Summary: Is our church focussed on what it's members prefer? Or we are fishers of people who get out of bed on a cold dark night because that is what fish prefer?

“To say that the room was tense would be a massive understatement. It was eight years before the death of the church, but few in that room could have predicted the church’s demise. The church had bounced back a bit during the past year. Since most of the members would not allow any {change to the main service at} 11am, some younger adults started their own contemporary service at 8.30. Bible study classes fit between the two services...The new service did provide the first growth in the church in two decades. The previous year attendance had dipped from seventy five to sixty two. But the new service added thirty people in average attendance, so the church was at a five year high of 92 in worship attendance. As the younger adults invited friends to the first service, they kept hearing the same refrain: “we like the service but it would be better for us and our children if the service was later.”

The solution seemed simple. Move the traditional service to 8.30 and the contemporary service to 11.00.


The change required a church vote. At least that’s what some of the members said. No one could find any confirmation. So it was time for the meeting. It was time for the business session from hades.

There were about 150 people present. They included members who had not been to church in five years or more. That included people most others did not know. It was obvious what was taking place. Members had recruited others to come to the meeting to vote not to change.

The exchange of words was harsh. Accusations were made…. One member declared he would let the church die before that change was made.

He would get his way eight years later.

The vote was close. Nothing changed.

Well, that’s not exactly true. The first service ceased five weeks later. Attendance dropped to forty three by the end of the year. And less than eight years later the church closed it’s doors.” (1)

That is one of fourteen stories in a book with the chilling title “autopsy of the deceased church”.

And as the author adds “every on of the fourteen autopsied churches had some level of this problem before they died. A significant number of the members moved the focus from others to themselves. A significant number of the members moved the focus from others to themselves. And when a church moves in that direction, it is headed for decline and then death. The decline may be protracted and the death may be delayed. But it is inevitable. The church will die”

A depressing story to start this morning with. But not an inevitable story. Twenty per cent of Anglican churches in this country are not just not declining but are actually growing. One in five Anglican churches in this country are not just not declining but are actually growing.

So let’s start with our Gospel.

Simon and Andrew and James and John have been out fishing. They have been out all night. It’s not about Simon and Andrew and James and John’s preferences. It’s not when they want to fish. Given the choice would you rather be tucked up in bed at night or out on a cold dark wet lake?

They are out there at night because that’s when the fish are out. If they don’t go out when the fish are there, they will catch nothing and they will starve. And yet this night they caught nothing. And then after borrowing their boats for a quick sermon Jesus challenges them to try something new. , ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’

Now Simon could have said “That’s not the way we do things round here. We’ll keep doing things the way we always do them” He had plenty of arguments to back up why change was a bad thing. But he tried. “if you say so, I will let down the nets”. Simon knew that without a catch there would be no food for their family let alone anything to sell. Without trying something new, they would starve. So he trusts Jesus - “and they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.“

And once they are at shore with this enormous catch, Jesus says to them - ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishing for people.’ .

That’s what Christianity is about - fishing for people

As Jesus is taken back up into heaven - his final commandment - the Great Commission - “GO! And make disciples of all people baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

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