Summer Block Party
“What in the world am I doing here?” If you’re like me, you’ve probably asked that question more times than you’d like to admit. Life is full of trial and error, adventure and discovery. From Baylor, to Mongolia, to America, to Japan, my journey has been unique, but I feel there are some keys things God has been teaching me that may resonate with any follower of Jesus regardless of season of life.
John 15:1-17 lines out three keys that are essential to embracing in order to grow: Pruning, friendship with Jesus and obedience. If we really embrace these three keys, we will experience God’s great grace to grow into mature disciples of Jesus who bear fruit that will last.
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 15:2
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this word “pruning.” And every time, I sarcastically think, “Oh fun…”
If you’re like me, pruning can seem like this dreadful, daunting process. Although it can be painful, I’ve learned it’s actually one of God’s greatest tools to make us who we are called to be, so we can do what we are called to do.
In order to achieve optimum fruitfulness, God’s pruning does two main things: it cuts, and it directs.
In the pruning process, God cuts away parts of our lives that are unfruitful: distractions, lies we believe, bad attitudes, bad habits and even good things that we depend on more than God. God also prunes us by directing and encouraging us. God’s pruning actually brings out the best in us. While He is cutting away the bad He is also focusing, honing and enhancing our gifts, our character, our authority, our vision and so much more. Now that’s something I want!
While studying the process of pruning a plant, I read something interesting. It says, “Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches […] and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.” Isn’t that a wonderful illustration? God is directing our growth; putting us in the right places, at the right times for our growth and protection. Wow! What a loving Father.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing… I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:5,15
We were created for relationship with God!
When seasons change, friends move, etc., it’s easy to feel lonely, isolated, misunderstood and just plain lost. And that is why it is of utmost importance that while the pruning is happening, we run headlong into the depths of friendship with God. Falling in love with Jesus is the end goal. When I have felt confused, purposeless and visionless, I have been reminded over and over again that my main goal in life is not a specific place, time or breakthrough, but it is a Person. Jesus is my goal. He is my Dream. He is my Vision. And nothing, NOTHING, will fully satisfy us except Him.
I encourage you to carve out extra times to spend with God, include and invite Him into your daily activities, converse with Him throughout the day. Learn what it means to remain near to Him and abide in Him. Let’s become actual best friends with Jesus. It is crucial to learn what our relationship with God looks like without the other crutches that have held up our relationship with Him in the past. SO RUN TO JESUS!
If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love… You are My friends if you do what I command. – John 15:10,14
Now here’s the big whammy that ties everything together: All kinds of pruning can happen to us, and we can have a really nice, safe relationship with Jesus, but if we do not ultimately obey what He asks of us, then we are fooling ourselves and we will not see the fruit we were made to see. The third and final piece of being a mature, fruitful disciple of Jesus is obedience.
If we truly love Jesus as our closest companion, and desire to walk through the pruning process well, we MUST obey Him.
We must learn the importance of obedience to Jesus. Jesus is our King, and He has given us the scriptures and His Holy Spirit to follow Him.
Of course, I’m not trying to condemn anyone. There’s so much grace in the process. We’re always growing in these. I’m still growing, too! But if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, will we not also trust and obey Him?
In this day and age, we talk a lot about having a vision, living out our dreams, and fulfilling our potential.
And His way is always the best, most fulfilling and joy-filled way! Whether it’s moving to Mongolia, or simply forgiving a friend, let’s obey our most-loving Shepherd. It is simple obedience that will change the world.
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in My name the Father will give you. – John 15:16
Isn’t that an encouraging verse? Becoming an outstanding, fruitful disciple is not a selective process you must qualify for. He has already chosen you by His grace and will help you through it. We have a Helper and Advocate who has called us great warriors, who has gone before us in battle, and who is with us the whole way through. WOW! Thank you, Jesus.
So let’s dream big and ask big as we see the world changed with our Friend and Father, our King and Savior: If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:7-8). Let’s do this friends!
Lord, I have chosen You alone as my inheritance. You are my prize, my pleasure and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in Your hands. – Psalm 16:5 (TPT)
By Brandon Seibert
Acts of Mercy is the Crisis Relief and Disaster Relief arm of Antioch and Antioch Movement. Acts of Mercy works to mobilize the Church to save lives in times of disaster and to bring sustainable transformation to communities locally and around the world.
