Best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, in a recent issue of Inc. Magazine said we should “embrace the pain of pruning.” He told the story of a Catholic priest pastoring a growing parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who wrote a book about his experience trying to transform his church. He said, “Father Mallon had to overcome complaints and resistance from longtime staff members who didn’t want to give up responsibilities and attitudes they had held for decades.”1
Patrick said, “Having worked with churches as a consultant, I knew a little about the depth of the challenges Father Mallon faced, and I was curious how he overcame them. What he said was surprisingly, brutally realistic — and it’s advice that should be embraced by all leaders with plans for growth. ‘You have to go into it knowing that losing people is not just likely, it’s inevitable. As soon as the leader starts the bus and puts a sign on it declaring where it’s headed, some people should want to get off.’”2
Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Leadership guru, John Maxwell has said for years, “the people who got you where you are today are not the people who will get you where you’re going tomorrow.” The reality is you’re going to lose some folks along the way. It’s part of the pruning process. And Patrick Lencioni says we should embrace it.
But that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Pruning hurts. Pruning is painful. Pruning is biblical. What???
Yes, Jesus said, “I am the 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.” (John 15:1-2)
Did you catch that? “Every branch that DOES BEAR FRUIT He prunes, that it may BEAR MORE FRUIT.” Jesus said the fruitful branches get pruned. Why? So they can bear even more fruit.
What does that mean for you and me? It means we’re about to get clipped. Crossroads has enjoyed some of the most fruitful days we’ve ever known, in the past few months. We’re averaging over 6,500 in morning worship. Baptisms, involvement in small groups (Connect Groups) and giving are at all-time highs. So what do you think that means? It means we’re about to be pruned. Again. By Whom? GOD. What for? So we can BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL.
This past week, at a fabulous conference for Pastors in San Antonio, I was reminded again not to fight the pruning when God grabs the shears. Truth is, we won’t keep everyone or even come close to making everyone happy as the church grows. Everyone wants change as long as they aren’t the ones who have to change. Lately here at Crossroads, we’ve all had to make some changes AND MORE ARE ON THE WAY.
My friend and fellow Texan, Tim Liston, pastors a rapidly growing, huge church in Houston. He was sharing with us how they’ve lost people over the years and how much it hurts when people you care about walk out the door to go someplace else. He said, “We need to be more concerned about people in our community going to Hell than people in our church going to another church.”
Truth is, we won’t keep everyone or even come close to making everyone happy as the church grows. We will probably lose some people. But the pruning process is simply preparation for the powerful prospect that we will become EVEN MORE FRUITFUL.
Jesus said His Father prunes us so we can bear more fruit (John 15:2). So that means one
... we should embrace it!
© 2015. Barry L. Cameron
1 Patrick Lencioni, "Embrace the Pain of Pruning," Inc. Magazine April 2015: 56.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.