I hate fishing. Hate is a strong word so let me restate. I absolutely, categorically, fundamentally hate fishing. Don’t get me wrong, I have great admiration for the courage and strength of those who trawl the seas day in and day out so I can have a nice bit of cod on a Friday. I also enjoy watching ‘Trawlermen’ on the Dave channel from time to time and wonder at how these men work and survive in such savage conditions. The rewards of deep-sea fishing are great but the risks, to my mind, are greater. Anyway, I am digressing from my point.
When I used to live in Birmingham I lived near a canal and I would often go walking there to let my sermons ‘stew’ and get some time away from the computer screen. Without fail I would see men and women sporadically seated on the edge of litter strewn, faeces floating, shopping trolley laden, murky cesspools of water with their rods cast nonchalantly in. Never once did I see anybody move, never mind reel anything in. Surely the only thing living in those places would have had to be some seriously toxic, deformed mutant thing. Anyway, it looked staggeringly boring and a complete waste of time. Better to sit with a brew and a book, in my opinion. The thought of sitting all still and silent fills me with dread and brings me out in a cold sweat.
I have recently befriended a guy from the community over the last couple of years. When I first met him he was a garrulous, suspicious, Marxist atheist, with a deep dislike of the church and anything remotely religious. Not to bore you, but we have developed quite a rapport over the last 2 years and recently he began to try to entice me to go fishing with him. The thought filled me with the same horror as he would probably feel should I invite him to some sort of Christian event. This got me thinking about (1) my motivations and (2) the whole concept of going ‘to’ people rather than expecting them to ‘come’ to me. So, I have agreed to give ‘sea fishing’ a try. I am completely foolish and feel like a fish out of water (come on, it had to happen!) but I can’t help thinking that I bet he would have the same sort of feelings if I invited him to a ‘tambourine and bell ringing’ event at the church (we don’t do that – but you get the picture).
The point is (bigging myself up) I am seeking to model to my people the type of missional thinking required as we seek to reach people in our society. We need to change the mindset and meet with people where they are and engage (within reason) in the things they like to do. Fishing and pigeon racing are massive here in Niddrie and I am thinking through how we incorporate these things into our evangelism as an individual and, maybe, corporately.
So, I hate fishing but I really like this guy. I like him so much that I am willing to do this to deepen our friendship. I am not looking for a gospel opportunity because I have already shared the gospel with him. But I am looking to continue to find ways to bridge his culture and mine and praying that the Lord will ultimately life the veil. The trip has now progressed into his brother joining us and another unbeliever. At the time of writing I have asked my assistant to come with us. This is because (1) it means that I can give full attention to my friend without others vying for my attention and (2) somebody else can join in my suffering!
I suppose some questions are: when was the last time we really put ourselves out for the sake of the gospel? When was the last time we did something we felt uncomfortable doing as an act of appreciation and genuine friendship for a non-Christian friend?
I am not claiming sainthood or anything – it is only fishing after all, not sword swallowing or line dancing! But we do need to ask ourselves how involved we are in the lives of unbelieving friends and how much we know about them and their world.