Our Leader Does Not Put His Fish in an Aquarium
We do that. We build fish prisons. We work frantically to maintain them. We tend to keep our own personal ones, and our religious ones. We keep what is comfortable near us in both our aquariums, many times avoiding all else beyond the glass.
If you say you follow Him, pick up a hammer. Those who follow Jesus are to break people out of prison as He did. We must set captives free, just as He did. Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 tell us that. ‘He came to set captives free.” But, are we free? What’s containing us? A fish prison? A religious prison? A personal prison? Both? “Follow me, I will make you, keepers of the aquarium,” Jesus did not say. He said, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
I am pointing the above questions at myself. I struggle daily to get beyond the glass of my prisons. I must.
What does it mean to break the glass? I must start my own breaking. You yourself must start your own breaking. We must each decide to run to God, and increasingly, day by day, become more relationally close to our Heavenly Father, to Jesus our Lord and Savior, and to our guard and guide, the Holy Spirit…then to help others do the same.
They will help us do that right where we are. And where we are, for me, has been more of what I call ‘factory church’. Not being mean. It just felt that way to me personally.
But first, just a brief discussion of how I got here. I have been a part of rural churches and of mega-churches. I loved those churches and the people who called themselves by His name in all those places. Now, don’t hear me wrong – but since I started being a part of leading, I could not get past the nagging feeling that I was running a system and not doing as much loving and relationally connecting as I could. I had one of my pastors say this, ‘There have been many sermons where I feel like I am pouring my heart out…I’m up there with a firehose trying to give out living water…and the congregation is sitting out there catching some in thimbles…and then as they leave…they trip in the parking lot and spill it.’ I know that feeling. There were great people I got to minister to and with. But so much of the time I was either worried about numbers or knowledge. I found myself stuck behind the religious glass, as well as the personal glass. How many did we have?…was the question many times. Or what are they studying, how well do they know it? How many classes have they gone through? These are not bad questions. But they left me hungry for something more. Way back when I started doing the work for my dissertation, I realized I was wanting to answer questions like, ‘How well are they loving each other?’ ‘Who has come to realize recently how much God loves them?’ ‘How are they doing beyond the hours they are on this property?’ Those questions come from the great commandment…to love God and love others. Matthew 22:34-40. But no one was asking me those questions. Yet I knew my God was asking me to do things beyond the glass that I just could not seem to fit into my schedule. I found myself more than once feeling like the two guys who walked passed the half-dead guy before the good Samaritan came by. Luke 10:33. I just had too much on my plate to slow down…so I thought. But, since the questions about relationships were rarely if ever asked, I really didn’t have to answer them. Even though God was asking them of me. I was too busy answering the other ones. I justified my actions. I was wrong. Again, I’m not saying I was working in bad places. It is just how the system worked. More questions about ‘how many are there?’, than ‘how well are they?’. The second question was just assumed. We assumed if we gathered, they would get better. Not necessarily true. What is assumed is rarely intentioned. Over the last fifteen years or so I have read a lot, and watched as many disciple-making churches have emerged, and some significant bright spots of light started shining. God is at work more than we imagine. His work just might not be measureable the way we are used to. In fact, that which is most important is hardest to measure.