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Life on the Vine by Philip Kenneson we consider the journey or process as wasted time, we routinely seek to speed up the process as much as possible” (p. 122). In a In his book, Life on the Vine, Philip Kenneson discusses the con- ministry environment, we must not focus solely on the goal, but flict between the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit and Ameri- on the process, on the purpose, and on the person. God doesn’t can culture. He initiates the discussion with the basic assumpjust care about the decision and results, but about the kind of tion that “the church in the United States is seriously ill” (p. 11). people that we are becoming in the process. This needs to be As he depicts each fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, he points out reflected in the way we minister and in the way we reflect Jesus the biblical qualities of and the cultural obstacles to their cultiva- to others. tion. Each chapter concludes with some thoughts for reflection and discussion, which give the reader an opportunity to evaluate Which fruit stands out me the most as one that is lacking in my the fruitfulness of his or her own development. Recognizing that own life? How might I address this deficiency? the church is hopeless without the continuing work of the Holy Spirit, Kenneson hopes that his writing will “provoke a serious Gentleness hasn’t always been a struggle for me, but lately it is conversation” among U.S. Christians about “the difficulties of not a fruit that I have seen much of in my own life. I am exembodying the gospel within this culture” (p. 12). tremely critical, but hate to be criticized. This has caused much pain and frustration, and has negatively effected my ability to be Proactive Questions gentle, particularly in situations where my motives are questioned, my actions are debated, and my pride is threatened. What are the greatest cultural hindrances to experiencing the While I am learning how to better handle this, I often feel as fruit of joy within ministry? though I echo the sentiment that “only the tough survive.” American culture teaches that since “everyone else is looking out for his or her best interests, we assume that the only way to • New is better. Identified by Kenneson as “glorifying the novel,” our culture has created a constant desire for some- succeed is to look after ours” (p. 208). When I look out for myself, I see critique as a threat, and gentleness is nowhere to be thing new and different. Tradition is often discarded not found. because of its lack of merit, but because it is seen as old, boring, and irrelevant. While some traditions certainly reTo address this deficiency, Kenneson offers several suggestions. I flect these attributes, the constant need for the new has sacrificed the ability for many to experience joy in the here need to alter my prayer posture. As I pray for those with whom I feel the most frustration, irritation, and disappointment, my and now. As we equate the“new” with feelings of joy and heart will begin to soften, and my gentleness will become evisatisfaction, it becomes difficult to experience joy in the dent to all. Also, listening and being willing to see another’s perfamiliar. spective (referred to by Kenneson as “yielding”) will allow me to develop more gentleness. “God promises to humble someday • Anxiety and fear. There is perhaps no greater joy-stealer those who grab for positions of honor and power and who rethan the anxiety and fear the pervades our American culture. In the media, through advertising, and in politics, fear fuse to humble themselves” (p. 215). I would rather have the is often used as a prime motivator to steal one’s attention, Holy Spirit work on this in my heart now. dollars, and votes. This reaches into Christian circles as well. Kenneson points out that “when we gather, our thanksgiv- Conclusion ing is often truncated, because our lives are habituated to feel insatiable desire rather than heartfelt gratitude” (p, 71). I thought Kenneson’s discussion of the conflict of American culture and the fruit of the Spirit was incredible. The reflection questions and suggestions were incredible, and I found myself How can patience and the need for productivity coalesce in a wanting more time to process than I had. The obstacles to the ministry environment? growth of these fruits are clearly defined and well-described in this book. It is extremely applicable in my position as a pastor, as The concept of rhythm is one that addresses this issue quite well as my role as a follower of Christ. I will plan to return to his well. We are called by God to wait – to wait on His timing, to wait for His coming, to wait on Him. We are called to be still. In a thoughtful questions, as I help others identify the way that American culture was impacted their ability to bear fruit. busy and production-oriented society, waiting is seen as timewasting, and that must change. In order to develop the fruit of patience we must be willing to go through the refining process of God. Kenneson remarks, “We have come to believe arriving at the desired result or final destination is all that matters. Because Introduction

Life on the Vine