One of the cliches that I hear a lot in Christian circles is that we are not fruit inspectors. It means that it is not our place to judge another person’s life and results. Now, I get where they are coming from – a lot of Christians seem incapable of minding their own business and not poking their noses in where it doesn’t belong. Those people are trying to inspect everyone’s fruit, and generally cause mayhem.
But that’s not because we are not called to know people by their fruit! It’s because those people don’t understand one of the single most important concepts in the New Testament, which is jurisdiction. That fancy word basically means that you are only in charge of some things, other things are none of your business.
So for example, I regularly get emails asking me my opinion of certain ministers and ministries. My response is normally “I am not their judge, I mind my own business and do what called me to do”. And that is appropriate. But however, if someone is ministering at Tree of Life Church, that is my jurisdiction and I will do some fruit inspecting. If someone is speaking to me, I will do some fruit inspecting.
Here are some crazy situations that I know about because no-one bothered to do some fruit checking when they were supposed to:
- A church has a speaker in their church, and the speaker teaches a whole session on universalism and teaches that everyone is born born again (yes, I typed it right, did you read it right?) and no one is going to hell. That is ridiculous, heretical and a whole host of other things, not to mention destructive to building a healthy church. But this speaker has written a number of books on the subject and his views are public domain. Pastors – if you ever invite a guest speaker, be a fruit inspector – speak to other pastors who know the ministry, read their books, watch their videos – and if their fruit ain’t up to much, don’t invite them! It’s that simple! These are your sheep the Lord is trusting to you as the shepherd, protect them! Cleaning up that kind of mess is not easy, believe me, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen first. How? Fruit inspection!
- A Bible College has a person come and lecture on church growth who has pastored two churches and both shrunk to the point they had to close down. Now he might be a nice guy, he might be your mate, but he does not have the necessary fruitfulness to give those lectures. Your students need wisdom of people who have “done that and been there” to be able to go and plant growing healthy churches when they graduate. Again – be a fruit inspector. These are your students, care about them enough to be a fruit inspector.
- A conference I went to has a pastor’s meeting and a lecture on integrity in the ministry. The speaker has only been out of jail for a few months, and was in jail because he would take young boys on ministry trips with him and molest them. Now they want us to listen to him talk on pastoral integrity? I walked out the room and didn’t come back, I’m absolutely not interested in wasting my time. My ears, my eyes and my heart are too precious. It’s your mind, care about it enough to be a fruit inspector!
I have failed as a fruit inspector a couple of times, and that has never worked out well for me. I once had a preterist preaching his nonsense in our pulpit, and he was planning on divorcing his wife the whole time he was with us! Some people have left our church and still partner with this guy because I failed to be a diligent fruit checker! He doesn’t even believe the Bible is inspired anymore!
But now I am very big on the fruit of a ministry – I watch carefully. By fruit I mean how are they impacting people and their lives, I mean how are they reproducing – a church should give birth to churches – all the churches in Acts gave birth to other churches – when I see a pastor who has pastored decades and there are no ministries raised up in the church and no other churches, I see no fruit. There might be a great teaching gift, but it is not by gifts we know people, it is fruit. When I see a Christian who is travelling from church to church because he has a couple of mates who are pastors, but he doesn’t even go to church when he is not the main speaker, I see no fruit. When I see pastors who don’t even live on the same continent as their wives, I see no fruit. When I see people with gifting without character, I see no fruit.
Healings are gifts not fruit. Fruit is a reproduction of the life that is in you. When I want to know if a pastor is fruitful I ask: who preaches like him? Who loves in the church like him? Who prays like him? Where are the pastors he has raised up? Where are the sons in the house? When I invite travelling ministers, I listen to people who have had their lives transformed, people who have worked with them, pastors who have had their churches taken forward – I look for fruit. And if I don’t find it, I throw the ministry back in the pond and start fishing for another (that’s why we get the best guest speakers in the world!)
So this post is for everyone today, I did think about putting it on the leadership blog because it is most pertinent for the pastors and leaders and heads of ministries, and anyone planning a conference or Bible School. However, all of us must guard our hearts and minds, and one of the way of doing that is to follow the instructions of our Lord and Master:
Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
(Jesus, Matthew 7.15-16)