One Sunday we went to a church, and one of our kids had brought a friend along. Her friend was a teenage boy without much of church background. The kids were talking with some of the other youth in the church. Somehow, the pastor of the church discovered that the friend was new to the church.
So the pastor pulled the teenage boy aside and encouraged him to “be a fish, and let Jesus reel him in.”
No…Really. That actually happened.
The boy was freaked out. He went home afterwards and told his parents, who began quizzing our daughter on what type of church we took their son to. She worked quite hard to explain to the parents that not only would the church our family plants never do something like that…but that we were unanimous in our view that it was…well…kind of crazy.
(And as you might guess, the kid has not come back to church with us since.)
It did lead to some interesting theological conversations around the dinner table:
- I thought they used nets, not rod & reels in Jesus’s day…
- Did Jesus ever actually fish?
- Although he called his disciples to be fishers of men, he doesn’t ever refer to himself as a fisherman, does he?
- One of the few times we read about Jesus actually interacting with fish, he is cooking them for breakfast on the beach. Not sure what to do with that…
I’ve debated sharing this story…I don’t want it to be seen as making fun…while it is easy to laugh at…it actually makes me angry & I think there is a crucial point to be made here.
Recently our family began attending a church in city centre that reminds us a lot of our church back in Ithaca. One of the things I appreciate about it is that they work to make sure everything communicated from the front is understandable and relatable to the average Dubliner. I love that and it is something Elizabeth & I have tried to do where ever we’ve been.
Having lived in Ithaca for 18 years, and now in Dublin, we’ve been in communities that see church, faith, and Jesus as irrelevant to their lives. Our hope and desire have always been to build communities of faith that relate to people where they are…that speaks their language.
Encouraging a person to be fish makes the gospel seem not just irrelevant, but silly. I mean, what’s next after getting reeled in? Or is getting reeled in the point? Is that appealing to anyone?
We are inviting people to be citizens of God’s kingdom…not fish flopping around in a bucket.
Most of us a living in cultures where the gospel is becoming less and less relevant to people’s lives. It doesn’t help when Christians trivialise what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.