The relationship and true nature of Christian discipleship that is expected among God’s people, union with communion, is what Jesus describes with the analogy of a vine and its branches, between himself and his disciple (Jn 15:1-8). The plan of God for us is to be fruitful, a union with communion, hence in John 15, Jesus Christ tells us God’s expectations from us and what God does for us. Using the words of Jesus, God is glorified when we bear fruit, and on the other hand, God is disappointed and dishonoured when we do not bear fruits. The expected fruits we are to bear in this context include – Christian converts, Christian character, and Christian conduct. According to Galatians 5, we are expected to bear the fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ gives us (vs 22-23). The elements of Christian union through communion of love, abiding in God and in relationship with others promotes joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is the lack of union with communion that is behind the church decline and global crisis.
The fruits of Christian character informs and produces the fruit our Christian conduct, a life worthy of the Lord and His words, ‘fully pleasing to him as we bear fruit in every good works” (Col 1:10-11). A worthy Christian conduct is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. The union and the communion of the fruit of Christian character and Christian conduct produces the fruit of Christian converts. There is lack of converts today because the church is becoming more of mere union of like minded people but without communion. Conversion to the Christian faith is partly about abiding connexion, a communion of the character and conduct of the people they see in us.
John Wesley, a co-founder of Methodism and a figure of Christian spirituality and Christian history not simply for information concerning a past age, provides transformation and inspiration in regards to the call for abiding connexion, a union of people in fruitful communion with God. Wesley’s personal life and ministry suggests a dynamic spirituality and history. Wesley pioneered a theology of personal experience that promotes union within God’s people who are in communion, an abiding and fruitful relationship with God. My reflection is that a fruitful Christianity is connexional, a relationship, a union of God’s people in communion with God. The secret of fruitful mission, evangelism and leadership is abiding connexion. The term, connexion has a missional meaning for Methodist Christians beyond sharing a responsibility of financial burden. Abiding connexion appeals to union of God’s people in mutual communion in Christ for fruitful mission and evangelism. Union with Christ as a member of a local church without communion with Christ and others is joyless and fruitless. Just as marriage creates union, it takes daily love and devotion to Christ and others to promote abiding connexion.
The truth is that anybody can preach or sing or even be a committee member in the church, in union with Christ’s work but without communion in Christ. The Bible explained that ‘not all Israel, which are of Israel’ (Rom 9:6). A fruitful call to Christian responsibility and obligation starts when we “abide” in Christ. Wesley in union with Christ as a trained and licensed clergy was sent on Christian mission to America but without personal communion in Christ, he failed and out of frustration returned home. On his way home, he met the Moravian missionary in the ship who were not just in union with Christ but in communion with Christ. In the midst of the sea, under heavy storm, the Moravian’s communion in Christ strengthened their faith to sing even in the midst of the storm, knowing fully well, in death or in life, God is with them. The Moravian response to the storm changed Wesley’s mere union with Christ to a communion, a personal theology of personal salvation in Christ on May 24, 1738. Wesley’s union with Christ as a clergy and even missionary to America was fruitless but his ‘warmed heart’ experience formed the basis for his fruitful abiding connexional Methodist movement and the secret of the 18th century Europe evangelical revival.
Abiding connexion is about mutual relationship and expectation of the Christian life, a life lived in Christ that bears abiding fruit. Abiding connexion through Wesley’s life reflects that mutual indwelling of Christ’s life in our life, and our life in his. God is in us, and we are in God. The branch, Wesley abides in the life-giving vine, and from that life-giving vine comes the love of God, which is expressed in the life of faith – Methodism. As the branches, we are the visible manifestation of the life of the vine. We are the instruments of fruit-bearing. Apart from communion with Christ, Wesley could do nothing. The church today can do nothing without communion, a daily abiding connexion in Christ which requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit as we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word. Abiding connexion is about relationship with Christ patterned on Christ with the Father. Wesley’s key appeal is about making a home with Christ for a fruitful bearing of outreach and disciplining.
The reflection is that we all have the privilege of sharing Christ’s life, but the challenge is the responsibility of remaining in him, to abide in Christ. We have the privilege of knowing his will, but the challenge is the responsibility of obeying his will. The church is sent to be the branch in the vine of Christ’s heaven but because of disobedience and love of the world, the church is increasingly becoming the fruitless branches in the vine of our Babylonian culture and ready to be cut down. The Church can do nothing without remaining in Christ and obeying his commands. Let us pray for church and leadership renewal.