Ashlyn and Brayden live in a crowded suburban neighborhood filled with dogs and cats; bikes and kids. Regular kids, some that love to fish. One little guy fashioned a fishing pole from a stick, borrowed fishing line and a small plastic worm with a hook. Brayden borrowed the pole and dropped the line in the storm drain at the end of his street. That’s right! The storm drain, but even more amazing was the fact that he actually caught a fish.
Once Brayden got a fish on his line he wasn’t sure what to do with it. But Ashlyn wasn’t going to be out-done by a fish. She picked up the pole and started home with it, that’s right, with the fish dragging behind her. Sorry animal lovers, she was just three. She didn’t know what to do, but she knew her daddy would. When Kimberly looked out the front door she saw a parade of kids heading toward her front garage door. There in the middle of the parade was Ashlyn and the fish dragging behind her. Kimberly was horrified, but Ashlyn was just taking her prize catch to her dad.
As with all my stories, you know I’m headed somewhere besides the obvious. I have two points to make.
- Their desire to fish took them to an unusual place.
- They didn’t know what to do with the fish when they got it.
I understand a storm drain is an unusual place to catch a fish. In all my years, I’ve never fished there, but they did. Amazingly, although they fished in an unusual place AND although they didn’t have fancy equipment, they still caught a fish.
We need to get creative in our fishing locations- I mean spiritual fishing-where we fish for souls. Fishing locations are everywhere-shopping malls, hallelujah! PTA meetings, do they still call them that? Walking trails through a park, ball games, wherever you find people, that’s a good place to witness. You don’t need fancy words or methods, just a heart that loves God. You’ve got a story–what God has done for you. Your story needs to shared and they need to hear it.
But the next part of this illustration is equally important. We don’t seem to know what to do with people once we catch them. Ashlyn knew enough to connect that fish with her daddy. How successful are you (and your church for that matter) at connecting people with your Heavenly Father? I hope it’s less painful than Ashlyn’s dragging process! Don’t push or prod, but don’t miss an opportunity either. Do you know how to pray with someone to be born again? Learn how if you don’t. A good fisherman knows how to pull in a fish and land it. A believer should be able to do the same–spiritually speaking of course. Still, don’t forget you are not responsible to pull in every fish–doing your best is all you can do.
But then what? Church and discipleship is a natural progress for a believer. If new believers are going to thrive, they need to get back into a spiritual environment that is conducive to growth. Invite them to church.
When people walk through the doors of your church what happens to that person?
- Are they ignored as if they were invisible?
- Is there a discipleship program?
What should happen? Greeters are supposed to be friendly. Pastors are expected to be warm and gracious to visitors, but a church is NOT a friendly church if the people stay in their little clique and don’t reach out to new people. Make it your job to make the first move to welcome someone into your circle of influence. And even if the other people aren’t doing it, be friendly. You may create a new culture in your church–a culture of inclusion.u
Let me encourage you to do the following:
- Be friendly.
- Introduce yourself.
- Ask their name.
- Repeat their name.
- Ask them disarming questions that show you are really interested.Questions like what is your profession? Do you live in this area? How many children do you have? Now don’t rattle questions off like a machine gun, but ask them warmly with genuinely interest.
- Then write down their names in your notes or iPhone.
Friendliness should start in the parking lot and continue into the sanctuary. So start your friendliness in the parking lot and don’t forget the bathroom. I hate it when there’s several women washing their hands in the bathroom and they just ignore me. Most of the time, even if I’m visiting there I’ll be the first to speak. Just remember to treat people like you would an honored guest in your home. That attitude will serve you well.
Reach out to people you don’t recognize even if they aren’t a first time visitor. While I’ve been burned enough times that I don’t always ask a standard, “Are you new here?” question. I do try to introduce myself and ask their name. Again repeating the introductory questions that I would ask a visitor.
Pray for the people you meet when you get back to your seat and everyday the next week. If you do, two things will happen:
- You’ll remember their name.
- You’ll enrich their lives with your prayer.
Never forget the fish you catch aren’t for eating. (Boy, could I go off on that subject, but I won’t!) You put them in a happy pond, watch them mature. It all begins with warm, welcoming, loving people reaching out to someone they don’t know. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. It’s everyone’s responsibility, but since you are the only person you can control, let it start with you.