By Tim Corbin, Director of Convention Strategies/COO
“What are you doing to create opportunities to meet new people?”
I had been sitting with my church planting director rehearsing everything we were doing in our first year as a church plant. When he asked this question, my first reaction was one of defense. Yes, I am creating opportunities. But that was not his question. His question was, “What are you doing?” My mind began to race as I sipped my coffee trying to come up with a good answer so that I felt competent in my work so far. At best I only came up with sporadic, unplanned, unintentional opportunities as I lived throughout the day. But that question provoked an “ah-ha” moment in my ministry.
Some of Jesus’ first words as he began his earthly ministry were, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” These simple but powerful words shared with Simon and Andrew would radically shift their mission and ultimately alter their lives forever. It set them on a trajectory that changed their values, dreams, and passions, which gave birth to the new testament church. They were fishermen who became fishers of men.
This was the essence of my church planting director’s question. We cannot control who receives Jesus as their lord and savior. We cannot even control who is receptive to the gospel or coming to our new church. We can control how and where we spend our time and share the gospel.
So, if I’m to be a fisher of men, then where am I fishing? What are my “fishing holes?”
A “fishing hole” is a place where you spend a regular amount of time developing an on-going relationship with those people that lead to Gospel conversations.
What are some potential Fishing Holes?
Where do you go to connect with others, besides the church? Do you have a hobby? Do you like to read, knit, run, hike, play sports, play blue grass? There are opportunities around you to connect with others who have the same interests. Meetup.com is just one online option to connect with others who share your interest. Do you like to work out? Join a gym. Whatever your hobbies or interests, find a fishing hole where you can build relationships with new people that lead to Gospel conversations.
Does your community host events throughout the year? Have you check to see if there are opportunities to serve there? One church approached their community and asked if they could help at an upcoming event. With disinterest, the event organizers said that previously all churches handed out flyers that people just threw on the ground. In response, the church asked if they could be in charge of picking up all the trash at the event. The organizers agreed and were overwhelmed by the church’s efforts to serve. The church did such an incredible job each year of picking up the trash, that eventually the event organizers invited the church to lead a church service with worship music and preaching during the event on Sunday morning. What an incredible opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to all who attended! All the while, the church was building relationships with event organizers looking for opportunities to have Gospel conversations.
Do you know the needs of your city? Your mayor and city government should. Take the opportunity to setup a quick meeting with your mayor and ask what the greatest needs are in the community. Pray for opportunities for the church to be the God-given answer to those needs. You might even be surprised that the city is willing to cover the costs of such efforts, and are just looking for people to help. You’ll also be surprised to find local businesses and organizations willing to contribute to the costs also because they are looking to serve the community as well. Now the church is in relationship with the city, local businesses, and organizations all the while looking for opportunities to share in Gospel conversations.
I had just moved to a new city to start a church when the local school needed help developing a community garden. The effort was on a Sunday morning, and since I wasn’t leading a church yet, I decided to volunteer. I worked alongside the principal of the school as we swung hammers together and built planter boxes. At one point he looked over at the portable sign nearby. It was a church sign. There was a church meeting at his school and holding worship services at the very time we were building a community garden outside. He looked at me and said, “You know what I think of when I see churches meeting in schools?” I looked up at him for an answer. He said, “Burnt coffee.” And then he continued swinging the hammer. I gave a nervous chuckle, hoping he wouldn’t ask me what I did for a profession. But in the back of my mind, I thought, “Wow! That’s the best he could think of? Burnt coffee?” I vowed at that moment to be a church known for something more.
Our journey in the coming months would lead us to be a new church plant meeting in that very school. And we built a great relationship with the principal as we chose to serve that school as much as possible. We did yard work, served at all kinds of events, built relationships through the parent-teacher association, and organized appreciation for the teachers and staff. All the while we met new people, and shared the Gospel. Many of them were saved and baptized!
There are numerous kinds of fishing holes—Coffee houses, local eateries, kid’s sports and activities, community centers, work, school, neighborhood. The important thing is to identify a few and keep going back to them regularly. Have your staff or team members identified their fishing holes? Do your church members know their fishing holes? I can only imagine what a movement would look like when we activate followers of Christ to find their fishing holes and be fishers of men!