Above the roots and trunk you will find the tree’s branch structure which is the location of the tree’s foliage, nuts, and/or fruit. In terms of an apple tree, healthy roots (Dig In) and a strong trunk (Grow Up) are pointless if the tree has no limbs on which to produce apples.
With a tree’s branches and fruit in mind, Branching Out denotes two essential aspects in the church. First, Branching Out is where the Thriving disciple bears fruit in his or her life. This fruit includes the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), productive ministry, and new disciples through missional living and evangelism. Second, Branching Out denotes the church’s efforts as a whole to impact the city of Tampa and beyond with the gospel. In this context, the fruit is an improved community, increased influence, and an expanded church presence.
Quite simply, a Thriving disciple must branch out to fulfill his or her fundamental purpose in life. If God’s only desire was for a Christian to Dig In and Grow Up, He would be wiser to call the believer to heaven immediately after conversion. Digging In and Growing Up are far more productive in heaven where sin does not impede either. The reason why God does not do this; however, is because Branching Out cannot occur in heaven. It is an activity disciples can only perform on earth.
There are three primary ways we Branch Out as a church. Community Life Groups, short-term, topic-based groups that meet in homes in our community, provide natural Branching Out opportunities. In addition, individuals and groups within the church can partner with a variety of existing community organizations and ministries or explore new partnerships with others. Finally, several short-term national and international mission trips are offer further Branching Out opportunities each year.