We love mysteries. One of the best selling genres of fiction is the good old mystery. We seem to enjoy puzzles worked out by the brilliant thinking of an accomplished detective. Reading a good mystery is fun because we get to think through the clues along with the detective and see if we can’t come to the same conclusions to solve the situation. But there seems to be a mystery that many of us just have not thought through – the mystery of how the church is to function within our communities.
If we examine the condition of the typical church of today, it appears they are more like little clubs of spiritual activities that provide a feeling of enjoyment, fulfillment, and even spiritual superiority to the members.
For those of us interested in what God’s Word has to say about God’s business, we can ask ourselves what the Bible says the church should be doing in its community.
My church has been going through a series of messages on what being a church member is about and I’ve been challenged to think about the mystery of the church we find in the pages of the New Testament.
The first thing that comes to my mind is a miracle Jesus talked about in calling his disciples. The Lord used it to explain just what sort of activities they were going to be engaged in. They were going to fish for people’s souls.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; Matthew 13:47
People who haven’t heard about Jesus Christ and accepted His offering of salvation are like fish swimming in a vast ocean of a society heading for the calamity of final and eternal judgment. Jesus clearly tells his “guys” these people need to be fished.
But what happens when the non-believer is brought into the boat by the fishing efforts of the Christ-follower? The New Testament is clear that when a “lost fish” is gathered into the boat of the church of faith… it miraculously becomes…
A sheep. Wow! Now that is a mysterious miracle. There is definitely something fishy about what happens when a person responds to their neighbors and friends sharing the gospel of Jesus. They change. They go from lost fish to found sheep. One minute that person is flopping around on the deck and bang… the next moment they become a sheep.
In the entire New Testament believers in Jesus are called sheep. They are never, ever referred to as fish. Believers no longer have to be fished – they need to be shepherded.
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” John 21:16
shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 1 Peter 5:2
Therefore the job of the Christian stops being a fisherman and starts being a shepherd. Every Christian in every church should be bi-vocational. We need to fish for fish and shepherd the sheep. If we know how to fish, maybe we need to learn how to shepherd and if we’re good at shepherding, perhaps we need training in being good fishermen.
The mistake our churches so often make (if we’re not careful) is that we fish for sheep and try to shepherd fish… or worse we only shepherd and never get around to fishing for the lost.
When we shepherd, we lead to the still waters of peace… we feed our flock on spiritual food. But fish (those outside the relationship with God) can’t understand shepherding. They are spiritually blind and insensitive. They should be fished not shepherded.
On the other hand sheep (those inside a relationship with Christ) don’t have to be continually evangelized with the good news of Jesus. They need to be shepherded, not fished.
So I’ve been thinking… Do I have people in my life that I’ve identified as non-Christians? Am I actively fishing for them? Offering Christ’s grace, peace, abundant life, joy, and fellowship to lure them into the “boat” of the church? Or do I make the mistake of expecting everyone I meet to live like, act like, and respond to me like a fellow sheep – when they are just poor fish looking for a fisherman?
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28
Are our churches fulfilling Christ’s commands to fish for men who are outside the boat of fellowship with Him and shepherd those fish who have miraculously been changed into sheep? Are we personally fulfilling that command? If we are, there is absolutely something fishy going on here.
Think about it…