Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Evangelism Myth 3: Biblical "Plans" that Aren't Biblical

In the one year lectionary this upcoming Sunday has as its Gospel lesson the calling of Peter and the first disciples - Luke 5:1-11. This is the familiar, "let down your nets" - "Lord, we caught nothing, but at Your Word" - oh, look, lots of fish - Depart from me, for I am a sinful man - do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men (or the old fashioned "I will make you fishers of men").

It's one of those familiar lessons, one of those familiar stories - one that we know. Sadly, it will provide the jumping off point for another style of Evangelism Myth - Biblical "Plans" that aren't Biblical. What happens is this - the presenter will take and episode from the Scripture and say, "See, this is what we need to do" - where the "this" that he suggests has nothing to do with the text.

For example, I was recently told that I should consider how the disciples did their fishing. They didn't fish one on one - they didn't do "pole fishing". They did "net fishing" - where a few people would get together and they would work together and get lots of people -- therefore, you should follow our plans for exciting group activities where you don't merely get 1 new person to show up to church, you get lots! Yea! Fantastic!

Except. . . this image of "net fishing" meaning that we need to do giant group events has nothing to do with the Scriptures. You want evidence of that? Well, let's actually consider the text. Simon and his friends had been "net fishing" all night - working together - and you know what?

"Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!" Nothing. Zilch. Squadush. And Simon Peter knew fishing - he could plan with the best of them, ran several boats, was successful. And yet, at that moment, all his planning was worthless. No, the keep is that Christ commands him to let down his nets - even when the nets have been cleaned, even when it's the wrong time of day to fish. "But at your word I will let down the nets." And then there is the wondrous catch of fish.

It's not that it was a group activity that let there be a great catch - it's the Word of God. This "net fishing" idea really misses the boat (get it?). The point wasn't the labor of the many disciples, it was the power of the Word of the One True God, Christ Jesus. And that Word is what will catch men - if you want to catch men, you must proclaim Christ Jesus and His Word.

But what is so vile about these types of Biblical "Plans" is that to push the plans, they actually do damage to what is good and biblical. I was told that "Pole fishing" was bad. That it didn't work well. That it was inefficient.

Hmmm. Let's see - isn't Jesus moving away from His preaching to speak and deal with Peter one on one. Eh, that doesn't count. Or Jesus dealing with the woman at the well. That's pole fishing Jesus, You aren't following the "Biblical Plan". Or let's see, what other things do we see in Acts? Phillip and the Ethiopian - eh, that was one on one. Or when Paul and Silas deal with their jailer. . . Acts 17, Paul and Silas dealing with one jailer - oh, good heavens, two people dealing with one - that's pole fishing of the worst sort!

There is nothing Biblical about this plan - rather Scripture is used and abused to make something that is merely a human plan sound Divinely endorsed.

And here's the sad thing. There's nothing wrong with encouraging group activities. You have image to support that idea - that whole 1 Body with many members - your Church should be working together - that way people's talents can support and over lap. But plans for specific things shouldn't come at the abuse of Scripture.

If you abuse the Word of God with your Evangelism Plan, your Evangelism Plan isn't going to center on the Word of God that brings about the catch of men. And that is sad.


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I hadn't heard that one before, emphasizing the net to mean "many at once" and the pole (bad!) to mean "one at a time." Definitely a bad interpretation.

But the kind of fishing is important. The problem with pole fishing is not the "one at a time" part, but the "hook" part, the "bait" part. Pole fishing requires knowing your fish and their culture and putting on just the right bait and moving (or not moving) your hook in just the right way to attract them, or not scare them away.

Net fishing is much simpler. Just let it down. If the fish are there, they are caught. And getting the fish there - well, even that's the task of the Ruler of the seas.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

See - that could have been theologically useful!