Imagine a large tree full of branches and bearing fruit.  Here is what I hope we can understand about the local church gathering on Sundays.  Be careful with this analogy, because it is definitely limited, even though it’s helpful.   



The Sunday morning worship service is like the large trunk of the tree. It’s where everything comes together, and we are collectively reminded of our identity as we receive from God, offer our sacrifices and express our prayers and worship.  In these moments we join the global Church historic across all nations and time. Of course I hope you will attend our worship gatherings as often as possible - even on mornings where you’d rather not.  It’s those moments we’d rather not that we often need such a gathering the most.  



    I hope every individual here will be involved in the roots of the tree.  As you imagine from the tree, into the dirt just below the surface, you’ll see large root systems beginning.  These are our small group experiences.  They include Sunday School classes, actual midweek small groups, or Bible studies of 10 or more people.  These are great places to grow in our faith, and connect in relationship with other believers who strengthen our growth.  But you don’t need to try and be in a Sunday School, a midweek small group, AND a Bible study group of some sort.  If you do, you’ll have less of yourself to offer the growth and fruit-bearing that happens up in the branches. Different seasons call for involvement in different roots.

    Keep traveling down these root systems, and you’ll find they branch off into smaller roots.  These are our “Band Meeting” type groups, where 3 believers meet regularly for confession, forgiveness, and prayer.  Not far from there are the ends of roots where each individual spends time on their own receiving divine nutrition by moments in prayer and scripture.  The soil, after all, is filled with nutrients of God’s presence, His Living Word, and His Spirit that transforms.



    Traveling back up through the roots, and up the trunk, eventually the tree begins to branch out.  This is an exciting place to be, because it approaches the purpose of the tree, which is not just to exist, but to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.   Here it is helpful to explore what your strengths may be, and how God has gifted you for His Church.

    First we come to the large central branches.   These are groups of people from the church that go out from the trunk together with specific purposes.  Our Stewards team is one branch.  Our Missions team is another.  It could also be that you find your trunk to be the children’s volunteer team, security team, or worship team.  Some of these stay close to the trunk, serving what happens in the church gatherings.  These efforts help support the trunk, and nurture life to continue up through the branches.  Some of these help the trunk to effectively reach out further into the community and world. 

    Next we travel up the main branches and out into some of the smaller sticks and twigs, living and even growing leaves.  These are more specific and unique recurring ways of bearing fruit for the Kingdom of God. It might be loving your neighbors by serving on your HOA.  It might be volunteering at a soup kitchen.  It might be leading a small group, or teaching a Sunday School class.  It might be mentoring through the community's “One to One” Program.  It might be volunteer work at Salt and Light, or another organization locally. It might be sponsoring a child as an individual or with a group.    Remember these "leaves" are also places where we receive the nutrients of God's Light shining on us in ways that provide for growth!

    Finally we come to the ends of each tiny branch, where fruit grows readily.  These are often the unplanned "interruptions", moments in response to the invite of the Holy Spirit.  Maybe you take a meal to a neighbor.  Maybe you pray with a coworker, visit someone in the hospital or in prison.  Maybe you join a mission trip to serve somewhere.  Maybe you share an inspiring work of creativity with others to inspire and encourage them.   These individual and ongoing unscripted moments of bearing Kingdom fruit are what so much of this is flowing out toward.  We bear fruit not for the purposes of our own tree, but for others to taste and see that God is good.    The trunk can often look large and important, but it’s not the purpose of a tree.  Sure, someone may on occasion come take a bite of the tree trunk - and so we try to make sure it tastes alright.  But the fruit of the tree - the way God is bearing fruit in our individual lives and homes - is what will be tasted by a world that doesn’t yet know about God.   


If we spend all our time or energy in the roots and trunk, we will not have much left for bearing such fruit.  At the same time, if we aren’t attending to the roots, and regularly being a committed part of the trunk, the fruit we bear will be unhealthy - and will not be filled with all the flavor of the fullness of God.   


I pray we will each continue to begin with knowing God in the quiet endings of a root system that flows into all these things for the purposes of bearing His Kingdom fruit that brings healing to the nations.  God seems to have also brought "all the nations" right here to our doorstep in Champaign County.   I pray that as we continue to offer all we do for His purposes, He will continue to nurture and guide us in bearing fruit - and possibly even planting new trees in the years to come.  

This is what I see happening, and this is what encourages me for how God is already at work here at Mattis Avenue Free Methodist Church.  I can’t wait to see what that means for the year and years ahead, together with you.


- Pastor Wick <><