Pruning is when a secondary vine that is producing a lot of fruit is removed from the main vine and transplanted. Once transplanted, it becomes the main vine and (hopefully) produces more vines, all producing good fruit.
Sometimes when a vine doesn’t produce any fruit, or the fruit is substandard, it is pruned to allow the other vines to receive more nutrients from the main vine. The pruned vine may be transplanted to another main vine to see if it does better there, and if it doesn’t produce any fruit anymore it will be thrown into the fire and burned (read the parable found at Luke 13:6-8 about the fruit tree in the garden.)
In our lives we will be pruned, one way or the other, and possibly more than once. Sometimes we are cut off from our vine, and sometimes vines are cut off of us. Overall, pruning is not fun: it cause stress, anxiety and sadness. Our “comfort zone” is being reorganized, and no one likes it when that happens.
My congregation at the Hebraic Roots church I have been attending for 3 1/2 years (of which I am also a Council member and Officer) is undergoing pruning as I write this. I just changed the home page of our web site to reflect that there will no longer be any Shabbat services. The Senior Pastor (and only one able to fill that position) is stepping down to pursue a theological Master’s Degree that his current employer is paying for, and he knows that working a full time job while pursuing an advanced degree will not leave the time he needs to perform his duties as a full time Pastor. This is a hard decision for him, as he has been with this church for many years, but it is the right decision for him. The church attendance has also been steadily decreasing, tithes are not meeting expenses, and we haven’t met the requirements for being a sovereign church for (at least) 2 years. The Assembly of God Presbyter has been very kind in allowing us to continue as a Hebraic Roots church with Friday night services, but now we need to dissolve this church and return all the assets to the A of G for them to take charge. They have been very patient and helpful, and will “re-boot” the church sometime in the immediate future, which will be a “standard” Assembly of God church with Sunday services.
We know we are being pruned, but who knows what, or who, is being pruned? Is the Senior Pastor being pruned to be more fruitful elsewhere? Is the incoming Pastor being pruned to be more fruitful here? Is this congregation being pruned because we haven’t been producing any fruit?
I really don’t know. I would like to think that we have been doing well and we are all, individually, being transplanted somewhere else to continue to do God’s calling in our lives. I think this place has done all it was supposed to do in God’s plan, and as such now is being cut off. This is a hard thing to accept, but it is the most reasonable one given how the congregation has decreased, no new people are coming in, and our mission of training the Christian churches to know the Torah and their true calling in God’s plan of salvation just hasn’t been happening. However, over the 30 or so years this church has been here it has produced many new ministries that are still doing well, including a large Messianic Synagogue. We are a main vine that has been very fruitful over the years, and now I think we are just all used up.
The only vine that never dies and always produces good fruit is Yeshua.
I believe our Pastor will be more fruitful in his new pursuits, that I will be able to concentrate more on this on-line ministry (and with God’s help become more fruitful myself), and that the incoming Pastor will be given a new opportunity to fulfill his mission and calling for God.
When you are pruned, do not take it as a bad sign. You should, however, take a good look in the mirror and ask why this pruning is taking place. Be fair, be honest with yourself, and be hopeful because I believe as long as we have a heart for God and want to do His will, the pruning we go through, no matter how uncomfortable or even painful, will lead to more good fruit being produced. And, if the pruning is because we have failed to produce fruit, then so be it- we deserve to be pruned. It is then we need to repent, redirect ourselves to producing fruit, and if we do that God will transplant us. Maybe He is cutting us off from a comfort zone we don’t realize is not feeding us, and wants us to be grafted onto a more nutritious vine? You never know, so always try to be fruitful.
Pruning is not fun, it is not enjoyable, and it is most often not desired, but it is a necessary part of meeting God’s calling in our life.