Fishing for People


This spring (2014), we used Adam Hamilton’s book and video study “The Way:Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus” as our Lenten study.  It was a good study and, by using the video, we got to see some of the places where Jesus walked and taught in the Holy Land.

One of the chapters focused on Jesus’ ministry near the Sea of Galilee, including the calling of his first disciples, who were fishermen. In the chapter and video, Adam Hamilton considers a question that I had long considered: why did Jesus choose fishermen to be his first disciples? These fishermen were probably coarse, uneducated, working class people.  They were not the kind of people that would have been my first choice if I had been Jesus.  I always thought that Jesus chose fishermen to show that God can use anyone, even the most unlikely persons, to help spread God’s word and kingdom. While that may be true, Adam Hamilton suggests that maybe Jesus chose fishermen because they are eternal optimists. Every fishermen must believe that this setting of the net, this cast, this spot is going to finally pay off, otherwise why go fishing at all.

I was thinking about that optimism of fishermen recently when I had the chance to go fishing for a few hours. It was a particularly unproductive trip. Oh, I caught a few fish, but for whatever reason the fish were not cooperating. I began to think that I should give it up, to came back and try again another day, but then I would make one more cast. “Why did I make this cast?” I asked myself. “Because” I answered “this could be the one. Maybe, just maybe, the big one will bite on this cast.” It was an overly optimistic thought because it had been an unproductive day (and I never caught the big one that day) but the only way to know was to make the cast, to give it a try, and see if the fish would cooperate.

How does this apply to the church, you’re probably asking. The church is called to be fishers of people, according to Matthew 4:19 “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people. (NIV)’”, to catch people for God and God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, the church hasn’t been doing very well on it’s fishing trips recently. Almost all mainline denominations, including United Methodism, are declining, according to the statistics. Why might this be? Maybe it’s because we haven’t been fishing as often as we should. On our church’s Facebook page (  I recently posted a statistic from Back to Church Sunday (which will be participating in on September 21) that 73% of unchurched adults have never been invited to church. Another statistic is that only 2% of Christians EVER invite someone to church ( If these statistics are correct, one reason the church is declining is because we are simply not going fishing enough. We are not being intentional enough about inviting our friends and family to church.

This is sobering news. But there is good news! Dr. Thom Rainer writes that “82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited” ( So according to this statistic, if we invite people to church, there is better than a 4 in 5 chance they will attend! If we go fishing for people and invite them to come to church and to know Jesus, there is a good chance that we will catch some! I know, our world today is full of political correctness and tolerance. The last thing we want to do is offend someone. But what about God? How will they know the peace, love, mercy, forgiveness and joy of God unless we go fishing and invite them to come to church and to think about God. So I ask you, as I ask myself, when is the last time you went fishing for people? Invite an acquaintance, friend or family member to come to church with you. You never know, this could be the cast where you and I catch a person for God!


Gather Around the Table


The communion rail and altar table at Pine Ridge UMC

The communion rail and altar table at Pine Ridge UMC

As a child growing up my family gathered around the table to eat together at least once a day. Usually we ate together for supper and maybe at lunch, especially on Sundays after church. The rule was that we would talk to one another without distractions- no television, no newspaper (these were the days before ipads, smart phones, and other electronic devices)- just conversation. As a child, I was in a hurry to finish eating and talking so that I could go and play. As a teenager, I was always in a hurry to finish the meal and get on with life- homework, phone calls to friends and girlfriends, watching television or listening to music. Now that I’m older and I can’t sit down with my parents and brother everyday, I always look forward to gathering with my family whenever we can to sit down, to eat and visit.

Oval dining room table similar to the one that we ate around every night

Oval dining room table similar to the one that we ate around every night

I thought about those experiences as I was preparing my message for this past Sunday, June 1. My text for the message was 1 Peter 3:8-17 which includes these words from verses 8-9. “You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts, and humble minds. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t snap back at those who say unkind things about you. Instead, pray for God’s help for them, for we are to be kind to others, and God will bless us for it.” (3: 8-9 The Living Bible) I knew we would be gathering around the altar table as a church family to receive Holy Communion as we usually do on the first Sunday of the month, so I thought about those times eating around the table growing up and titled the message “Like One Big Happy Family” from verse 8. I thought I had everything planned out so that it would be a meaningful message and worship service. But God had other plans.

When Sunday morning came, I went to turn on the air conditioner at Tangipahoa UMC like I always do, except this time the air conditioner in the sanctuary did not respond, not good on a warm, humid, south Louisiana June morning. I called the air conditioner repair guy who could not get there before service started, so we decided to worship in the fellowship hall and repair the air conditioning during the week.

Usually we worship in the sanctuary with everyone facing the same direction, toward the front of the church. If you sit in the back of the church, all you see are the back of the heads in front of you and the preacher’s smiling face. But on this Sunday when we were thinking about what it meant to live as one, big, happy family in the church, we sat around the tables in the fellowship hall, looking at each others faces. Since it was communion Sunday, we moved the elements into the fellowship hall and because of the noisy metal chairs and tight space, I decided that we would serve each other the bread and the grape juice, much as one might pass the roast or potatoes around the table at a meal. I couldn’t help thinking that there was no way I would have been smart enough to plan this, only God could do it. On the Sunday where the message is “Like One Big Happy Family” we gathered around tables, looked one another in the eye, and shared God’s holy meal.

I hope and pray that you have an opportunity to gather around the table with your family soon, to eat together, talk together and spend time with one another. I hope and pray that we will always find time to gather around God’s table, listen to God and one another, and partake of God’s holy meal. No matter how busy or crazy our lives get, may we always remember to gather around the table- for time together, for love, and for faith.