Do you know anything about Bonsai Trees? I don't know a whole lot because my first experience with a Bonsai Tree was watching the classic movie "The Karate Kid." There was also this really strange kid at my Junior High named Cody that like trimming up Bonsai Trees. I didn't really talk with him more than I had to because he kind of weirded me out. That's probably how you get into the landscaping business...just kidding Tim Oliver. Anyways, I have never really heard of anyone planting one. Typically people just buy them already grown, right? Maybe I am assuming too much about a subject far outside my expertise, but that's my foundation for this thought. The only bonsai trees I have seen are already fully grown, and the buyer or caretaker's job is to water it and trim it up as it is needed.
It a funny concept. Seems that it's easier to tweek things than grow them from start to finish. I have been rethinking my Christian faith quite heavily lately, and I have been monitoring the faiths of others in my community. To be completely honest, I have noticed something very disturbing. This is going to sound judgemental and I don't mean it rudely, but this same concept seems to have infested our churches. Tons of people coming to church with a faith grown by mom or dad or someone else. It's not just teens, but many adults. The faith they profess is not something they have been apart of from the beginning but rather the work of another follower way off in the past. These "followers" are coming to church sustaining their faith like a Bonsai Tree. They tweak and do behavior modification instead of true submission and transformation. When I say "they"...that's me too. At least, that was me. My parents and spiritual mentors were there to plant the seeds of Discipleship in my life. They were not there to give me a faith that I preserve until I give it to my children.
I think this may be the cause of so many leaving the church and, more importantly, leaving Jesus. We have been teaching a fundamental lie in our Christian gatherings. We, leaders like myself, have been teaching others how to retain faith instead of teaching them how to be soil. Remember the Parable of the Soils? The basis for the entire parable is that we are the soil and not the seed. My perception is that we have somehow gotten mixed up in our identity. We think we're the plant that needs pruning when we are really the soil. There is a significant misunderstanding of Scripture, Discipleship, and Body Life going on here.
Behavior modification is not the way of a Disciple. Death, Rebirth, and continual Transformation are the pillars of Jesus-followers. Christ came to kill me and raise me anew in his likeness and will. Jesus, our Messiah, knew he couldn't just chop off a branch here or there. He understood that the entire tree needed to come down because the tree wasn't his focus. The tree was only the product of the worthless soil that was me. Christ came to transform the soil into something that would produce beautiful fruits of the Spirit.
So here is the ultimate question...does your walk with God look more like someone pruning a Bonsai Tree or the soil yeilding God's beauty? I truly believe that the Disciple lives the journey of "good soil." We are remade by Jesus, we then bear fruits of the Spirit, we are often tilled up for another use in God's will, and we then bear more fruit looking like our Lord. It's a recurring process but a method that validates purpose and faith in this life.