Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fishers and Feeders

Scripture calls us to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19), but it also says to feed Christ's sheep (John 21:17). Originally, these were meant to go on together as two aspects of making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). But since, a major rift has developed between the two mandates.

There are those who emphasize evangelism, who end up looking down on people who are busy teaching people and not reaching people. They see Christians as staying in their comfort zone and continually learning while the world around them is going to hell. But there are also those who see the soul winners as making superficial converts, who are liable to be blown away by their first encounter with difficulty or false teaching. They see the idea of producing decisions that are not grounded in God's Word as a waste of effort.

As a result we get animosity, not just between individuals, but churches and organizations. We get evangelistic churches and teaching churches, at loggerheads with each other and each convinced that the other is out of the will of God. (There are other types of churches, such as fellowship churches, but two types are enough to deal with at one time.)

To make things worse, there tend to be naturals in both camps. I have a friend named David Garcia, and he is a fisherman and good at it. Recently we had a church men's fishing trip and David helped those like me who had not been fishing in years remember how. As a result, more from the grace of God than good management, I managed to catch a good-sized fish. (The whole point of this post is to show off my fish, but I won't tell anyone if you don't.) But David Garcia is also a fisher of men and is a natural. We have all known them--the person who finds it natural and relatively easy to tell others about Christ. (Makes the rest of us feel jealous.) But there are also those who are natural teachers (I am one) and find it easy to explain the Word of God to others. I am convinced God meant us to work together to encourage others to do both, but if we are not careful we can find ourselves at opposite corners of the ring prepared to duke it out.

We need to realize that both outreach and spiritual growth are a necessary part of Christ's church. And those who are naturally focused one way or the other need to respect each other's position and work together. Teachers need to learn and to value evangelism, and evangelists need to learn and to value knowing God's Word in a deep way. Otherwise, we are left to continue the cycle of superficial churches that win only shallow converts and knowledgeable churches that are trapped in their insulated communities and never reach out to those outside.

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