“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

This verse is often overshadowed by the similarly themed and bolder verse which is bolder and more straight to the point.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

John 15:16

With the second verse more direct and commanding paired with a promised reward, it’s understandable that the first verse is often overlooked. This, in my opinion, is a big mistake. It’s a mistake that I made for most of my life. It’s a mistake that I paid dearly for.

If you’re expecting me to write about the phrase, “Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,” you’ll probably be disappointed.

Our church’s theme verse is John 15:16. We recite that verse as a church multiple times within a year. We’re always told to “Go and bear fruit” and that quickly became my mantra. My life was a big race to go and bear fruit and a struggle to make my fruit last. In churchspeak, a fruit is a disciple… a real live person who you will guide as they grow in the Lord.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t something I was good at. Try as I may, I never seem to be successful in general human standards. It didn’t help that my twin sister was very “fruitful.” Now, her fruits have fruits who have fruits. There are kids in church who call her lola (Grandmother). While I… well… Let’s just say that my family can live in a New York apartment and enjoy a lot of personal space.

For years, I blamed myself. Hannah and Rachel’s plight about being childless became very personal for me. I felt the desperation. I kept questioning myself. I felt useless.

I kept going and going but it was obvious that it wasn’t natural. I wasn’t just barren. I felt barren and dead. I went through the motions. I was involved in a mountain of ministries. I tried my best to meet them regularly. I genuinely cared about them (I may have even cared too much). I kept pushing myself to be more social even if I was really more comfortable by myself.

I tried everything I could. Or at least, I thought I did.

I spent all my time going when all my energy should’ve been focused on doing just one thing… Remaining.

The key to bearing fruit is not to go. According to John 1:5, fruits are byproducts of remaining in Jesus. Jesus never told me to drown myself in ministerial duties and work myself tired in a desperate attempt to bear fruit! The command was simple. I just have to remain in him and the fruit will come naturally.

The word men’-o means to remain in the right place, within the right period time, and in the right condition or to be one in unity. That was what I failed to focus on.

A few of the youth members in church were elevated to the position of a discipler last week and I want to share a few things to them and to anyone who’s willing to read on.

1. Spending time with God is more important than spending time with your disciple/s. 

Never, EVER, go to battle without passing by the armory. A dry branch can never bear fruit. And in the off chance that it does, the fruit would be frail if it doesn’t get nourishment from the vine.

Fellowship with fellow believers can never make up for time with God. Yes, you can talk about verses all you want, but hearing other people’s interpretation of God’s word is no substitute to personally hearing from God.

2. Care enough to be like a parent, but ALWAYS remember that you are not their parent.

There are times when you have to defer to their actual parents. One of my biggest mistakes was caring too much. Yep. That’s almost as bad as caring too little.

You have to purposefully remember that they have an actual mother at home. Don’t try to take her place by being a better shoulder to cry one. Don’t try to trump her by loving your disciple more. They may have different principles at home and you have to respect that. You have to know your boundaries.

3. God is in charge of the pruning. 

I used to be waaaay stricter than my disciples’ parents and I was very proud of that. I wanted my kids to be perfect. I was harder on them than the other kids. I kept telling them that I just want the best for them and I want them to be the best they can be. Looking back, I spent more time as a drill sergeant than I did as a mother. It came to a point where my kids were too afraid of me to be honest.

Though part of our role is to train and teach, that’s not ALL that we are tasked to do. Discipline and love must go hand in hand. You can’t just say that you love them without actually loving them. Kids are smart. They will know if you love them for who they can be and not for who they are right now.

4. Being real is more important than being perfect.

You’re not called to be perfect. You don’t have to pretend like you are. I know that a huge part of why I wasn’t successful in having a great relationship with my kids (and with anyone else, for that matter) was because I was afraid to expose my flaws.

People make mistakes. There’s nothing surprising about that. Don’t sulk. Dust yourself off and move on.

I gained more ground with my kids by letting them know how imperfect I am. Telling them that God can forgive and change them became more real after I shared my own testimony. They became less afraid to share their struggles after hearing how I have struggles of my own.

5. Try as you may, some people just won’t stay.

Don’t beat yourself up for losing people. God allowed that to happen for a reason. Love them while they’re with you. That’s all you can do. When they leave, try your best to sustain a relationship with them. That way, restoration remains as a possibility.

It’s not always your fault that you lose disciples. It wasn’t all my fault. (Whew! That was hard to say) My fault was beating myself up too much because of the people who left to the point that I couldn’t be there for the ones who stayed.

I wish I knew this things before I was placed in the position of a branch. I wish I didn’t have to learn the hard way. But the important this is that I did. I’m still learning.

Why did God let me make all those mistakes? I don’t know. Maybe He taught me these lessons so I can teach others. I hope you learned something by reading this post.

Don’t just hold on to your disciples.

Hold on to God.

He’ll take care of the rest.

And that’s my two cents on that.