Pears in a Bottle

After a recent conversation with my mentor, Leonard Sweet, I began to meditate on the idea of pears in a bottle. Many of you may have seen these videos or photos around the internet but, in case you haven’t, here is one for reference.

So, if you’ve watched the above video, I’d like you to read this verse of Scripture from the Gospel of John:

John 15,I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

What we see happening in this video is both very beautiful and very artificial. Living pears are being pruned away so that the “king pear” might be placed into a bottle in which it will grow but can never naturally escape.

After they’ve been pruned away, the ones we see with the most potential get placed inside the bottle and are made to grow inside it. The pear, in essence, has become trapped and no longer has the freedom to grow into the shape which would have occurred organically.

Now, to be honest, this pear does a very good job of growing into what is shaped to be. It makes for some very good brandy but, because it is trapped inside a bottle, can be used for little else. This pruned and prepared plant is then set aside for those who have the money to buy a nice bottle of brandy. The pear is no longer free for anyone to eat who might walk by the orchard hungering and thirsting but, instead, it is only able to be consumed by those who are able to afford it. Even those with just a little bit of money are unable to purchase this particular pear because it has been “set aside” for a particular purpose.

What thoughts does this bring to mind? Well, as someone who has been trying to understand what it means to “abide in Christ” for the last twenty years, I found this video to be very powerful. Christ is the true vine in whom I desire to abide which is illustrated by the orchard in this video. Christ also prunes away the dead branches around us so that we might grow more clearly in Him. However, in this video, it is not dead branches which are being cut away but nice, living pears are destroyed to make way for the “king pear.”

Does this not illustrate what we do within the institutional church? Do we not destroy all the “little pears” so we might produce one large pear to set aside for one or two particular purposes? Is the institutional or denominational structure destroying many other potentially great pears all for the sake of producing one great big pear we can show off? After all, this video shows it’s not an exact science. They may think they have a “king pear” but 25% of the time it doesn’t work. While this is a great percentage in the market place, is this an acceptable percentage in the church? Aren’t we called to support and strengthen the weaker fruit so they too might grow strong and vibrant? Isn’t it okay if some of the life of the vine (Jesus) flows more into one of the weaker ones? No, we want the biggest pear to come to life so we can show it off and brag about how good a job we are doing.

I’m afraid that too often the institutional church is pruning away those who are not seen as the “best and brightest” and then raises up “king pears” to do so-called mighty works but, in the end, even the king pears are trapped inside the bottle of the institution and end up serving only one or two purposes.

Now, you may ask me what the answer is but I cannot fully give you an answer. This is a struggle in my own life. The institutional church has been both a blessing and a curse to me personally. It provides a living and stability for my family and me and has helped me make great connections. However, the biggest place of spiritual growth and ministerial direction hasn’t been found within the larger institution but with a local body of believers as well as those who are just walking by the orchard and want to “take a bite” to see if Jesus is as truly sweet and refreshing as I present Him to be.

If you’d like to share your comments and experiences both on the denominational level as well as the local community of faith, please feel free to post them in the comments section.

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