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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 Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC. Outreach Magazine 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?

What do you think of Furtick’s comparison? How does this post speak to you personally?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Self-evident. Really? These familiar words from our Declaration of Independence seem to hold less merit with each passing year.

Today Southern Baptists across this nation recognize ‘Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.’ A national day to acknowledge the value of human life was first set aside in a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. That, of course, was eleven years after the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. The principal decision repealed all state laws prohibiting abortion.

Now, some 39 years after Roe v. Wade — and more than 50 million abortions later — many in the Christian community continue to pray for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Of course, with an increasingly liberal set of supreme court justices, such an ambitious goal seems unlikely in the near future. Still many individuals, churches, and pro-life groups continue to wage war on behalf of the unborn.

Perhaps no one more deeply regrets the high court’s decision than Norma McCorvey, better known as “Jane Roe,” the plaintiff in the case. In her book Won by Love, McCorvey explained her changed view on the issue of abortion:

“I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma’, I said to myself, ‘They’re right’. I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, that’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth — that’s a baby!

I felt crushed under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception’. It wasn’t about ‘missed periods’. It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion — at any point — was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”

McCorvey, now 64, has since been re-confirmed as a member in the Catholic Church. She is an ardent supporter of the pro-life cause.

Having served as a licensed therapist for a number of years, I have personally witnessed the damage that abortion does — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Increasingly, there is concern in the medical community about physical harm as well, including a possible link between abortion and breast cancer.

Of course, only God knows the full scope of the impact of abortion. However, in my therapeutic and ministerial counseling with women, I have seen first-hand the anguish, torment, and far-reaching effects of abortion on family relationships. I only know that what many Americans want to view as a choice is altogether inconsistent with both the words of Scripture in Psalm 139:13-16, and the Judeo-Christian values that our nation’s founding fathers sought to serve as the cornerstone of our republic. Consider these words from President Reagan:

“Make no mistake, abortion-on-demand is not a right granted by the Constitution. No serious scholar, including one disposed to agree with the Court’s result, has argued that the framers of the Constitution intended to create such a right.”

Reagan argued that it is impossible “to diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life.”

Perhaps the most amazing thing about God is His ability to forgive the sin of those who call upon the name of Jesus. If you have had an abortion, you can still find forgiveness in Him. If you are considering abortion, please reach out to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center. Their staff can help you find solutions that preserve both the life of your baby and the integrity of your emotional self. (Click here to find a center near you.)


  • Pray for those who may be considering abortion.
  • Find a way to volunteer or otherwise contribute to a Christian family ministry or local Crisis Pregnancy Center. (Diapers, formula, baby clothes, and bedding are always in demand.)
  • Consider adopting a child or serving as a foster parent or respite care worker.
  • Become involved in your local or state pro-life movement, and be a voice for the unborn.
  • Pray for an end to legalized abortion in America.

On this Sanctity of Human Life Day, let’s pray and work together for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to be equal rights for both the born and the unborn.

Does your church participate or somehow acknowledge Sanctity of Human Life Day? If so, how? Do you have other thoughts or comments to share on this subject?

Did you like this post? If so, you might also be interested in these previous posts:

Doubly Grateful

Under the Microscope

Tonight’s ‘Secret Church’: highly relevant