Re: Turning Point Church World Outreach Center-Tell Your Story
Date: November 15, 2008 03:56PM
Installment 2: Things I’ve Learned from My Experience at Turning Point
Concern #2: Defending the ‘Fruit’ of a Ministry
Have you ever talked with someone about your church’s ministry and defended or promoted it by saying you were “seeing such good fruit”? If so, what did you mean by good fruit? What examples did you have in mind? Powerful worship? “Salvations?” Healings? Miracles? Demonic deliverances? Great teaching?
Consider, if you will, the following passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7, NIV):
A Tree and Its Fruit
15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
I don’t think we usually think much about these two passages being in conjunction with one other, but they are right there together in Jesus’ teaching. Why? Perhaps because He knew that we’d tend look at people’s ministry “success” as spiritual fruit, as the measure of a person’s or church’s spirituality.
So when I read this passage as I was sorting through my growing concerns about Turning Point, I began asking myself some questions. What should be the indicators of good fruit in a ministry? How about prophecy? Jesus said that isn’t what He’s looking for. How about miracles? Driving out demons? Nope. Scripture clearly reveals that these things can all be done in Jesus’ name but from within our own flesh-fueled motives. The New American Standard Bible translates the phrase “you evildoers” as “you who practice lawlessness,” a chilling description, I think, of the nature of this self-willed (rather than God-willed) kind of ministry. It all looks like shiny fruit, but it’s rotten in the middle.
To recap what I learned: A person can have an incredible resumé full of signs and wonders and still be bearer of bad fruit. So it’s not ministry magnitude or signs and wonders we should be using as a “measure of success” in our own lives or in the lives of ministers and their ministries. (Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that the leaders at Turning Point are bearing bad fruit; I’m merely saying that we cannot point to what we see as successful ministry as “good fruit.” It’s simply not biblical to use that as a measure.)
What is the fruit Jesus is looking for, then, that will cause Him to say that He knows us as one of His own? Scripture speaks very plainly to this in Galatians 5:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
I realize now that this is the fruit that is truly God’s will. This is what pleases Him more than any work or ministry we might be involved in. This view of fruit is, perhaps, less glamorous than the view we often maintain of “spiritual fireworks” being where it’s at. I’ve begun to get the picture in my own life, though, that the real fruit of the Spirit (in contrast to signs and wonders and emotionally charged services and events) comes most often through behind-the-scenes character transformation with no one watching but Jesus. The point is, though, that He is watching and wanting us to seek Him, His fellowship, His Word, and His Spirit rather than recognition, a name, a position, or a spiritual reputation among men.
And I’m also convinced that the true progress of our fruit’s development is generally most evident when we look at our relationships at home—not our relationships with fellow TPWOCers or with TPWOC leadership—but with our own parents, spouses, children, siblings. Does our patience shine yet there? Our kindness, goodness, and gentleness? Do we love them by serving them without pretension, pride, a second agenda, or trying to prove our “level” of spirituality to them, to ourselves, or to our leaders?
If you have time and don’t mind doing so, read that passage in Galatians again. This is what real fruit is. This is what Jesus will look for on our day of reckoning. It’s of utmost importance because this is how He will recognize us as His own. Who cares if anyone else ever recognizes us as “fruitful” or not? As long as Jesus does.
OK, so I hope we can agree that, according to God’s Word, “ministry success” is not validation of the presence of “good fruit.” If we can agree on that, might we stop holding up “salvations” and numbers and miracles and prophecies and emotionally charged worship services as proof that Turning Point (or any church) is “on the right track” or “in the will of God” or “Spirit filled” (i.e., bearing good fruit)?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are THE proof.
In the next installment, I’d like to talk about authority and leadership and highlight a couple of passages that might help fill out and clarify the scriptural record on that topic? Anyway, these scriptures helped me. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you, too.
Installment #3 coming soon…