About five years ago my wife planted a grape vine. A couple of years later she planted two more. We knew nothing about grapes. But we sure are learning and it is bringing scripture to life. Jesus says in John 15:1-2:
" I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
Vines won't produce really anything the first three years. It takes time. The first year it began to produce (3rd year) I let it grow. Those vines were shooting out everywhere and growing fast. My goodness it looked great. But it did not produce much fruit at all. I trimmed it a little and the next year it did a little better; but not much better.
The next year I pruned it so aggressively Brenda was concerned that I'd killed it. Boy was she wrong! That year it produced more fruit than the first two combined. Then I learned, the more I pruned the vines that produced fruit, the larger the grapes grew. The fruit of the vine became plump and plentiful verses puny and pitiful.
Then I began to actually do some research to learn more about how to actually grow grapes. One of the things I learned was that to grow good grapes it is recommended that you remove 80-90% of the previous years growth. Think about that. That is aggressive.
Now I learned that by experience! Imagine if I'd paid attention to what the scripture said and also to what experienced vine-dressers taught before I started growing grapes. Typical guy! Trying to operate something without reading the owners manual first. Sorry, I digressed!
So the Lord has been challenging me to apply these truths from His word to my life and our ministry. Here is what I have learned.
I have always applied John 15 to my personal life. I have to confess I never thought to apply it to the ministry God assigned me. In this last year I've been challenged to begin to apply this truth to Kingdom League International. Since 2008 we've seen our ministry explode with growth in 34 nations. Of those nations there were 4 that really seemed to take off. This reminded me of the first two years that our grape vine began to produce fruit. I let it grow with little pruning. The plant grew huge but it actually produced a small harvest of little tiny grapes compared to what it could have. It is because there was a limited supply of nutrients our local team to offer.
The thing our Father (the Master Vinedresser) is really emphasizing to me is that He is really interested in the fruit that the vine produces. He is not impressed with a big vine that produces little fruit. Jesus says in John 15:16,
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain...."
Big vines have many shoots that take essential nutrients from the stronger shoots that actually produce fruit. Recently Lance Wallnau referenced a book by Jim Collins "From Good to Great." As I recall Lance made the observation that the great companies became great many times by actually cutting off some profitable areas of their company so they could focus on that which they excelled, thereby moving from good to great.
With these lessons in mind I've been reviewing our (my) activity for the last three months. I am looking forward to see how the Master Vinedresser leads me. This I know! The radical pruning of my natural vine led to amazing growth. It was big, healthy and produced more and better fruit. So I am excited to see what else I will learn in this process.
Whether you choose to apply this personally or as the leader of a business or ministry I encourage you to consider this lesson as well. Step back and take a long term view of what it will take to produce great fruit; great fruit that remains.