Years ago I read a brilliant book called ‘Mission Shaped Evangelism’ by Steve Hollinghurst. His opening story is an allegorical account of the British Church today. Recently I have been reflecting on this story as I have been thinking about the mission and direction of our church – so I thought I’d post it for you to read this week to see if you find it as challenging and inspiring as I do.
The tale of the fishing community.
Once upon a time there was a large lake and on its shores lived a fishing community. They had become experts at fishing the lake and knew exactly the right kind of boat to use, the right nets to cast, and where and when to cast them. So, they thrived for many generations. However, after a while they noticed that their catches began to dwindle, and then some days they caught nothing at all. They began to be anxious and wondered what was going wrong, as they had kept faithfully to all they knew about fishing and worked hard to put it into practice. They decided to investigate.
Now earthquakes were not unknown in this area and indeed a large one had happened a few years before. As they investigated, they found that the earthquake had thrown up a cliff, diverting a river that had fed the lake with fresh fish several miles in a new direction. They decided they would sail down it to find where it went. Having navigated the river’s new course, they found it opened out into a strange new lake they had never seen before. Moreover, round this lake were some of the weirdest people, fishing in a way they had never seen before. Not one of them was fishing properly with a boat and a newt; instead they were using all sorts of strange methods and were landing catches of the strangest fish. They decided to see if they, too could catch some. So they put their boat onto the lake, sailed out and lowered their nets but caught nothing. So, they tried the other side, and behind and in front and every trick they knew, but they still caught nothing.
Dejected, they went back home and called a meeting and the whole community discussed what to do. Some said that it was clear they would never get fish from the new lake and would simply have to keep fishing the old one; after all there were more fish in it yet, perhaps still enough to last their life time. Others suggested that if they waited long enough, perhaps another earthquake would divert the river back again and solve the problem. However, others said they had to face the fact that the old lake would soon have no fish and they had to find a way to fish the new lake or the community had no future. What were they to do? What would you do, for indeed this is our story, the story of the church in Britain today.
Taken from Mission Shaped Evangelism: The Gospel in Contemporary Culture by Steve Hollinghurst