Fly fishing or ice fishing?

March 02, 2012

For me, fishing is more than recreation; it’s a time of re-creation of body, mind, and spirit. It takes me away from the normal scenes and routines of life. The activity redirects thoughts from roles and responsibilities to the pursuit of different game. The environment stirs the soul as all five senses are stimulated by ocean, river, lake and stream. I enjoy all forms of fishing, but a recent chilly outing gave me opportunity to ponder.

When you’re sitting on a stool dropping a Swedish Pimple and wax worm through a 10-inch hole in 16 inches of ice, you’re pretty tied to one place. At the risk of offending devoted winter anglers, ice fishing doesn’t demand a lot of variety or creativity of technique.

However, it does require a measure of patience, persistence, warm clothes and sometimes a deck of cards. Whether active jigging or rigging rattle reels and tip ups, one pretty much sets up shop, drills a couple holes, drops a couple lines and waits for the fish to come on the fisher’s terms.

Fly fishing, in contrast, requires continual movement through riffles and pools. It demands focused attention on the hatch of the moment, the selection of fly, the precision and repetition of presentation, and the intimacy of hooking fish and fisher in an artful dance. In fly fishing, one approaches the fish on the fish’s terms.

Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I’ll show you how to fish for people” (Matt. 4:19, Common English Bible). At least here in Minnesota, it’s easy for our fishing practices to get stuck in the ice! We offer church from the spot where we’ve settled down and expect people to come to us. The liturgy, music, groups, theology, meetings, language, and activities may all be excellent and meaningful to those who sit where we do. But they offer little movement or flexibility to attract those with different tastes or who come from different places in life.

Wade into new territory

Authentic outreach gets us off the stool and makes us wade into new territory. It makes us watch and listen for the needs and interests of new people. It matches people’s hungers with appropriate motive and mission. Authentic outreach leads us to cast with intentionality and connect with others through the line of faith.

Fly-fishing outreach is happening in some creative ways all across the Minnesota Annual Conference. Our recently completed cycle of Investing in Congregations Grants provided $175,400 for new creative outreach ministries in a dozen churches across the state. Three new worship services are being launched; three new staff positions are being created for ministries to children, youth, and families; three new community engagement outreach workers are being deployed; a new youth mission is being developed; and fellowship dinners, personal development classes, and spiritual growth courses are being offered to communities beyond the walls of the church. These are just a few examples of what your church might consider. Applications for the next cycle of Investing in Congregations Grants will be accepted this summer.

Just like the disciples of today, the disciples of old were part of a faith community that sought to reach their broader community in new ways. Some were experienced fishermen who knew how to earn a living in the waters of Galilee. But after leaving their nets behind to follow Jesus, their passion and compassion turned toward helping others to not just earn a living, but to make a life. The call to follow still echoes today!

Dan Johnson is now the Twin Cities District superintendent for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He used to be director of congregational development and Reach • Renew • Rejoice.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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