Invest in the lives of children at Friday Club with games, fun challenges, tasty snacks, small group discussions and even field trips around the city. We meet every Friday from 4:15 to 6:30 p.m. during the school year. Not only do you get to invest in a child, but you’ll also have an opportunity to connect with the family if you pick up or drop off your student(s).
We believe man, by transgression, fell from the state of righteousness and holiness in which he was first created into total spiritual depravity, a state of death in trespasses and sins in which he is held as a slave of sin and an enemy of God. As such, he is unable to attain divine righteousness by his own efforts but must be redeemed and delivered by the power of the gospel. [Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4]
We believe repentance and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ are an integral part of God’s work of justification of the believer. Through faith in the shed blood of Christ, he or she is justified and made a partaker in the death of Christ. [Romans 5:1, 9]
We believe it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9]
We further believe the emphasis for a continuous walk in grace should be on demonstrating righteousness and purity of heart, believing in the keeping power of God, walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh, living a lifestyle that demonstrates the character, standards and convictions of Jesus Christ and not being conformed to the world. [Jude 24; Romans 8:25; Galatians 5:16-25; Romans 4:1-5; Romans 12:1-2]
We believe repentance is dependent upon the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners and believers and upon their response. The conviction of the Holy Spirit, which often accompanies the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, will result in the revelation of the sinfulness of self, which should lead to godly sorrow. [2 Corinthians 7:10; Psalm 51; Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25; Romans 1:18-32; Matthew 9:12-13]
We believe that in the final judgment, which will accompany the return of Christ, every person will give an account to God of every aspect of this earthly life. Unbelievers will be separated from God for eternity in hell. Believers will experience the final resurrection and live eternally with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. [1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15]
We believe in one God who has revealed Himself in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. [Romans 1:20]
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all co-eternal and all stand equally superior to time, free from the temporal distinctions of past and future.
We believe in God the Father, Creator of all things visible and invisible. [Colossians 1:15-16]
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, who came into the world to reveal the Father and was the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. Jesus Christ was the Creator of everything, for by Him all things were made. We further believe that in Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form and that He was very-God and very-Man. [John 1:1-2, 14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Acts 7:37-38]
We believe in Jesus Christ’s pre-existence, incarnation, virgin birth, sinless life, miracles, substitutionary and atoning death, bodily resurrection, bodily ascension into heaven, exaltation, present rule at the right hand of God, coming personal return in power and great glory and everlasting Kingdom and dominion. [Acts 1:11; Acts 3:19-21; Daniel 7:14; Revelation 20:4]
We acknowledge His Lordship—that Jesus Christ is Lord over all things in heaven, on earth and under the earth. [Philippians 2:9-10]
We believe in the Holy Spirit, His present ministry, His indwelling, His empowering, His impartation of gifts for today and His transforming power in the lives of all believers. [1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:13-14]
We believe water baptism (by immersion) is an obedient response to the command of Jesus. Baptism is to be performed only upon repentant believers in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. [Matthew 28:18-20]
We hold that the real evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is one’s response to the Word of God, a Christ-like life, showing forth Christ’s character and experiencing and manifesting the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. [John 16:13-14; John 15:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11]
We believe God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. [Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:20-25; Matthew 19:4-6; Psalm 139:13-15]
We believe the Church is both universal and local. All believers form the Church, in unity with all believers throughout history; and yet, the church is also local, with believers gathering in committed community and under the authority of Christ. [Ephesians 1:22-23]
Scripture describes the Church as:
This language is intimate and reveals Jesus’ commitment to and care for His people. Furthermore, the Church is God’s instrument for revealing His purpose and the fullness of Jesus on earth for His glory. [Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 1:23]
We believe mentoring relationships can help kids succeed in school and in life, which will be part of transforming their lives, their families and our community’s future.
Antioch started the STARS Mentoring Project in response to the needs among youth in our neighborhood. In this Mentoring Project, we are building strength, resilience and hope in the children of our community through mentoring relationships and academic support.
Many kids in our community are struggling in school, experiencing some degree of poverty or are lacking positive adult role models. These are huge barriers to a child’s success in school and to ending cycles of generational poverty. Studies have shown that not graduating from high school has a huge effect on people’s lives, and 3rd-grade reading ability is one of the main factors that determine whether someone makes it to high school graduation. We invite you to join us and invest in the students of our community.
