Monday, May 4, 2015

Social Media Religious Posts and Fishing

I often wonder: How many followers of Jesus actually think about the totality and complexity of the teachings in the Bible? For example a few things always get me  thinking. There are the references to "become like a child," "the body of Christ," "running the race," "wrestling...," then the one that got me thinking this morning, "fishers of men."

Matthew 4:19 ~  And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

Over the years I have loved the opportunities I have had to fish, especially when having the rare chance to go deep sea fishing. I loved fishing on a regular basis when we owned our home on Lake Oolagah in Oklahoma. I learned quickly in my fishing experiences in life, if I wanted to catch fish, I needed to learn to fish, you see, fishing entails far more than putting bait on a hook and throwing that bait into the water. I never liked waiting as opposed to fishing, I liked catching fish, so instead of quitting, I learned how to fish.

www.thevirtualpew.comI have become a decent fisherman. I have learned a lot about fishing and about becoming a fisher of men. There are often those, who no offense taken, really haven't learned how to fish. They throw a big line with a big floater and a super heavy sinker on it into the water, often splashing it with the tip of their pole, talking away, making all kinds of noise and using the wrong kind of bait. They would be better off dropping a line into a goldfish pond. You see when fishing, to have the best chance of catching fish, you have to know what kind of line to use, the best kind of pole, unless casting a net, (dynamite fishing excluded,) You have to know the kind of fish you are fishing for, the habits of that fish, are they bottom dwellers, scavengers, top fish, etc..., what are the best times of day to catch the fish, what are the best water temperatures and conditions and far more. Bottom line is, if you want to be effective in being fishers of men and women. One needs to make the efforts to learn the appropriate ways to fish.

In the passage above it is important to remember who Jesus was speaking to. He was speaking to experienced fishermen who understood how to fish. What Jesus said was appealing enough that they threw their nets down right away followed Him. They had if you will, a head start in understanding what it meant to fish.

The thing that got me to thinking about this was the number of posts on social media by people with religious connotations. I couldn't help but think, what was the purpose of the posts? It seemed to me that many were taking on the role of prophet, pastor teacher and preaching to the choir, or talking to the church about what the church needed to do. That is what it seemed like except when looking to see the posters comments outside of the quoted passages were specifically directed towards those that didn't know Jesus or were followers of Jesus. It is one of those things that always confounds me, that is Christians who expect non Christians to already be acting like Jesus. Then there is that thing where it looks like people are trying to clean the fish before they catch them but that is a whole other topic.

It seems to me, that posting and talking about faith related things should fall under really only one of a few categories for followers of Jesus on social media. By the way, while this can be effective, I know because of the time I have been doing ministry on social media and my research on the topic, there is still no replacement for face to face, or at the very least conversation to conversation, (and I don't mean texting, pictures or anything, I mean at least picking up the phone and conversing.) Anyway, the categories of which I think one can safely assume as to why discuss faith related issues on social media.
1) To educate, train, and equip individuals who are followers of Jesus on how to better carry out the work of God as illustrated and directed through the Bible. This is first of all, a perfectly acceptable reason. I do think one should make sure that they fall under the Biblical expectations of leadership and teaching as outlined in the Bible, (a simple Google of Biblical leadership will turn up an abundance of material.) Now this isn't to say lay persons shouldn't teach. May that never be! Many a great teachers are lay people, (those not actually pastors, preachers or those credentialed by the church.) Remember the greatest qualification for Biblical teaching isn't Seminary, it is that you have been to Calvary. However, the Biblical expectations, of studying the Bible, how we teach and so forth are to be practiced. Here is the sad truth, we as followers of Jesus are directed to test the teachings we receive, we should be qualified to give an answer and so forth. This does not mean that the teachings we don't like are bad, maybe it is our individual theology that needs work. 

In college I learned an incredibly important task that unfortunately many seem to not practice, that is understanding the points of and practice of logic and reason. We especially as followers of Jesus need not throw out these principles. I studied these concepts in my philosophy courses at East Tennessee State University and at Tabor College, as well as over the years, on my own. Understanding the process of logic and reason is a tool that will greatly benefit those who teach and debate. There is a process of doing this, it is one I believe, if being a great or even just an effective fisherman (or woman) will enable us to exceed our wildest expectations in catching fish.

www.thevirtualpew.com2) Now there is another reason to do these things online or within social media, that is to reach those  who do not have a relationship with Jesus, or catching fish. Unfortunately, when Jesus says we should draw people to him, we more times than not chase them away. I recently saw a great example of this on the television show The Amazing Race where the contestants were charged with corralling sheep. Most did what we do in our social media and personal habits, we chase people away, (remember the Bible calls us sheep) and remember what I said in that first paragraph about the complexity of the illustrations in the Bible. We seemingly condemn, say we speak love but it really mirrors hate, and wonder why we are not effective in developing relationships with people where they are asking us about the person of Jesus instead of us having to preach to them. A point of fact here is that we see approximately 11 one on one conversations with non disciples or followers in the Bible between individuals and Jesus. In 9 of those conversations, the other person started the conversation. The unfortunate truth is, while we may want to catch fish, our lack of knowledge on fishing prevents us from catching them and instead we chase them away, scare them, even give them cause to stay away from the messenger of the love of God as far as possible, often times, us.

There may be instances where a person has a sincere desire and has learned some things about fishing, for example what kind of line to use, how to cast, how to bait a line but they haven't learned how to fish for a trout as opposed to a catfish, or even worse, fishing for a Snapper in a fresh water stream. (now if you don't know what that means, look it up, it is about time to learn something about fishing.) We should learn how to catch specific fish. This is an area I get criticized for within many in the church. I fish specifically for those who have been hurting and have experienced hurts and hardships in their lives in an extreme way. I use specific tools to plant seeds the Holy Spirit can work with, it may be a movie, music or other forms but I doesn't always use the niceties that some followers of Jesus are so accustomed to. It is the bait, the realities those I fish for understand though. The sad part of this to me is that many write off the hurting, the abused, the homosexual, the biker, the drug addict, the prostitute and others, they not only don't like the methods of fishing God has instructed me with, the truth is, they don't like those I fish for. They have a taste for trout while I fish for catfish. Here is the sad truth, just like Paul and Peter as we read about in Acts and Galatians among other places, they reached out to different crowds and understood the call of God on their lives, it was those on the outside looking in that had the issues. They both supported the work of the other yet so many still judge without looking at the need to reach the lost. They want to judge the method of fishing, (of which they really know little) and never look at the streamer line with the fish you have caught and God has used to touch and provide healing and knowledge. Often those telling you how to cast has never actually cast themselves.

www.thevirtualpew.comI am sure there are other reasons for sharing religious things on social media but I believe  these are the primary two reasons we should be sharing. Do we take seriously what we share? Do we understand what we are sharing and take seriously how we share it. I want to be the best fisherman I can be and I will tell you, I am at times honored that I am critiqued in the same way at times by the same types of people who critiqued Jesus, that is the religious community who had more of a focus on the law, (which Paul calls "The False Gospel") than they do the grace, liberty and freedom given to us by Christ to reach those he died on a cross to have relationship with. Despite the sin, despite the type of fish, or sheep for that matter. Christ wants to have a relationship with each us, the whosoever's if you will, hopefully, more of us consider these two things, our purpose and methods so that we will in fact become fishers of the very people Jesus loved and died for.

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