I was standing on the corner one day last week waiting for my wife (which seldom happens), when an older lady walked by carrying a fishing pole complete with reel, line, and weights. She wasn’t carrying any fish, but it was obvious she was serious about fishing.
Just on a whim I spoke to her, “Who won today, you or the fish?”
Apparently she found the question of interest because she stopped to answer. “I never win,” she said. “In fact, I don’t intend to win; I just like to fish. But I don’t like smelly bait so I just buy some pretty little plastic doodad and attach it to the hook – but the fish swim up, look it over, and swim away. It always works the same.”
“Hmm, fishing with bait the fish don’t like?” I repeated. “That’s unique. What would you do if you wanted to catch some fish?” She squinted at me as though measuring my IQ, and answered, “I’d change the bait.” And she hurried down the sidewalk.
My non-fishing friend and I had processed a lot of theology in just a few seconds. She forced me to think about all the churches Ruthie and I have visited over the last half century and more, and to recall that in all but a few there was room for guests. In some, lots of room.
Earlier this year we were visitors in a beautiful church that seated maybe 160 or so. Attendance was slim when we arrived; by the time the service began there were about 20 total. During the announcement period the visitors were asked to identify themselves (generally not a good idea); there were eight, none of them from the local area. That means there were a dozen locals in the congregation. Population of the area where the church is located is just shy of 200,000.
At the risk of appearing disrespectful please allow me to ask some fishing questions. (1a) Is it possible that the church needs to examine the “bait” it is offering in order to attract those it is seeking to draw? (1b) What changes would you suggest they explore? (2) Since it is an established fact that “the kingdom advances among friends,” might it be useful for this church to explore its current strategies for bringing its members into contact with the community? (3) Is there an insatiable passion among the members to help lead their neighbors into a love relationship with Jesus, and is that passion fueled by intense intercession?
Jesus talked a lot about fishing; maybe there’s a reason.
By Don Jacobsen