How Do We
Measure the Fruit of Our Lives?
by Sam Williamson
My father pastored five different churches between
1949 and 1994. His first four churches averaged
200 members, and his last church grew from 250 to
750 during his ten years of care.
A few years before dad retired from that last,
rapidly growing church, I came home for Christmas.
We went out for coffee, and he shared with me some
reflections on church growth.
When he pastored his first four churches, he felt
the “fruit” of his ministry was show in the
parishioners’ growth in prayer, Scripture
meditation, fruit of the Spirit, and outreach. But
when his last church doubled in size, he began to
think of “fruit” in terms of Sunday-morning
He said he had never thought about numbers until
he saw the membership increase. And when he saw
numbers increase, he began to think of little
else. He concluded,
Who would ever imagine that spiritual
fruit could be measured by numbers, the same way
GM measures a good year, by the sum of the
pickup trucks produced?
The details of my dad’s temptation differ from
ours. Most of us easily see through his bogus
gauge of attendance. He did too. We are not
pastors. We are nurses, mechanics, bus drivers,
engineers, and homemakers. But we still have his
exact temptation. Ours just looks different.
We each long to make a difference, to live a life
that matters, to leave lasting footprints on this
earth. And we scrutinize our lives, sifting
through each conversation, studying each
interaction with friends, hunting after that
elusive quarry called “fruit.”
We stalk significance like the lion prowls its
prey. Will I be remembered? Will my children
ever thank me? Will my colleagues every miss me?
Did anyone notice my brilliant idea?
When we see hints of harvest we rejoice, and when
we make mistakes, we despair. Why did I give
that stupid answer? Why did I run from that
risk? Why did I never listen to my kids?
Jesus says that genuine, lasting fruit is the
result of abiding in him, with him and his word
abiding in us. Period! That he is
the vine—the source of all fruit and
nourishment—and we are branches through which his
crop is unveiled.
I once heard a pastor say that if Jesus preached
this today, he would say that he, Jesus, is the
electrical outlet and we are the plugs. I suppose
the pastor is partly right. When we are plugged
into God, his life flows through us, and our lamps
give light to the world around us.
But mostly the metaphor is horribly wrong. It’s
too mechanical. Every metaphor God uses of his
connection to us is relational not machine-like.
He never says, “I am the piston and you are the
crankshaft.” He says he is our Father, friend, and
(breathtakingly intimate) our spouse.
We would never cut an engine in half to make it
produce more horsepower, but the Father prunes
us—his branches—so that we produce more fruit. Why
prune? Pruning drives into us a thirst of
desperation to cling to the vine. All lasting
fruit arises from that spiritual,
quantum–algorithm of our inner-soul grasping
onto God for all we are worth.
Actually, for all he is worth. Any other
bountiful fruit—no matter the numbers—is bogus.
The world says fix your eyes on, examine, and
measure your fruit; and you’ll know your worth.
God says, “Come to me, thirst for me, hunger for
me, cling to me, and I will satisfy you beyond all
you can imagine.” Our fruit is not the cold
assemblage of transmission gears but the cluster
of grapes created by an intimate relationship with
Spiritual fruit is the explosion of intimate
Sam Williamson has published
numerous articles and has written two books.
He has a blog site, www.beliefsoftheheart.com,
and can be reached at
God in Conversation: How to Recognize
His Voice Everywhere, by Samuel C.
Williamson, published by Kregel
Publications, 2016, available from Amazon
photo: vineyard family tradition -
Father and son vintner looking at
grapes, bigstock.com Photo ID: 191728993