My church hosted a conference for its congregation. The Momentum Conference was an overnight retreat. About sixty of us attended. The pastor called on various church members to teach at the event. And he asked me. Our children’s minister, also a woman, played a role in the conference too; but apart from her, I was the only woman with a teaching role.
My answer of course was yes. I enjoy studying the Scripture and then walking individuals through the truths found there. We planned to cover John 15 and our first assignment in preparation was to read this chapter daily for a few weeks. Words Jesus shared with His disciples in the Upper Room. The last words He would share with them as a living, breathing Man in their midst.
Right away, I could see traces of God affirming my role in this conference. I discerned specific truths from this passage. I looked forward to the meetings when all the speakers would share what God was teaching them. In unpacking some boxes, looking for another book entirely, I even came across the book, “Five Practices of Fruitful Living” by Robert Schnase. It focuses on the first part of John 15, including:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
After studying, I decided to take my talk in that direction too. I would consider the word “fruit.” What fruit was Jesus referring to? Perhaps the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)? I have spent some time teaching children over the years in church and I have a cute set of plastic Fruit of the Spirit pieces. The apple has “peace” written on it and so forth. I could show one of those and talk about how the Spirit helps us bear fruit and it lasts. I saw it coming together.
Until I went to write it. Writing is such a process. We get the idea first. For me, I usually toss it around. Maybe write down a sentence or two so I don’t lose the idea altogether in the abyss of my menial to dos. Then, I leave it alone. Somehow, it grows from an idea into more just by being left alone in my mind. Then, when I sit down to write, often the initial idea may take a total different direction than I originally anticipated. Especially when God gets involved.
I couldn’t get past the idea in verse five, “remain in me and bear much fruit.” My final teaching centered around ways to remain in Jesus. And also Biblical examples of people who had no idea the fruit they were going to bear. Jeremiah, Jonah, Paul, etc. For these guys, bearing fruit wasn’t much fun. It actually got them all in a heap of trouble. But God had work for them to do. Once they remained in Him, the work was completed.
At the retreat, I encouraged members of my church family to do just what God had instructed me to suggest; remain in Him. Attach yourself to the Vine that is Jesus and never let go. I gave them ideas on how to do this. And I reminded them we don’t know what fruit God will ask us to bear. I finished the whole talk and God never even asked me to show my cute Fruit of the Spirit pieces!
This talk spoke to me possibly more than it did the listeners. Isn’t that often the case? That day marked the first time in my adult life I taught a mixed audience of males and females. In the churches of my childhood, I always had male pastors. The women teachers worked with children and other women. Without much thought or research, I understood my Bible to read that is how God would have it to be.
But as I remain in Him, I grow. And I have grown past this belief that women can only teach children and other women. I am learning so much about biblical context and the fact that much of the New Testament addresses issues found in specific churches. References to certain individuals. I mentioned to my pastor how odd it felt to be up front teaching men. He reminded me of our similar church backgrounds and encouraged me to continue discerning God’s plan for the church versus man’s policies.
As believers, we still have a long way to go in experiencing the freedom Christ bought for us on the cross. I don’t know what fruit God plans for me to bear specifically. He taught me though, as I prepared a talk for a retreat, my job is to remain in Him. Whatever my resulting fruit, it promises to be abundant and lasting.