And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." Mark 4:20
For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ Luke 10:25-28
Be fruitful. Bear Fruit in every good work. Grow in God. Bear fruit, 30, 60, 100 fold. This week we will be exploring how we can bear fruit in our mission and service. In the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Robert Schnase argues that our mission and service should involve risk taking. What does this look like? How can we step outside the box to serve our neighbors? As Schnase says: “What have we done in the last six months to make a positive difference in the lives of others that we would not have done if it were not for our relationship to Christ?”
There is a UCC congregation near where I was serving in Pennsylvania that seemed to embody these Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. It began with a need of a parishioner and turned into a practice of generosity and risk-taking mission and service. In 2002, St. John's
Church of Christ in Coopersburg,
church members worked to raise money for a fellow church member who
was seriously ill and in dire financial condition due to the cumulative medical
expenses that accompanied that illness. They decided to hold a block party that
raised money for her chronic health needs.
Through their efforts, $8200 was raised and given to the family. As they took this action to help a known neighbor they brought a lot of life and joy to the community. They decided not to stop there. They wanted to continue the block party the next year only this time seek applications from people in their neighborhood who were struggling with medical debt due to chrinoc diseases. Out of
that effort COB (community outreach benefit) was born, and
has raised $330,502 for 31 families each year.
Today they have a large organizational team from many area churches and
over 300 active volunteers from throughout the Southern
Lehigh and surrounding areas.
As one recipient wrote:
“I will never forget sitting at home after spending a hot day in the parking lot of the church. I was totally exhausted, but elated at the same time. We felt so overwhelmed with the love shown not in words, but in deeds. All the people that worked so hard and did so much just for us left us staggered and numb. It wasn't about the money raised, but the fact that people cared enough to labor under the hot sun for hours for our benefit. It is still unbelievable."
At the heart of COB lives unselfish service and example to all of fruitful living. This fruitful congregation through their desire to be generous to a hurting member, allowed their life as a congregation to be transformed. One of the people who sang in the band began to worship with the congregation and bring vibrancy to their music. Their Sunday offering began to rise and attendance went up. They learned to bear fruit. How can we here in Lake Geneva learn to take a risk and serve our neighbors? Are we willing to allow our lives to be transformed as we help another?