The church was never intended to practice “catch and release” ministry. I don’t think it’s healthy to bring a lot of people in the door, take their picture, and then release them into the sea of church community just hoping the discipleship process will happen somehow.
When you catch a fish, you have to prepare it before you can eat it. In my opinion, it’s just plain gross. It’s messy, dirty, and not a lot of fun. Nevertheless, it’s necessary if there is ever going to be any hope of eating your catch.
The process is similar with people. When we catch people with the Gospel, it’s often a messy, dirty, and—in some ways—just plain gross process to disciple them. Even perfect-looking people need God’s transformation on the inside to be something He can use to build the Kingdom.
Here are seven ways you can break the habit of catch and release ministry in your church:
- Fish the right waters.
Focus on people who are open to God and things of faith. Don’t become obsessed with pursuing people who aren’t ready. (Hint: You won’t know that until you make the connection.)
- Focus on the long-term disciples, not the decisions.
It’s not about closing the deal; it’s about lives being changed forever.
- Don't bait and switch.
Don't tell the fantasy Gospel. God helps us through real life, not avoid real life.
- Be authentically you.
Discipleship happens primarily through relationships. The best discipleship happens through authentic ones.
- Know their story.
Show people you care by listening and being interested in who they are, where they’ve come from, and what’s going on in their lives.
- Accept those God brings your way.
People are messy—even believers. We show acceptance by our example, not our instruction.
- Follow through.
This will make or break your effectiveness when it comes to growing disciples. If you aren’t serious, it’s just about impossible to follow through. The cost is simply too great. If you are serious, you’ll never quit.
Catch and release may be a legitimate option for recreational fishing, but when it comes to Kingdom work, it’s not acceptable. God expects more from us. And people need more from us too.
Are you practicing catch and release or catch and keep Christianity?