Let me ask three questions. First, what is the fruit of an orange tree? In groups, I have heard the answers of “an orange” and “seeds.” Some might also say that the tree produces leaves, shade, and a little windbreak–so these would be fruit of sorts. And each of those answers are at least partially correct. Let me ask the question another way that may reveal the answer. Why does an orange tree produce fruit? An orange tree does not produce fruit so you and I can enjoy eating an orange. An orange tree produces oranges so it can produce seeds that will grow into more orange trees. It produces oranges to continue the species. God made it that way. So the real fruit of an orange tree is an orange tree.
The questions get easier from here if you accept my previous explanation. Second, what is the fruit of a disciple? Is the fruit a discipled mind, heart, will, or life? Some would argue the fruit of a disciple is glorifying God. That response is hard to argue against. Could the fruit of a disciple be actions that make him/her look more like Jesus? Both of these last two responses head in the right direction. They partly answer the “why” question, but as the previous question obviously hinted, there is more. Why did Jesus train twelve disciples? Was it to be with Him? Yes, but there was more. Was it to do good in the world? Yes, but there was more. Jesus trained disciples to “go and make disciples of the whole world” (Matthew 28:19-20). The disciple of Jesus understands that the fruit of a disciple is another disciple.
Many have never heard this third question. Here it is: what is the fruit of a Sunday School class or a Bible study small group? The answer I get most frequently is more Bible knowledge, and that is a small part of it. Some say fellowship and assimilation. Application of the Word surely must be part of it. Certainly, some of the fruit involves changed lives, touching individuals in the community, and fellowship around the Word. Leading the class to tell others about Jesus flows naturally as fruit of a class or group. Worship should be mentioned. Encouragement and accountability could be on the list. Leading participants to serve God must be part of the fruit. Better families and relationships should be an outcome and therefore fruit of a class or group.
But what is the purpose of a class or group producing fruit? All of the previous paragraph is to prepare the class to start another class. The fruit of a class or group is to produce another class or group that will also produce fruit. It is, like the orange tree, to multiply and continue the species.
Without more sheep pens, we cannot disciple and care for more sheep. Without new wineskins, we tend to lose new wine. If classes and groups stop multiplying, there will be fewer disciples–not more. When a fruit tree stops producing fruit, it is no longer useful. Rededicate your class or group this year to being fruitful. Pray. Apprentice a new leader. Prepare the class or group to produce another class or group. Be revolutionary!