I just returned from our annual summer camping vacation in upstate New York. Cayuga Lake is always beautiful, and it's nice to spend time with my wife's family.
One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to fish. My brother-in-law and I get up every morning at 5 AM, get on his boat, and fish for about four hours. Some years the fishing is great. This year it wasn't so good. The surface water was too warm for the fish we go after. About mid-week, the lake did a "turn over," but even though the water was cooler, the fish were skittish and we didn't catch as many as we would have liked. But even though the conditions were not ideal, it didn't stop us from going fishing. We still got up every morning at 5 AM with the hope of catching fish.
Do those of us who call ourselves Christians or church leaders have that kind of desire to catch fish? Jesus called His disciples (both then and now) to be fishers of men (see Mark 1:17). He said that He came for but one purpose - to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus' life was that of "fishing" for those who needed Him the most. Do we do that? My friend, Chris Conrad, wrote a book entitled, "Your Church Can Win." He mentioned some disturbing stats that come from our Wesleyan "tribe." A year ago, 400 of our 1700+ churches didn't report a single salvation. The year before that it was 168. Those same churches spent over $13 million doing ministry without seeing a single soul won to Christ.
I'm not out to crucify those churches. When I look at my own ministry and our church, we do a lot of good things but we aren't really reaching the lost in a significant way. We do a lot of good things related to ministry, but our focus really hasn't been on others. Oh, we talk about reaching the unchurched, and we encourage our people to be missional. And in many ways we are. But the sad part is that very few people have come to Christ through our ministries this past year. The church grew, but that was in large part due to transfer growth - people who left another church to attend ours. That's not growth - that's simply shuffling the deck! A truly missional emphasis will result in people being saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. Anything less is merely being a social service agency that does good for self-gratification.
I'm frustrated, but perhaps more so with my own failure in this area. I need to recommit myself to the task of reaching souls. I can no longer allow myself to be distracted by my administrative responsibilities at the local and district levels. God forgive me for failing to be a soul winner in recent years. I'm going back to keeping the main thing the main thing.