Have you ever caught a fish? It’s a fantastic experience—thrilling actually. To this day, I remember the very first fish I ever caught. I was just a youngster at the time. It was a silver bass, and I caught it on Lake Enemy Swim in South Dakota. I felt the nibble, yanked the pole, reeled it in, drug it up on the beach. Then I sat down and waited for my dad! I was hooked.
Did you know that some people actually fish with absolutely no intentions of keeping what they catch? It’s called “catch and release.” You get the thrill of setting the hook, feeling the nibble, reeling in the fish, and landing it. But in the end, you release it back into its environment. You fish with nothing to show for it.
In some waterways, it’s the only fishing allowed. Crazy, I know.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but I just don’t get catch and release fishing. It seems like a waste. Why would you spend all the time, effort, energy, and money to fish when you know that—no matter how successful you are at catching fish—you can’t keep them?
Fishing is a familiar spiritual metaphor. Jesus’ first recruits just happened to be fishermen by trade. He promised to make them fishers of men. This was not simply a philosophical statement; Jesus was for real. Jesus was talking to people who earned money by catching fish. No fish. No paycheck. These guys were serious. When you make your living catching and keeping fish, catching and releasing fish simply won’t cut it.
It occurs to me that sometimes we practice (albeit unintentionally) “catch and release” ministry within the church.
No matter the size or shape of the church, we get busy: overloaded with projects, overwhelmed with needs, and overcome by packed calendars. Our focus can get fuzzy, our vision blurred, our purpose confused, and our ministry can slip from catch and keep to catch and release. Here are some signs that we’ve settled into “catch and release” Christianity:
- Numbers mean more than names
- Knowledge means more than obedience
- Talent means more than character
- Attraction means more than retention
- Excellence means more than authenticity
- Decisions mean more than discipleship
- Tasks mean more than relationship
A catch and release approach to build the Kingdom simply won’t cut it. It might be fun for the moment and may even seem productive. Yet when it comes to Kingdom work, Jesus is expecting a return that is lasting and proportional. (Read Luke19:1–27.)
What differences do you see between “catch and release” and “catch and keep” ministry? How does our approach to ministry change our results?