During a time of pruning we often focus on the pain rather than on the potential for more fruit. In fact, when you observe a vine keeper, and you watch him during the pruning season, you think he is going to kill the plant because he is pruning back so far. But the truth of the matter is he knows how far to prune in order to reap a harvest of fruit the far exceeds what we would imagine.
The practice and skill of a seasoned vine keeper is very uncommon in our thinking and in the economic season of our day. As a leader, I need to understand this concept to effectively manage a season of pruning. I believe as a country we are in this season along with many non profit organizations and ministries. We would be wise to study the practices of the vine keeper!
Just as the vine keeper needs to evaluate what is mission critical for producing more fruit, we need to clarify what is mission critical for productive long term ministry. Lean times offer a perfect opportunity to ask this question, what is absolutely mission critical? Those activities, departments and staff that are not absolutely mission critical need to be pruned back. What forces this issue is the lack of resources, and for the good of the whole ministry, pruning must take place. To ignore the need for pruning will put the ministry at high risk for more unhealthy and damaging long term results. Even though it is difficult, it is a necessity for the long term health of the organization.
So we have the option to ignore the call to prune and go into debt hoping that a financial windfall will come and rescue us someday or, allow the Lean times to force us to look at areas that we normally do not want to consider including staff, departments and programs. We grow attached to people, to our ideas, job descriptions, programs and how we do things (processes), and we resist change. Especially change that requires pruning.
I have learned that a healthy lean ministry can be very productive and can produce more fruit actually than a similar ministry with a large reserve and staff. More ministry does not always require more money!
We are in a season of deep pruning learning how to effectively do a few things, but do them very well. I can see Gods hand in this season even though it is very difficult. I sense His presence and guiding hand. I hear His voice of affirmation and I feel His nudge to do the right thing even though it is very difficult.
So as I follow the most seasoned vine keeper of all history, I must trust Him during the pruning season. He is guiding my hand as I prune, and I can trust Him in that process to prune just enough for the health and fruitfulness of this ministry. I must also trust him with those programs and personnel that are being released. He loves those individuals more than I and he only has good in mind for them. I can not see the other side of this yet but he does, and its good.
Finally, as we clearly observe the vine keeper in the Gospel of John, chapter 15 verses 1-8, we must remain in the vine in order to bear any fruit. It is the desire of the vine keeper that we would bear much fruit for his glory. But, during lean times we are tempted to pursue every possible means to get us out of the lean situation apart from the vine keeper. We seek counsel from experts. We put aggressive plans in place and we more intentionally seek out those who can financially eliminate our economic pain. All of these may be a good strategy in the right time but must not be pursued apart from the vine. We must remain in Christ, and allow the pruning to take place. This takes discipline and focus. Only a few choose this path. Those that do bear much fruit. That is my choice for this ministry and I’m anticipating a great harvest for His glory.