Root of the matter

Old roots aren't always best for bearing fruit

Jun 19, 2017 by

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A tree is known by its fruit. The same goes for churches. The apple industry is revolutionizing itself by getting to the root of a blight problem, and its tactic should be of interest to evangelically minded Mennonites.

Dan Charles (who attends Community House Church in Washington, D.C.) reported June 1 for National Public Radio that today’s micromanaged apple orchards look more like vineyards. It’s a shrinking process that began in the 1970s when new varieties were grafted on to smaller dwarf trees’ roots.

That rootstock was strong and dependable for quite some time, much like the closed genetic lines of relatively cloistered Anabaptist groups. But over the years, the roots’ weakness to fungus and insects was exposed.

“Any vulnerability to disease made much of the world’s apple production vulnerable as well,” Charles reported.

Decades of testing and breeding developed a new, more vibrant and resistant rootstock. Growers have embraced the slow and laborious process of grafting new trees for a harvest they have faith will come.

“If the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom. 11:16b). Christians are to be known by their fruit, but too often Mennonites have viewed themselves as carrots and potatoes, directing more energy and focus than necessary to their roots.

Roots are important. The plant would die without a source of nourishment. But no one desires a tree based on what is underground.

A dynamic and fruitful faith requires all parts of God’s body: Anabaptists must be willing to incorporate not just new branches, but even new roots. Each part, new and old, must accept the other.

The growing pains don’t come solely from the stubborn old guard. Paul’s epistle to the Romans continues: “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. . . . You do not support the root, but the root supports you” (Rom. 11:17-18).

The world of commercial apple production has changed since the days of Johnny Appleseed.

In addition to the sun and the rain and the apple seed, the Lord’s been good enough to offer not just new branches, but even new roots, if we are willing to graft them on.

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