Pruning the Church

It’s spring time in Oklahoma! How do I know it’s springtime? A late March blizzard followed by a 70* day. Well, before the blizzard hit Duncan I decided (not checking the extended forecast) to clean up my yard. I mowed the weeds that overran my grass, trimmed my overgrown hedges, and even ran my weed eater… my least favorite activity. Then it was time to start my backyard…

As I mowed into my backyard I noticed the apple tree that I duck and dodge while attempting to mow. I got an itch… it was time to prune the apple tree. By tree, it looks more like an apple shrub, or an apple crape myrtle. I went back to my garage, picked up my ax and my pruning shears. I began to hack, whack, and yell trying to clean up a tree that became more of a menace than anything else. By the time I finished, I found random vines climbing into it, a weed tree growing in the center of it, and branches that had grown so far and scrawny that they would be dragging the ground when fruit appears. For the past two years, I have ignored the tree thinking that trees generally take care of themselves. I know now at least that this tree must be watched, tended to, and pruned for its health.
Churches are a lot like trees. When ignored, limbs die as people fall away, problems climb like vines trying to strangle the church, and if left alone for long enough, sometimes organisms grow within the church that seek to change its identity.

The pruning of the church is a necessary practice to keep the church healthy. What do I mean by pruning? Church discipline. Why do we discipline? Because we care about the church enough that we see the pain of pruning as a step in growing. We discipline because we care about our members enough that we want to see them individually grow, not just attend and then grow dry. Discipline is the practice of the church in lovingly standing with its members, dealing with sin, and caring more for the holiness of God than the comfort of others. So the question is, do we ignore the mess, allow weed to dominate the tree, or do we prune so that we might grow in to the strong and healthy tree that God has called us to?

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