Ministering for Fruit that Remains

As a wife/mom/author/teacher who loves Jesus and wants to minister in His name, I often think about the phrase from John 15, “fruit that remains.”

John 15:16 NASB You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

I don’t want to waste my time with my family, students, or readers, and I long for the investments that I make at home or with others to have long-term value. Years ago, mostly before kids, I had the chance to speak at several retreats with 300-400 attendees. It was heady, and I was blessed in those ministry settings. Family responsibilities have kept me from accepting opportunities to speak at something that large the last 2 years, yet the opportunities I have had to sit and talk one-on-one have grown (certainly with my boys in my home but also with women in our community). As I evaluate this season of slow and steady opportunities to sow seeds at home or church, I think often of the tortoise and the hare.  It is one of my favorite fables, probably because the truths it reflects are first, Scriptural, and second, very practical. If you are a person who likes public ministry like me, think on Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare, and ask yourself what the finish line is in your head? For me, I have what I believe is a genuine desire to help other women, especially younger women, in areas that I struggled. I remember sweetly the times older women invested in me. I remember the moments of teaching or conversation in which the light came on in my head as the Spirit applied the Scripture or wisdom they shared with me. I want to invest similarly in my home and church. And I want those investments to result in fruit that Satan cannot snatch away. That’s the finish line in my head when I think practically about the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

After 20 years or so in various forms of Christian ministry, with some big opportunities and many more small ones, I can say with heartfelt conviction that the most influential parts of ministry for me are the quiet one-on-one conversations over time. This is not to minimize the big moments. We can likely all remember being seriously influenced by a public speaker or author. And, yet, I am firmly convinced it is the private conversations at my neighborhood hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurant, the local Alehouse (because theological discussion often flows better over a Manny’s Pale Ale), or the local playground that are my most serious investments in ministry.

Key to understanding these investments is remembering how the Bible uses the word fruit. What abiding fruit is Jesus talking about in John 15? Is He talking about numbers of people that profess faith in Him that then persevere in that faith? He’s not, I think, talking simply about the number of people who start attending church who persevere in faith long term. His words are best understood with Paul’s clarification on fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit that I just quoted is relevant because Jesus’ instructions on fruit that remains in John 15 is in the context of life after the Holy Spirit comes. Consider Jesus’ words in the previous chapter.

John 14   15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. … 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Consider the progression of Jesus’ discussion with His disciples. In John 14, Jesus speaks of the Spirit. In Chapter 15, Jesus speaks of fruit that remains. Then, in John 16, He reinforces His Words about the Holy Spirit.

John 16 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Jesus is giving His disciples final instructions before His arrest, with a view toward abiding fruit in ministry. The Holy Spirit is the primary Helper in this next phase of ministry. But what does the abiding fruit of ministry look like? It’s not so much growth in numbers. It’s growth in character. Sure, it involves multiple people; numbers of people are not irrelevant! But the point of say, Pentecost, is not just that 3000 people expressed faith, but that 3000 people began a journey toward real fruit that remains – transformation in love, joy, peace, endurance, and strength under control in the image of God. Thousands of people came forward that day, but that wasn’t the ultimate fruitful goal. It was their transformation into God’s image – the long term work of discipleship and growth. THAT’S the fruit that remains. Big events can give a jump start to fruit that remains. They can identify people who are thirsty, and they can equip people with basic tools to further their journey of growth. But they are not, in and of themselves, the fruit that remains.

As women after God’s heart who long to minister in His name, I encourage you to be watchful for the individual woman who longs for someone to speak grace and truth into her life. Take her to coffee and listen to her heart. Ask follow up questions and point her to the God who has worked in your life. And please do not let women who seem to have big public ministries weigh you down or cause you to undervalue the power of one-on-one conversation. Women have discipled me privately, and their investment over coffee or lunch has ministered great grace to me, drawing me toward greater love, peace, and gentleness in the Lord. And I now, in turn, invest as well, believing deeply in this work of ministry – over coffee, over a meal, or at a playground while corralling little ones. These small moments of sowing seeds are powerful long term as God brings lasting fruit in His Name.

10 Responses to Ministering for Fruit that Remains

  1. Ellie August 29, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    Thank you Wendy, bigger is not necessarily better, especially in tending hearts and souls.

  2. Irene Sun August 29, 2013 at 3:18 am #

    Thank you, Wendy. You spoke directly to my heart, while I was nursing my baby. Much grace and joy to you this night.

  3. Anonymous August 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    thank you

    Matt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

    Matt 22:37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your your heart, and with all your soul, and will all your mind.’38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Deut 6:6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons (daughters, whoever) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deut 11 18 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and soul.

  4. Liz August 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Wendy, I can attest to the impact of one-on-one conversations. I contacted you during a difficult spot in my marriage, and the fact that you took time out of your surely busy schedule to respond with thought and concern really encouraged me.

  5. Wendy August 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Liz, thank you for that encouragement!!

  6. Luma Simms August 29, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    This is so important, Wendy. I'm glad you wrote on it. We should never forget the local ministry God gives all of us.

  7. Lady E. August 30, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    This is a powerful reminder. I am learning to be mindful of these things now. Thank you! 🙂

  8. Pia August 30, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Thru the wonders of technology, I guess, your blogs are often like “quiet one-on-one conversations.” Thank you for having them with me every week! Thank you, too, for the nudge to have them with others.

  9. Wendy August 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    That's a sweet thought, Pia. Glad we ran ideas past each other today. 🙂

  10. Anonymous August 31, 2013 at 1:46 am #

    As a 43 year old woman I see more and more the opportunities God provides me with to have friendships with women in their 20s and 30s. To be deliberate in showing them Christ by how I live and being available to listen to them, encourage, affirm and challenge in a one-on-one relationship. Thank you for encouraging those of us who may have not been called to “big” opportunities, but by faithfully responding to God's command to be “models of goodness” to younger women we too can be instrumental in bringing forth lasting fruit that remains.