As a minister, this final dimension of The Cycle of Grace really strikes me. To be honest, part of the reason why this particular post is coming from me late in the week is because I haven't known quite what to think or say about it. Fruitfulness is the term used by the authors to describe this dimension originally referred to as achievement by Lake and Brunner. Fruitfulness is a Biblical concept, often indicating God's favor, blessing, and success of the one who depends on God. Fruitfulness in the sense of a vine or a tree producing many fruits and multiplying the harvest is what we read about in the Bible, and what challenges me. Our world measures success/achievement in numbers, and the tendency is to do the same with fruitfulness in our common ministry as followers of Christ, especially in churches. But when we look at the ways that Jesus was fruitful in his ministry, we see that it's not always about quantity, but quality. Here are some of the "fruits" of Jesus's life and ministry: inclusion and acceptance of those on the margins, transformation of lives, teaching/guidance, freedom/love, community, reconciliation, hope, healing/release, purpose, wisdom/discernment, rest/blessing, cleansing/redirection/forgiveness, and courage/truth. What do we notice about these things? None of them are measurable by the standards of society.
The other thing to notice is that the fruitfulness of Jesus's ministry did not come as a result of specific goals that he set for himself. Goal #1: feed 5000 people at once. Goal #2: heal all the sick in one village. Goal #3: train 12 men to inherit my ministry. Those things happened as a result of Jesus's goal to simply be faithful to God and become a sign of God's presence and grace in this world. Fruitfulness is what happens when we let God's grace flow through us. But I am sometimes like so many others who try to work the cycle backwards and in a worldly perspective: trying to achieve and be fruitful in order to find significance, hoping this significance will sustain me and allow me to be accepted by others. This backwards approach to the Cycle of Grace is called the Cycle of Works. For me, it is a reminder that we as people of faith live in between the world's ways and God's ways. Often they are contrasting, but despite our desire to live in the ways of God, the ways of the world are not easily ignored. I see that reality in myself, and I suppose that's why I've been so challenged by this week's journey in coming full circle in the Cycle of Grace.
So it's nice to have God remind me that in our small church, I have seen the fruits of our ministry together: inclusion, community, reconciliation, transformation, blessing, and teaching/guidance, just to name a few. I am so grateful for the meaningful ways that we share in ministry and engage this cycle of grace together. But let's not keep it within our little community. This grace is meant to be shared. How might we become even more fruitful?
Love and Grace,