A branch grows as an extension of a tree’s base (trunk) and is supported and anchored by the roots. Without a deep and well-anchored base, a tree would easily fall over from the weight of its branches. And branches can get too heavy for a tree, especially if the tree is not growing naturally after the pattern God intended. Keep this image in mind when considering how you will BRANCH for God. There are often many opportunities to branch out in any given church: Sunday school, small groups, Bible studies, ministry teams, etc. but it quickly becomes clear that we can’t do everything. I don’t think it was ever God’s intention that we try and do everything. It is important and vital to our spiritual walk to branch out but please, don’t burn out. Consider one specific area where you would like to focus most of your attention, and stay committed to that group. Consider that group your church family group.
Since the beginning of the Church on Pentecost, Christians have celebrated and grown together under two dynamics: Big and small. Now, consider the size of the Acts 2 church: 3000 people. Now, granted, many people were from out of town and many were from out of the country, and all who accepted Christ at that time took the Gospel home with them. But the Jerusalem Christians celebrated their salvation in Christ in two ways: At the temple and together in their homes. It is altogether natural and godly for the Church to grow to be both big and small. The Christians gathered together in a large group at the temple complex area, worshiping, singing and praising God (restoring the type of worship that had been done in the days of King David) and they met together in homes, committing themselves to the entire body of the apostles’ teaching –which was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They shared the Lord’s Supper together as “families” in homes, had meals together, they prayed (a lot), and they did these things daily.
The church that understands that it should grow corporately (together as one large group) and by multiplication (through family groups) is a healthy church. Sometimes this is referred to as a “two-winged” church, able to reach great heights and soar. But unfortunately human nature can try to hinder this God-given and perfect model of Church. Some would say that they don’t like it when the church grows “too big.” I am often perplexed as to how a church can grow to be “too big.” We should be careful and search our hearts when making such statements. When is a church ever too big? Too big to impact the world with greater opportunities for ministry? Too big because they are able to send and support missionaries completely from their own congregation? Too big to worship together in a corporate setting that inspires awe from the sound of so many voices singing in unity to glorify the Lamb who was slain for the whole world? But when I read passages from the Word, such as that in Revelation 7, it is my understanding that we will one day be worshiping in a crowd that is myriads upon myriads of people, encircling the throne of God. A big crowd does not scare me because that will soon be a reality for all of us –people from every tongue, tribe and nation will gather together in worship. But we must also remember that a healthy church meets on a smaller scale as family. When people attempt to make the corporate group the family group (enough people that I can personally know and remember), then evangelism typically stops. People don’t often stop to think that by saying they don’t want the church to grow “too big” are actually saying that they would like evangelism to stop at a certain point to accommodate their own preferences. When this position is adopted by a majority in the church –the church eventually dies. Every living thing must grow. And there is nothing more alive on this earth than the Church of Jesus Christ. The church needs big AND small. People need the personal, intimate interconnections of a family group. A group can more easily help and minister to those in the group. A family group doesn’t have to become over-extended. Likewise, the church cannot simply become a big group. Having only a big group causes people to become lost in the crowd –scary for some and too convenient for others. Healthy disciples in Jesus Christ need to grow deeper in their connection with God (the root of the tree) and with one another (the branches). We can learn about and become connected to God through a great worship service, but we also need to grow together more intimately as family groups. And we always branch out in anticipation of producing fruit. This is when a church can really THRIVE. Jesus made us His disciples to bear much fruit –fruit that will last. In order to please Him and live up to being His disciples, we must grow in our understanding of His ways (not our own preferences). Branch.
Consider what we could do if we ministered to one another in smaller groups. Consider what church could be like if we handled our burdens together in more manageable loads instead of considering how we can possibly do everything. Jesus’ burden for us is supposed to be easy and light –not overwhelming. Become focused, not spread too thin. And wherever you do decide to branch out and connect to a family in the church, remember that the goal of your group is not just to fellowship together and gain more knowledge about God, but to also bear fruit for our Good Teacher. Consider how your group can bless one another, the Kouts community and the world. Let’s THRIVE for the King of kings.
Love in Jesus,