My son and I have gotten into fishing. One thing I’ve noticed about my 3 year old. He wants to keep every fish he catches. So, I started out by giving him his wish. We kept every little blue gill, perch, and crappie on our stringer. But, by the end of the trip, most of the once vibrant fish were limp and lifeless. Others had passed on to fish heaven.
Slowly he’s catching on to the idea of release. There is a rush that comes from releasing your catch. The fish goes back into the water to live a long life and make more fish.
Using the analogy Jesus first made, in ministry we are also fishing. Like the first disciples we are “fishers of men.” We get up early to pray for the lost. We bait our conversations, and cast out selfless acts of love to reel in one for the Savior. There is great joy that comes from catching others for Christ.
When we finally make a catch there’s a similar choice – keep or release. We can keep them on our stringer so we can control them. We can display them as trophies of our own accomplishment. We can use them as pawns to fulfill our own dream. We can even use their resources to feed our own selves. Insecure leaders usually keep everything they catch.
If a fisherman keeps his fish on a stringer they’ll eventually die. In like manner, new converts and church members will also die spiritually, or leave the church soured and bitter. Others becomes sick and unable to carry any ministry load. A minister who serves this way ends up with a boat full of dead, stinky fish.
The better option is to release. Once that special person is caught and in the boat they can be trained, equipped, loved, discipled, and then released back into the water to swim with freedom and purpose. They are released into ministry to fulfill their potential. They are free to use their gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ, and to bring others to Jesus.
In church life, when we truly release others they’ll swim around but never far away. In fact they’ll come back to the boat over and over, to the very place where they were first caught. When we release and empower others they know it’s a safe place to hang out. A fisherman who fishes this way never experiences a dry spell because there are plenty of fish around that are full of life.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry for building up the body of Christ.”