Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fishing with Jesus and the Big Catch (There’s a difference between the “one that got away” and what we let sink in a tangled net because the net is too heavy).

Luke 5, Jesus calls his first disciples. Luke says that Jesus got into the boat owned by Simon (Peter) and asked Peter to put out into the lake so that he (Jesus) could teach the crowd gathering on the shore. Afterwards, Jesus directed Simon to put out into deep water and let down his nets.

Simon did so, and, what do you expect? An amazing catch! A catch so large that Simon and his crew had to signal to their partners on the shore to come and help bring in the nets which were so full of fish they would swamp the boat if they tried to bring them in alone.

After that, Simon followed Jesus and was eventually renamed Peter, and became a great leader in the church.

This story is on my mind a lot these days. It haunts my thoughts. Today I’m going to get really vulnerable and I’m going to share my anxiety with you, gentle reader, and with Zion Church, the intended audience of this blog.

Our nets are full right now. I think we’re Simon in the story. We simply let Jesus in our boat and the next thing you know, we’re fishing. And now, a miraculous catch. A catch so big there is a real danger of swamping the boat and losing it all. And remember, per instructions of Jesus, we’re in deep water.

What on earth am I talking about? We have been so blessed to enjoy miraculous ministry in seeing the Mizo fellowship join us at Zion and also in seeing neighborhood kids, primarily from new immigrant households, join us on Wednesday nights. The growth of Wednesday nights in particular is astounding. Consider that in September of last year we had 4 kids in tutoring. Last week we had 55 kids. And I know the tutors feel swamped. Driving the van on Wednesday nights to pick up and take home the kids, who live within a 2 mile radius of our building, now takes an hour each way because we have to make so many trips.

Praise God! What great problems to have! Here’s my anxiety: I am all too aware of the human tendency to want to control. When things seem to be getting out of control, our natural tendency is to want to take over, clamp down, put in rules, regulations, safe guards, mechanisms, etc., so that we aren’t overwhelmed. And, I very much fear from personal experience in churches, that when we do so, no matter how well intentioned and well meaning we are, we begin to limit what God is doing and we turn our blessings into curses.

To be clear, my anxiety comes from the collision between wanting to honor God on the one hand, and being “reasonable” and using “common sense” and honoring our volunteers and members. I’m afraid if we don’t manage this new level of ministry properly, we will, in the words of the old hymn, “bring to naught all He hath done.”

So, here are things that I’m trying to remember as we seek the Lord’s solutions for our current “embarrassment of riches.”

Remember that the recent uptick in ministry has all been directed by God himself. He brought it, he built it, and I have to believe he will maintain and sustain it. It was in June that we first went to the apartment complex simply to bless the people who lived there and give them a banquet. We did it three or so more times in the following months and God himself opened doors and provided opportunities for us to serve. We were not very organized, we were not in control, the volunteers simply showed up and so did the food and the necessary resources. God led, we followed.

Remember that we don’t get to sort through the fish while they are in the net looking for “bad ones” to throw back. Apparently, our job is simply to bring it in. So we don’t want to start thinning the ranks of the kids who are coming by trying to decide “who really needs this most?” We have about 4 kids (out of 55) that can be a challenge. They are also the kids who need Jesus the most. Two of them are not very good Muslims and are looking for the Truth. I have to believe that God will raise up special people with a great heart for these kids in particular who can patiently disciple them and help them with their school work at the same time.

Remember that we’ve spent almost nothing from our bank account to do these things. People, I believe prompted by God himself, have given and given gladly to provide for these needs. It’s as if God Himself wanted to shame those who believe that you have to have money to do ministry. And remember that we now own a church van outright because people saw what God was doing and wanted to help. I have to believe that God will continue to be faithful and provide what’s needed to sustain us through this time. In fact, I’ve already been contacted by someone who wants to help financially and will also help me put a vision together of where all this may be going. I have to believe that God has “many other people in this city” (Acts 18:10) who are about to appear and help us.

Remember that when Simon thought his boat was going to sink and the catch lost, he signaled his partners to come and help. And they did. And the miraculous catch made it safely to shore and was enjoyed by all. It’s probably past time for me to be hitting the streets and looking for more ministry partners with a heart for our neighborhood and these kids. We are so grateful for the participation of Meredith Drive Reformed and Freedom for Youth, Lutheran Services of Iowa, the International House of Prayer - Iowa, and a half dozen volunteers from other churches or no churches who are helping us already. It appears obvious that this catch is way bigger than we are.

Remember that with God, all things are possible. It’s his work, his way. So we have to continue to be diligent in prayer. We need to wear out our knees, seeking his face, and I’d appreciate your help with this. And, hey, if you’re not busy on Wednesday nights, we’re looking for some folks to help...

Thanks for reading. God bless you. Thanks for listening and letting me clear my head. I feel better already. PJ

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