Welcome and thanks for participating in day 15 of the ARISE fast and devotional blog. If you haven’t read the previous days, please go back and read them before reading todays, as these thoughts will build off of one another. 

 

Day 15: Fish are Friends

 

 “Having a fishing rod in your hand is merely an excuse to explore out-of-sight depths and reveal mysteries that previously only existed in dreams.” – Fennel Hudson

 

 I have always been captivated by fish. Whether it’s catching them on the lake, or watching them through an aquarium… or eating them at Long John Silvers, fish are my friends.

 

 Fun fact: Just before I was born, my parents owned a fish farm. They actually raised the tropical fish that are sold in pet stores. Since I was in my mother’s womb on that fish farm, I guess you could say I have fish in my DNA. Part of the Vandenberg Airport, is on the former property of my family’s fish farm… and that’s no fish story.

 

 When we built the ARISE campus on Pauls Dr., I actually wanted to put a large saltwater aquarium in the kid’s area. Have you ever seen the TV show “Tanked”? – It’s an animal planet show where custom aquarium manufacturers make and install large fish tanks. Their aquariums are amazing. Inspired by their show I wanted a large cylinder shaped saltwater fish tank in the middle of the kids area… Think 10 foot tall, 10 foot round large. That idea was destroyed when I learned how much they cost! Who spends tens of thousands of dollars on a custom fish tank?… not me.

 

 However, a little known fact about our building is that it designed to have a large aquarium mounted in the wall just outside of the kid’s area. The tank would be flush to the outside wall on Main Street, and housed inside the closet in the Vision Room.

 

 We have never installed it for one big reason… no one wants to take care of it. I have had many aquariums over the years, and I must admit, like the child who wants the dog without the responsibility, my fish tanks usually end up stinky and cloudy. I love fish… I just don’t love taking care of them. I want the joy without the work.

 

 Institutionalized churches spend a lot of time working in their “fish tank.” They have to keep the fish (congregation) well fed. They have to keep the tank clean – keep out all contaminants. They need to make sure their fish are happy. They must make sure the temperature is perfect for their delicate biology, the volume is not too loud for their sensitive ears and the sermon is just the right amount of truth to keep them interested.

 

 Instead of being fishers of men, institutionalized churches become protectors of the fish tank. The mission of the church actually becomes the maintenance of the church. My guess is you’re picturing a church in your head right now…

 

 The early church movement that swept across the Roman Empire and the world was not concerned at all with protecting their individual fish tanks. Sure they battled some heresies and needed some correction within, but their focus was always the great ocean of humanity. 

 

 As soon as a church becomes inward focused, it begins to die the slow death of institutionalism. This doesn’t mean the congregation is not important, or their needs should not be met – The early church took care of their widows and orphans, and loved their small congregations. But it does mean that the primary focus is always outward and onward. 

 

 The church that becomes focused on maintenance stops fishing beyond their tank, and therefore stops reaching new souls. New fish are scary, so the old fish often devour the new fish. But in the words from the sharks in Finding Nemo: Fish are friends, not food…. The movement of love compels us beyond the limitations of our fish tank… because all fish are future friends. 

 

`When fisherman don’t fish, they fight. 

 

 They fight over the music volume and worship style, chairs or pews, color of the carpet, appropriate church clothing, or which seat they get in the sanctuary. If you are, or have ever been in a place where they fight over these sort of things, it’s a sure sign you have become institutionalized. How do I know this? Because God doesn’t really care about any of these things.

 

 God cares about people. And when you’re busy catching fish, you don’t have time to fight! At ARISE, if we were to fight over anything, it would be how to reach more people… because that is what Jesus cares about, so that is what we will care about.

 

 Institutionalized Christian worship happens in clean aquariums… inward focused and slowly dying. People of the movement engage those outside the fishbowl. They see through the compassionate eyes of Jesus and put other’s needs above their own…because that’s what love does. 

 

 JOIN THE MOVEMENT. Be a fisher of men and not a protector of the fish tank.

 

 Esse Quam Videri, 

 Pastor Brent

 

 Meditate and reflect on the verse and questions: 

 

 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38

 

1. How would you describe a “protector of the fish tank” compared to a “fisher of men?”

 

2. What is your vision for the future of your church? To grow, or maintain? What are you willing to give up to allow it to grow?

 

3. Are you willing to leave the fish tank, and go into the harvest field?

 

 Pray: 

 – Pray that God gives you greater boldness to share His message. 

 

 – Pray that you would be a “fisher of men.” 

 

 – Pray that your focus would always remain on the harvest fields.