Written by Steven Liechty
Jesus said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch. Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets." - Luke 5:4-5
At the stewardship committee meeting, the new pastor reported that a Latino congregation nearby had retired the mortgage on their new addition in just three months, solely with gifts from members who weren't exactly rich.
The committee had just reported that they'd hit a pledging wall and wouldn't reach their annual goal—you can't get blood from stones. That's why the pastor told them about the Latino church, to inspire them.
They weren't inspired. They got mad. At her. "Ethnic congregations do that sort of thing," the chairperson said. "That's not us."
The pastor was aghast, just as she'd been when the moderator said he wanted to set a church growth target of 40.
"You mean 40 a year?"
"Oh no, overall. Just enough to balance the budget and still keep our family feel."
She asked what he'd do if more than 40 came—stand at the door with a counter, and after the 40th click, put up a sign, "We're full"? He got mad too.
The pastor was a rookie. She didn't know that churches are supposed to think small and aim low, or that when church folks get mad, it's often because they're scared.
"Go away, Lord!" a frightened Simon Peter says. As someone once wrote, all night long he had a big problem—no fish. Now he has a bigger one—fish. What will he do with so much life?
Jesus keeps saying, "Cast again. This time in deep water."
We keep insisting, "There's nothing down there, trust us."
"No," he says, "trust me!"
If you say so, Jesus; if you say so. Amen.
Mary Luti is Visiting Professor of Christian History and Worship at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Massachusetts.