Our vision is to see a future where every student in Waco, TX, can read and succeed. Statistics show that 3rd graders who read below their grade level are eight times less likely to graduate high school. STARS aims to change the course of a child’s life by raising volunteers to read with two to three students once a week for 30 minutes at their school. This is a big treat for the kids, and we’ve seen many of them catch up to their grade’s reading level. Our goal is to have 1,000 mentors in schools throughout Waco.
End human trafficking. Ignite hope.
Unbound is Antioch’s anti-human trafficking ministry, working to mobilize the Church and activate local communities to fight human trafficking. Since 2012, Unbound Waco has empowered more than 10,000 youth to stay safe, trained thousands of professionals to identify and respond to human trafficking and served more than 340 victims and survivors in our community. Unbound Waco also provides leadership to the Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition.
Engage the Nations exists to bridge the gap between the local church and our long-term teams by mobilizing interns to help fulfill the Great Commission in this generation. We will mobilize teams for 3-month internships that will work with long-term teams to catalyze church planting and disciple-making movements in their regions. Our goal is that each intern will have encounters with Jesus, be equipped as a disciple-maker, be envisioned for the lost and learn how to support the long-term work going on around the world. Our hope is that our summer teams will be able to identify key, fruitful and apostolic locals who, upon the team’s departure at the end of the summer, can be connected with the long-term team for continued investment and discipleship.
Our desire is to empower men and women to know their identity in Christ and help them develop Bible-based tools to live out their life’s purpose in freedom.
Antioch Recovery Ministry exists to help bring holistic transformation to both men and women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction through biblically based recovery groups and discipleship. We provide a safe, welcoming and judgment-free environment where men and women come together to work through their recovery journey. We offer an opportunity to be part of a supportive community and learn together through authentic discipleship how to get free from addiction.
Addiction can leave behind a wide range of short- and long-term effects that can be devastating—not just to the individual—but to the community, state and nation. It destroys families, friendships and careers and impacts a person’s overall health. Here is how we integrate discipleship into recovery:
Reaching the nations of the earth
A core part of Antioch’s vision is to see reproducing, disciple-making churches planted in every country around the world. Jesus said in Matthew 28, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” For some, this means responding to the call of God on their lives to go to another nation and be part of God’s redemptive work. If God has called you and you have completed the Antioch Discipleship School, we invite you to apply to the Antioch Church Planting School. The ACPS will train and equip you for overseas work as well as increase your awareness of what God is doing in the earth.
If you aren’t sure if you’re called to the nations but are interested in learning more about it, we would love to talk to you.
We host Sunday services in the local county jail for inmates, both men and women. Services include worship, preaching/teaching and ministry response times. We provide inmates with Bibles and devotionals upon request. Through this ministry, we’re reaching many in our community who are feeling broken and hopeless and bringing Jesus into such tough places. There are many opportunities to be part of this team, including going to the jail, writing inmates and interceding. If you are interested in this ministry, please contact us at email@example.com.
Our mobile food distribution happens twice a month in the Antioch Waco parking lot. Through this ministry, we have the opportunity to provide groceries to hundreds of families in need in our community each month. As cars are loaded with groceries, volunteers offer to pray for those who would like it. This takes place the 2nd & 4th Tuesday of each month. If you would like to volunteer with this ministry, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through our Sports Ministry, we’re able to engage kids and families in our local community where they’re most comfortable and provide great coaching, mentorship and a model of life following Jesus. We do this by working with local little leagues, running sports camps and taking impact trips. This is a great way to build relationships with families and student athletes in our Waco community. If you’re interested in learning more about Sports Ministry and our available volunteer opportunities, please contact us at email@example.com.
SERVE is an opportunity to spend up to 11 months as part of an international church planting team. Participants get the experience of making disciples, living cross-culturally and working as a team under the leadership of seasoned missionaries. This internship experience helps young people determine whether long-term church planting is right for them. Timeframes and costs for the internships will vary based on location and will be subject to final approval from the Long Term Team who would be hosting. Please note that the SERVE application is in-depth and comes with the requirement of having finished an Antioch Discipleship School.
We believe the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, living, eternally reliable Word of God, equally in all parts, and without error in its original manuscript and our primary and authoritative source of revelation from God, superior to conscience and reason, though not contrary to reason. Therefore, the Bible is our final authority for faith and practice and is necessary for our daily lives as it continually points us toward the person of Jesus. [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:23-25; Hebrews 4:12]