Fishers of men — or aquarium keepers?
I’ve thought a lot about that ever since I read a post by Steven Furtick, founder and lead pastor of in Charlotte, NC. has named Elevation as one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America. While most of us will never attend or serve in a church the size of Elevation or Prestonwood or Mars Hill, such churches can offer some help in effectively reaching the lost in our communities.
In his original post, “Fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium,” Furtick attributes the effectiveness of his church to one primary decision — the decision to “be more focused on the people we’re trying to reach than on the people we’re trying to keep.” Thus, the aquarium analogy.
Furtick asserts that the mentality at Elevation is one marked by an unwillingness “to cater to the preferences of the few in our pursuit of the salvation of the many.” This young pastor says that most churches are not willing to take such a bold stand when it comes to outreach and evangelism. He puts it like this:
They’re keepers of the aquarium. They say they want to reach people, but in reality they’re more focused on preservation than expansion. On keeping people rather than reaching them.
I don’t know about you, but every time I read that statement, I feel a sting — not because I believe Furtick is, as some might think, putting down other churches — but because most of the churches I’ve served could easily fit that description, at least to some extent. And sadly, I believe my own experiences are on par with that of most evangelical churches in America today.
So often churches are characterized by the loving care of their members rather than their love for and ministry to those in their community at large. And admittedly, there’s a definite balancing act required in ministry. We are rightly expected to minister to those in our churches who are hurting, hospitalized, and spiritually broken. However, the problem comes when the largest portion of our time and energy is directed toward those who are already part of the family of God instead of those who have yet to hear of His message of salvation and redemption.
From my vantage point, the older and more traditional the church, the greater the challenge to maintain proper balance of inward focus and outward focus. But on a positive note, I firmly believe that every church has the potential to do well in both regards, given the right leadership and a congregation fully committed to the mission of Christ.
Where is your church (the people)? Here are a few questions that might offer some insights:
1. How easily does your church adapt to changes in the organization, programs, worship services, etc.?
2. How readily does your church accept and include those from different walks of life, different backgrounds, or different values?
3. How attached is your church to a particular style of music, preaching/teaching, or worship setting?
4. How much money does your church spend on membership needs/activities vs. community/evangelism/missions activities?
Every church I know has room for improvement. Now the most important question of all just might be:
God, will you use me to be a more faithful fisher of men?
IT’S YOUR TURN!
What do you think of Furtick’s comparison? How does this post speak to you personally?