Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fishing In An Aquarium

Reading Romans 15 today, Paul's words jumped out at me.  In verse 20 he stated "My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else". 
Reading this, I was reminded of a conversation recently with church planter, Al Parker about building a church by reaching those who are unchurched and don't know Christ instead of trying to attract those who are already churched to come our church.  

Al laughed recalling what a mentor pastor of his called "fishing in an aquarium". He claimed this was what most pastors do to build their church.  They fish for fish that have already been caught!  What a great analogy.  As I thought more about the metaphor and how it related to the way most churches seek to grow, I took the analogy a little further to explain why we find ourselves fishing in aquariums instead of oceans, rivers and lakes.    
  • Fishing in an aquarium is a lot quicker and easier than out in the ocean or river.     
  • You don't have to know a whole lot about the different kinds of fish you may encounter or the specific bait you'll need to use.  Just drop in a line or better yet you can just get a little net and reach in and pull them out.  Aquarium fish are usually pretty docile.
  • You can stay in your own controlled environment. No need to travel outside of your local area or comfort zone.  
  • It's also much safer.  You definitely know what you are fishing for in an aquarium. Out there in the ocean you might catch something that bites or can attack you. Think of all the things that can happen when you are out in a boat on the high seas or in a river!    
  • You can easily lose the fish and be really disappointed when it breaks your line or eats your bait.  
On the other hand think about this.  You really have to spend a lot of time maintaining those aquarium fish.  They need to be feed and pampered, their fish bowl cleaned often.  So we spend more of our time maintaining instead of discipling.  

I better stop there. I don't think that Jesus had fishing in an aquarium in mind when he called his followers to be fishers of men. Thank God that Paul followed the Holy Spirit's direction and went to those who never had heard about Jesus.  Is it the church's job to fish in the open waterways or just transfer fish from one aquarium to another?  How do we help our members become fishers of those who do not know Christ?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creating Margin in your Life

My wife called to tell me she had been in a wreck earlier in the day.  She first told me she was all right but said the car's front end wasn't so lucky.  It happened while she was driving out of our neighborhood going to work at 6:30 in the morning!  As she followed a flatbed truck, the truck driver suddenly slammed on his brakes to avoid a deer that had jumped out in front of him and my wife just couldn't stop in time and the car crashed into the back of the trailer.  The truck driver apologized profusely but it was't his fault.  It was my wife's fault because she was following too closely to the truck, not giving herself enough margin for a sudden stop or unexpected event.

I think most of us are guilty of following too close at times, and perhaps you are fortunate enough not to have an unexpected event that caused you to crash.  Yet I venture to say that even if we are careful drivers, we have margin issues in other areas of our lives.  It's the American way.  Our culture encourages us to live in all areas of life as if we have no limits. So we fill up our schedules and empty our bank accounts. We do as much as we can, spend as much as we can, and acquire as much as we can—all in an effort to get as much as we can out of life. It's as if the apple is handed over to us without a rulebook telling us which fruit we can and cannot eat.  Just eat anything and everything you want.  But the consequences like in the garden are often devastating.  

Two areas of our lives which face increasing demands by our culture to push the limits of what is healthy are the areas of finance and relationships.  Most Americans have little to no margin when it comes to money.  We live from paycheck to paycheck and a good percentage of Americans are in deep financial debt. The average credit card debt per cardholder is $5,100, and expected to increase to $6,500 by the end of the year.  1 in 10 consumers has more than 10 credit cards.  1 in 50 households carry more than $20,000 in credit card debt. That amounts to more than 2 million households.

And the same can be said about our relationships also.  With the internet opening up the world of porn to children and adults alike, with little to no restraints or boundaries, there is a real sexual health crisis for adults and teenagers.  One professional counselor told me that he is seeing more and more young males who have E.D. caused by over stimulation from porn and sexual activity.   This is only the tip of the iceberg of the emotional and physical problems caused by a failure to put any kind of governor on sexual activities.  

The alternative is to create boundaries and healthy margins in all areas of life so that we can live productive lives and be prepared to handle the curves that life can throw us.  It is a simple concept straight from the Bible, as simple as keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you.  Yet, so many of us violate these basic principles and find ourselves in a heap of trouble whether it be with our finances, time management, health or relationships.

A great resource on creating margins is Andy Stanley's series for small groups called Taking it To The Limit.  In this study Stanley shows us how to create margin so that we can live healthy lives and be more prepared to handle the curves that life can throw us.  He explains that the secret to getting more out of life is not doing more, but doing less. 

Questions to consider:
Do you have an emergency fund of at least a year's salary?
Do you get at least seven hours of sleep each night?
Do you find yourself always late to appointments?  Do you create enough margin so that you'll be on time even if there are unexpected delays?

Do you have an emergency fund of at least a year's salary?
Do you get at least seven hours of sleep each night?
Do you find yourself always late to appointments?  Do you create enough margin so that you'll be on time even if there are unexpected delays?

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