6/06/99, P2A

“Fishing Outside the Bucket”
Matthew 9: 9-13

n the words of Jesus that we have read we hear him saying that we should not seek so much those we already have as we should intentionally go after uncaught fish.

It is repeated often in the sports page that Americans spend more money on fishing than on all other sporting activities combined. Maybe that’s not true now that the Braves have raised the prices at The Ted; but, when you think about it, everybody has some fishing tackle, and most of us occasionally wet a hook. And then we remember our crazy uncle with that $50,000.00 bass boat with the sonar fish finder.

Jesus is saying that we should intentionally go after uncaught fish. Would any of us be so pathetic as to fish in the fish bucket of already caught fish? Jesus is directing us toward those who have never been hooked. “For I have not come to call the righteous (caught) but sinners (uncaught).” (Matthew 9: 13 NRSV).

Once we accept the Mission Statement of our United Methodist Church to “Make Disciples!”, then we can understand that we who are already discipled, need to become disciple makers. Everyone of us who is able to do so needs to be working toward that end.

Yesterday I visited 99 year old Frances Weldon at Piedmont Hospital. Among the many things she said to me in our long and delightful conversation was her lament, “I wish I could do more for our church!” My response was, “But you have done so much for me in our conversation, and you can carry that same spirit into your conversations with God by Praying For Your Church!” She is one Saint that God must anxiously await to hear from. I can almost hear God saying, “I can’t wait for Frances to call, I wish she would hurry up!”

Frances, as she wants me to call her, quoted this Frank Stanton poem that has become her motto for a long and happy life. She first memorized it 90 years ago:

“Keep A Goin”
“Ain’t no use to sit and pine cause the fish ain’t on your line,
bait your hook and keep on tryin, Keep A Goin.”

Certainly we need to feed our sheep, care for each other, provide new and expanded programs; but, what if we intentionally planned to fish in new waters? What about those sheep outside the gate who are yet unknown? Let those of us who are the already discipled think creatively about how we can individually be used to reach out.

Ask yourself this question: “What kind of church would my church be if we focused our efforts on others, and not me?”

One creative new idea came to me this week from a college chum who is now head of his denominational Sunday School program. I was telling him about many of the positive steps we have taken, and bragging that we have been nominated for the Denman Evangelism Award, but that we have failed to make any inroads into the huge Centennial Village, made up entirely of new families with children and youth, just a few blocks from our church doors. His reply was, “Plant a Sunday School class for children in the YMCA after school program!” What a brilliant idea! I told him that I thought he has gotten smarter since college.

The hard part may be getting someone excited about developing that class. Could it be you? Perhaps that is what God is calling you to do. In today’s world more than ever, we don’t have to travel to a foreign land to become missionaries. There are diamonds in our own backyards. Think of the children that we could reach! And then they would bring their parents: And in turn the parents would bring their friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. What a pool of uncaught fish! Wonderful human beings just waiting to be reached!

Another possibility for your creative juices is to strategize about how we can utilize our new Sunday Evening Ministry to reach unchurched folks. During the summer we will continue the once a month music programs (June 20, July 18, and August 22) but in September we plan to begin Every Sunday Night. We are looking at a mostly musical format. All kinds of Christian sounds: Contemporary, Gospel, Camp Meeting Songs, and many groups, quartets, and Star attractions. And a little preaching too. We have already had new folks come to the two Sunday Nights we have followed this format. We believe that this can be a great way to reach intown, and metro folks.

Fishing outside of the bucket can be new and exciting. After all, have you ever looked at those listless and defeated fish in the bucket: Just barely flapping their gills, sensing the inevitability of the frying pan. That must be kind of how we look when we don’t have a great mission to fulfill.

The Good News today is that God is calling each of us to some great task: Some New Joy! Aren’t we tired of life in the fish bucket?

As a Young and Fearless Prophet I was visiting one day in the study of a neighbor pastor of a different denomination. He seemed about as defeated, cynical, and sad as anybody I had known. I was wondering what terrible tragedy had occurred in his life to make him give up. But then, over his shoulder on the wall, I spotted a plaque with these words: “These Things I Would Die For: Belief in God, New Life in Christ, The Inspiration of Scripture, The Need to Reach the World for Him.” I asked him, “How long have you held to those great beliefs?” He replied, “Not in a long, long time.” Maybe the only thing more sad would be to have never had anything worth dying for.

Today, Jesus offers a share in His plan to build a Kingdom!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

6/06/99, P2A