By David Bennett
The Fourth Mark: Abundant Fruitfulness
John 13:34, 35
Later on that same evening of the Last Supper, Jesus gave one more statement on the evidence for true discipleship. He was comparing himself to a vine, with the disciples as the branches. His focus was the goal of fruit-bearing. Branches that bear fruit are pruned so that they will bear even more. Only those branches that remain in the vine are capable of bearing fruit. And God is glorified when much fruit is borne. But more than that, abundant fruitfulness is the mark of true discipleship. This is the fourth mark of a disciple [Read John 15:5,8]. A little further on, in verse 16, Jesus says, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”
What is fruit? It is what the vine produces when it is healthy and mature. Fruit includes the character qualities of Jesus listed in Galatians 5, where the apostle Paul says: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal.5:22,23). Fruit also includes the beneficial impact of the disciple's life upon others, enlisting them as followers of Jesus. It includes accelerating kingdom leaders, our third Asian Access core value. Here is how our Core Values statement expresses it:
One way God makes Himself known is through empowered and released Kingdom leaders. In Asian Access, these leaders are nurtured, trained, and set free to make a fruitful difference. They reproduce like-minded, disciple-making leaders; plant multiplying churches and faith communities; foster networks of Jesus followers in their homes, offices, the workplace and the nations. These released Kingdom leaders play a vital part in growing God’s Kingdom in Asia and, ultimately, the world.
The goal of the community of his followers, says Jesus in Matthew 28, is to make disciples, to baptize them and teach them, and to do that in every nation. As we know, the Greek word ethnē translated "nation" refers to cultural units, not political units. The world today has only a little over two hundred nations in the political sense (over half of which are represented here at the GProCongress), but thousands of cultural units. And Jesus' command is to make disciples in every one of them—in every region, in every language, in every tribe, in every community.
Let me add a couple of additional comments. First, in the New Testament none of the disciples ever refer to anyone as “their” disciples. They are making disciples of Jesus, not of themselves. Second, remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “Everyone who is fully trained [that is, ‘discipled,’ the same basic Greek word] will be like his teacher.” Or as a youth pastor who discipled me loved to say, “People become what we are, not what we tell them to be.”
The goal of our effort is the multiplication of disciples—people who have made a total commitment to Jesus, who are faithful to his word, who love their fellow-disciples, and who are bearing plenty of fruit.
And specifically in Asian Access, our mission is to multiply leaders who are “all in” for God, who are living in community, and who are accelerating kingdom leaders—leaders who are disciples themselves, in the full sense that Jesus defined the word.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev. Dr. David Bennett is a veteran pastor, global researcher, and a passionate follower of Jesus. He currently serves as Global Associate Director for Collaboration and Content for the Lausanne Movement. David also serves on the Asian Access Board of Directors.