John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Is Fishing a Luxury?

I’m going to continue with the metaphor of fishing as evangelism because…well…because Jesus used it, and most of us are familiar with the rudimentary basics of fishing. I’ve heard people suggest that perhaps the real reason we’re not very good at fishing anymore is because Christians have become heartless and apathetic toward their lost friends and neighbors. I think there’s some truth to that. If we really believed that everyone we see will live for eternity in one of two states (a state of eternal union with God or a state of eternal separation from God), if we really understood the implications of this, we would probably feel a greater sense of urgency in sharing the lifesaving message of Jesus with them. I would also suggest that our understanding of salvation is so shallow that we don’t really understand what we’ve been saved into very well. Too many Christians think salvation is just about getting them off the hook for eternity – their idea of salvation hardly touches their lives in the here and now. They don’t live as people who have the security and freedom God offers. They don’t experience personal transformation themselves, and, thus, they cannot offer the hope of such transformation to anyone else.

But I think there’s another reason why we’re not very good at evangelism these days. Fishing takes time. You simply cannot fish in a hurry. If our “nets” are our relationships with people outside our faith, then we should be spending as much time on these relationships as a fisherman would spend tending to his nets. Yet this isn’t the case. We have precious little time, but why?

Frequently, I fear, it’s because we are too busy doing church things.

We’re so busy preparing to teach a class or sitting in a class or helping plan the Ladies’ Retreat or volunteering on the finance committee or serving on the search team for the new Youth Minister – that we simply don’t have time to forge strong relationships with non-church-going folks.

With all these church activities (which many church leaders expect maturing Christians to be involved in), there isn’t enough time and energy left to do any fishing. A committed Christian feels guilty about not being involved in any kind of evangelistic activity, but that same person feels guilty about all the other things he has to do in order to be considered a committed Christian.

If I weren’t busy doing so many church things, what would I be doing with all my time? Having coffee with my neighbor? Playing with my kids in the park? Coaching a little league team? Volunteering at my daughter’s school? Those seem like luxuries that we cannot afford while there’s church work to be done.

But what is the work of the church…really?

Perhaps it’s the net-mending, net-strengthening activities that would enable us to share the gospel with the people who live with us and closest to us.

So all of that begs a question: What kinds of activities and busyness do you think churches could give up (or should give up) in order to give people the time needed to fish properly?