by Cheryll Russell
I cannot stand the smell of fish. However, I love fishing. My love for fishing started in my childhood. My dad took us fishing almost every summer. My, how we loved his tackle box. It was filled with all kinds of cool lures. We were convinced that in order to catch the most fish, we needed the biggest, fanciest lure we could find. In our minds, neon colors, lots of gadgets, maybe some glitter, was sure to bring in an abundant catch. I don’t think we ever caught anything with those disco lures. However, my dad, using a simple live cricket would catch enough for all of us. It took us a long time to give up those fancy lures and start using dad’s real bait. Once we did, we started catching fish. (You could argue that the real reasons we didn't catch any fish were incessant talking, and casting, but that doesn't go with what I'm trying to do here).
Shortly after accepting God’s invitation to relationship with Him, I was excited to find out that fishing was involved……..fishing for men.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
I’m still trying to figure out this fishing for men thing. I will be the first to admit that fishing for fish is much different than fishing for men - but - there are some aspects that are similar, at least for me. In both settings, my first reaction is to grab the biggest, fanciest lure that I can find. When it comes to fishing for men, that “lure” is usually a building and a cool program - lots of gadgets - maybe some glitter - sure to bring in some un-churched folks. The only problem is that in most cases, this doesn’t seem to be working. Sure, some folks nibble on the bait, for a while, but very few folks actually take the bait. This isn’t news to anyone, many churches are having this discussion, but I am amazed at how fast a church conversation about imitating the ministry of Christ, a ministry that was defined by ‘going out,’ turns into a conversation about how we can get people into our church buildings.
Simon Peter, James, and John, left everything to follow Christ. They left their nets, family, and careers to fish for men. As they followed their Rabbi, they learned how to seek and find, they learned how to fish. Yet, we have the hardest time leaving our buildings. Have church buildings and programs become the lures that we use to fish for men? Are we so attached to our buildings that it is impossible for us to imitate the ministry of Christ? I’m not saying that all buildings and programs are bad. I know that some churches have had great success with both, but I question whether it was the cool building/program or if maybe it was something deeper…….like relationship. Maybe, relationship, the kind that Jesus demonstrated and described in His command to Love God and Neighbor, is the ‘simple cricket’ that so many of our churches are missing?
Great things have happened within the walls of church buildings. Gathering together with other members of the Body of Christ to worship and fellowship is essential. I am grateful for the church buildings that I have grown up in, I have learned a lot about Christ within those walls. But, I also learned that fishing for men involves staying put and tossing out new lures. I am not advocating selling all of our church buildings off - what I am asking - is if our attachment and dependence on them is hindering the Commission to spread the Gospel?
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