Assistant to the President: Family Life and Youth Ministry
I used to listen to a comedian joke about fishing- specifically how you might need to reevaluate your life goals if you find yourself watching fishing on TV. However, it wasn’t 2020 then, and we now live in a world devoid of our usual professional sports consumption. I bet someone has taken to watching fishing on TV, or maybe even cornhole tournaments (yes, the ACL matches are broadcast on ESPN).
While I have not watched fishing on TV yet, I have been able to go fishing with my four-year-old son, Noah in our neighborhood. I’m not much of a fisherman, but we have a lake/pond in our subdivision and some friends that like to go fishing, so down to the lake we went. Sadly, I do not have any great fishing tales to report, and yes, fishing with a four year old is as difficult as it sounds. But it did allow me to take some time to reflect on our COVID-19 exile.
If you had a fishing trip scheduled for the spring, there’s a good chance that it was cancelled. At one point I was told by a frustrated fisherman that even the boat ramps were closed. And there’s a good chance… no… a certainty that if you had a ministry event planned for the spring of 2020 that it too was cancelled. Perhaps you would have advertised the event using some sort of media, posted sign-ups, secured proper chaperon supervision, made arrangements for lodging, planned out meals, bought supplies, then bought extra supplies for when people inevitably forget theirs, and tried to prepare for every possible situation for when that unplanned question or incident occurred. Sound familiar?
Then, after all that effort preparing, it’s cancelled. There were many who worked so hard to make the event happen. And there were many who were so looking forward to the event. But now it’s gone.
These events were major moments in our lives, so it is quite appropriate to lament their loss. Go read chapter 1 from the book of Lamentations. Verse 4 spoke to me in this:
Lamentations 1:4 (NIV)
The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to her appointed festivals.
All her gateways are desolate,
her priests groan,
her young women grieve,
and she is in bitter anguish.
No one attending the event? Groaning ministers? People grieving and in anguish? Yes, that is something to mourn! And, sadly, something we are all too familiar with right now.
The book of Lamentations has its place, as does mourning. However, just as the people of Israel had hope proclaimed by the prophets, we too have hope. Our events may have been cancelled, changed, or postponed, but we must remember that we are not called to fill schedules, execute events, or implement systems. We are called to be fishers of men.
It’s appropriate to consider how we have moved away from event focused ministries in recent years. Events in themselves are not bad— they can be great —but we must remember that the event is not the goal. The goal is to bring people to Christ. All of the planning, the small group discussions, worship, campfire songs, and, yes, even the sometimes silly games are to strengthen our faith in Christ and to share the saving message of Jesus to someone who perhaps has not yet heard it yet.
COVID-19 disrupted our schedules, events, and systems, but don’t look at the wrong disruption. The ultimate disruptor is Jesus! Jesus changed the entire way people viewed their lives. Schedules, events, and systems were turned on their heads. Jesus disrupted the sacrificial system and became the atonement for all. He was among people that had become too comfortable with their own ideas of what it meant to follow God and who failed to see the real Kingdom work that needed to be done. I’m sure this was quite a difficult change, even the most devout followers, but Jesus changed their perspective from their own kingdoms to His Kingdom.
We pray “May your Kingdom come” but sometimes don’t realize what this means. The Kingdom of God brings death to our own kingdoms, but also renewal and healing through the gift of amazing Grace. That is what our ministries are to do even if we might need to figure out different media channels or more creative ways to bring renewal and healing. We may not be able to have the fishing trip we expected to have, but we are still fishers of men. One thing I’ve learned is that fishermen who love to fish will find a way – whether the fishing trip is cancelled or not.