THE FISHERMAN & HIS CONGREGATION
(Chris Fabry’s Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories 1995)
A faithful pastor who tried hard to keep his work and family life balanced loved to fish on his day off. The stroll to the lake and the fresh air made him forget the weight and worry of his small congregation. Though he loved to fish, he rarely caught anything.
One beautiful Monday morning he baited his hook and cast it far into the lake.
Immediately he felt a strong tug and reeled in an enormous fish. But before he could take the hook out, the fish looked at him and said, “Pray let me live, good sir. I am really an enchanted man formerly known as a prince; I only appear to be a Northern Pike. Put me back in the water and let me go.”
“I could never hurt a talking fish,” the pastor said. “Swim away in peace.” So the fish left him.
At the board meeting the next day the pastor said, “What a grand fish I caught yesterday. He said he was an enchanted prince.”
“What did you do with him?” asked the head of the board.
“I threw him back,” replied the pastor.
“You didn’t ask him for anything?”
“No. What should I have asked for?”
“Ah,” groaned the deacon. “We worship in this hovel of a church with leaky pipes and a hissing radiator. Our nursery is musty, we have no kitchen to speak of, and our songbooks are falling apart. Go back and tell the fish we want a beautiful sanctuary and some new hymnals.”
The pastor did not like the idea, but he was terrified of the leadership of the church. So he stood at the water’s edge and called,
“0 fish that I caught, I’m in water that’s hot. There’s none in the nation like my congregation that sends me to beg of thee.”
The fish came swimming to him and asked, “What does your congregation want?”
“They say I should have asked you for a new sanctuary and, if you could spare them, some nice new hymnals to replace the old ones.”
“Go back to the church then,” said the fish. “They are in the sanctuary already.”
When he returned he saw huge stained-glass windows, a fountain flowing from the baptistery and sparkling red hymnals in the racks on the back of each cushioned pew.
Everyone was quite pleased for about a week.
After the service the next Sunday, the pastor was greeting people when a member whispered in his ear, “The sermons you give are not seeker-friendly.”
“And what would you have me to do?” asked the pastor.
“Go back to the fish and ask him for a new computer and a CD/ROM version of Complete Pastoral Stories and illustrations for the Unchurched,” said the member.
Though he hated asking the fish for another favour, the pastor went back and called out toward the water,
“0 fish that I caught, I’m in water that’s hot. There are constant frustrations with my illustrations, so they’ve sent me again to thee.”
“What is it this time?” asked the fish.
“I need to be more seeker-friendly so that we might bring more unchurched into the services,” said the pastor. “Could you possibly spare a few multimedia aids that might bring my technique up to speed?”
“Very well,” said the fish. “Your new computer is already there, and the software is preloaded.”
The following Sunday the pastor’s message was “Fifteen Minutes to an Eternal Relationship.” The sermon was well received because it was filled with stories, illustrations and pop culture allusions, and, of course, it lasted only fifteen minutes.
All went well until Wednesday night, when several urgent personal needs were brought to the pastor’s attention.
“We need you to counsel these individuals and help them overcome their problems,” one elder said. “How can I spend time with my seeker-friendly message, get the church’s administrative work done, be a good husband and father, and still counsel all these by myself?” the poor pastor asked.
“We’ll send you to a men’s conference next year with, thousands of others who are in their warrior stage,” said the elder. “For right now go tell the fish to make you a good counselor.”
The fish was waiting at the edge of the water with his fin on his chin. “Back so soon?” he said.
“Yes, ‘my church wants my total commitment to counsel our members,” the pastor said.
“My days are filled with message preparation, administrative chores and visitation, and they still want me to be God’s man in the family with perfect children and a Proverbs 31 wife.”
“Have you been to any men’s conferences?” said the fish.
“I’m supposed to go next year,” answered the pastor.
“Until then, I’ve provided you with Micro-Psych, the new Windows counselling software, and your wife can now accompany you on the piano.”
The pastor returned home and found these improvements. He also discovered that both his children suddenly had beautiful smiles and could recite numerous memory verses through their pearly white teeth. Alas, the congregation still was not happy.
“We want to be the number-one member who was very into church growth statistics.
“My research shows we can achieve a 300 percent growth spurt with a new gymnasium, professional musicians, lasers, a bus ministry and a drive-in theater that broadcasts our service from a huge parking lot.”
“Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” asked the pastor. “We’re having a hard time keeping track of all the people as it is. Plus, how could we take an offering with all those people at the drive in?”
“Haven’t you ever heard of in-line skates?” asked the member. “It’s a perfect ministry for our teens.”
Though he tried, the pastor could not talk the church out of sending him to the fish again.
“0 fish in the lake, you may think me a flake, to ask for a union with a skating communion, but they say we’ll be number one.”
“Let me guess,” said the fish. “Church growth?”
“How did you know?” said the pastor.
“I saw some of your members fishing yesterday in a stream north of here that’s lined with willows. It’s a very nice creek, but it’s a mistake to make it run through your particular church setting.”
“I wish I could convince them otherwise,” said the pastor.
So the fish gave them all they asked, and the church became number one in the entire kingdom.
Articles were published about it in major news magazines. But with all their success, the people of the congregation couldn’t sleep for thinking what they could do next.
A group of concemed members gathered one morning for breakfast and decided to ask for a king to be appointed from the church who would have absolute rule.
“Can’t we be content with being number one?” said the pastor. “We had twenty-five thousand people last weekend!” But the members would not relent.
As he approached the lake, black clouds gathered and thunder roared overhead. Lightning flashed, and the fish appeared on the water. The pastor trembled before him.
“They want a king,” said the pastor.
“A king?” said the fish. “Go back to them and rejoice, because they have needed this all along.”
When the pastor returned, he was astonished. The stained glass was gone. The buses, the parking lot, the theatre screen, the gymnasium and most of the people were gone too.
In their place, restored to its original condition, was their little church.
Today the congregation worships there in humility. Every time they sing from their battered hymnals or hear the leaky radiator clang, they thank the true King for their pastor and promise not to ask so much of him ever again.