I am still enjoying vacation in Cocoa Beach with my wife and eight kids. This will perhaps be our last vacation with everyone together since my oldest is a sophomore in college. I am sitting on the eight floor balcony listening to surf and laughing people and seagulls as I write.
Recent conversations have me thinking about the-point-of-it-all. With my friends in a Saturday night home group, we recently were talking about the Parable of the Sower. The conversation drifted around to the fruitfulness God is looking for as Yeshua evokes the image of fruitful agriculture in his word picture. What fruit is God looking for from his community of servants and friends?
Also, my two oldest children still hang out in the evangelical Christian world. They enjoy the massive youth groups and college groups provided by a local megachurch and they live in between the world of Judaism and Christianity in their own unique way. From time to time they mention some of the ideas being tossed about in that setting. The evangelical Christian mindset of “winning the lost” comes up often. Is that the fruit God is looking for?
Here in Florida, with a condo and cable (we don’t have cable at home), I paused for 30 seconds on a televangelist channel. I heard two well-known megapastors explaining “the gospel.” Their message, one I spent years hearing and passing on myself, is that the point of it all is to believe in Jesus and be saved. Is that an adequate or worthy aim for the community of Yeshua?
I thought about contemporary Jewish life. I have been present at fundraising pitches for Jewish institutions. The pitch goes something like this: you should all give and come regularly so this place will still be here for your grandchildren. I have also read pitches for Jewish survival: don’t marry a Gentile or leave Judaism. We want to survive and still be here in the future.
Now, of the two, I’d day that Judaism has a tendency to transcend the shallow message of “let’s perpetuate ourselves” more often than the contemporary Christian scene. But both communities are plagued with an unworthy vision.
Yeshua did not come here (nor did God descend on Mt. Sinai) so that there would simply always be people filling pews or giving to the Jewish Community Center.
In our home group, we talked about the most common application suggested by evangelical preachers for the thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold fruit in the famous parable. The answer, we are told quite often, is to win souls to Jesus.
Great, we said, the point of following Yeshua is to make sure a lot of other people follow him as well. And following him, apparently, means getting others to follow him so that there is no more content to following Yeshua than growing our ranks.
I’d call that the Walmart gospel. Bigger is better. Get bigger to be bigger. Never mind that you have to shop online to find anything that is not generic, common, and a big seller now. We’re bigger and that’s better, right?
The aim, the-point-of-it-all has to be more than: “grow this religion and God will be glorified.”
As I pointed out to my home group, the fruit Yeshua was talking about is likely something he modeled for his disciples. Discipleship kind of works that way. It is about a teacher who brings students very close so they can not only hear but see the message.
Far from a soul-winner, Yeshua was a healer. In fact, once or twice when people asked him how to be saved, he did not say: “God will become a man and die for your sins so that if you believe in him you will go to heaven and all will be well.”
God did not speak from Sinai, dwell among us in first century Israel, and leave a written record of prophets and apostles so we would simply exist in order to keep existing and expand the purpose-less organization.
Yeshua did not teach his disciples to be mere soul-winners. He taught them to be reconcilers, healers, helpers, and to bring people and God together for something bigger than the organization. He brought people and God together to begin the work of the kingdom, the World to Come, in the here and now.
He was always helping, raising the dead, and giving sight to the blind. He taught in such a way, not to give people a simplistic message of faith and afterlife, but to affect change in the way people live.
The-point-of-it-all, the fruit, it seems to me, is to emulate Yeshua by improving the world, by helping others in such a way as to bring about long-term change for the good.
How much can we do? We have to work and live and many things seem to be a distraction from making this world a bit more like the World to Come? But is that so? Work and family might just be the ideal settings for love, caring, healing, and helping.
And the souls we win are not merely for growing a religious organization, but for joining a movement of healers and servants, dedicated to a mission of loving and bringing people and God together.
What would God look at in your web of relationships or in your town and say, “That is tohu v’bohu (formless and void)?” Get involved and get your family and worship community involved. We can’t fix every hurt and solve a hundredth of the world’s problems, but we can solve some of them. And every meaningful friendship, every act of true parenting, every kind word, and every cup of cold water move the world a little closer to paradise.