed out, and “two kingdoms” rather than a realized eschatology resulted in a movement where heaven (other-worldly) became the goal of the spiritual life. I know you know this stuff, and I know your point is not to aim at a reformation but to acknowledge the one we are in. At the same time, however, we should acknowledge the weaknesses of the Reformation and the ongoing influence of rationalism, individualism, etc in much of the missional movement. There remains a lot of reaction-against, false dichotomies, the most popular being the attractional-incarnational reductionism. We will have much to learn, still need to hold Word and Spirit together.

  39. Greg Gamble 2014/01/09 at 10:30 am #

    New life must follow death to old life.Take up your cross and follow me must preceed ingathering & friutfulness. If there is to be a new reformation or renewal, we must not only die to our old church-ese language & methods, we must pro-actively lay down our lives daily for one another. The reformation must begin at home, with family renewal; husbands loving wives as Christ loves us. When we see a drastic decline in single mom homes & fatherless children, in the churches, maybe then we can pronounce the birth of renewal.
    Wev’e been outside the mainstream church for 40 yrs, but embedded in close knit fellowships, and the defining difference we have experienced is that vibrant & fruitful church life naturally occurs, in many wonderful & undocumented forms. When husbands & fathers are as meek & servant like as St. Francis, washing the feet of their wives, kids & one another, while simultaneously commanding their
    children like Abraham, then maybe we can legitimately say we are in a reformation. Persoanally, I think we should all be ashamed of ourselves, that God has had to resort to tipping over our comfortable pews to wake us up to listen to the sermon He’s been preaching to us all for many generations. Let’s not get prematurely excited about this current shakeup. Its only just begun & we haven’t been tested by fire yet. It remains to be seen who will hang around as some of us are publicly dragged before Sanhedrins & magistrates. Our capacity & hunger for fairy tale endings is exceeded by our foot dragging as Jesus leads us to our own Golgotha, where the seed of the next generation church will be conceived in our dying bodies.
    Anyone that lives & teaches our brethren this narrative is a leader of early church stature. All others will do well to return to simply following Jesus, & trembling to presume they lead anyone because to whom much has been given, much is required.
    I’ve not read any of your writing Mike & did not intend this to be in any way personally directed at you or anyone, as I am a deeply flawed man who needs Christ, & Christ in my brethren, daily, to be fruitful & become like Jesus. I suspect you are a man of truth & humilty though. I simply wanted to temper anyones unrealistic presumptions that the future is bright with a counterweight of sober second thought. Forgive me please if I’ve tread where I wasn’t looking carefully.
    Blessings

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fruit | Today's Word - 2013/03/05

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