Rooted in Christ

I learned early on that in order to bear the fruit that glorifies God, we must be rooted in Christ. This is the first in a series of articles to share what I’m learning about "rootedness" in day-to-day life. I hope you appreciate the series, and I would value your feedback!
As a new Christian I learned the importance of being rooted in Christ from an experienced Navigator. Since then, I’ve also concluded that God intends for us to be rooted where we’re planted and to be dedicated to ministering in our daily lives.
The more experienced Navigator was Harvy Oslund, and I had many opportunities to hear him speak when I was stationed in Germany with the Army. In those days, around 1980, he carried a complex illustration of a large tree with him whenever he spoke. Whatever topic Harv spoke on, one could be sure that at some point the tree illustration would make an appearance.
The main point of Harv’s tree illustration—at least the main point I remember—was that we had to work on being rooted in Christ, and that spiritual fruit would be a natural byproduct of that rootedness.
Harv would quote the apostle Paul’s words: “Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done” (Colossians 2:7, NLT).  It’s from Harv, then, that I learned the importance of being rooted in Christ.
Recently, I came to another conclusion about being rooted: God also intends for us to be rooted in the place He has assigned us. In Matthew 13, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to seeds sown in a field. As the seed grew, so did weeds that were sown right among the seeds of grain. In the parable, the landowner said, “let both grow together until the harvest” (see Matthew 13:30). Later, when Jesus interpreted this parable for His disciples, He told them, “I, the Son of Man, am the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom” (Matthew 13:37-38).
Jesus plants each of His people—the people of the Kingdom—in a context. Each individual context includes a family, a workplace, a culture, and a neighborhood. In order to bear fruit in that place, His people must take root. In the excellent book The New Parish, the authors make this point strongly: “If the body of Christ is going to experience a movement of unity, then it desperately needs a new imagination for how the church can be rooted in the neighborhood in such a way that includes the particularity of all of our differences and the universality of our common faith.”
To root in a neighborhood shouldn’t require adding activities to an already busy life, but it might require a radical shift in the way we live life. I’d like to suggest some ways that we can root ourselves in a place using the acrostic ROOT:

  • Relate to everyone
  • Openness to the reality of your place and the presence of the Holy Spirit
  • Organize around existing assets
  • Trust God 
Throughout this series, I’ll unpack  these ideas with you. For now, what things come to your mind as you think about rooting in your neighborhood? Which of the four letters is the most intriguing to you?

Al Engler serves as director of Nav Neighbors, a Mission of The Navigators. You can learn more about the Englers' Navigator ministry or email Al here.