Last week, I went fishing. It’s been a really long time since I last enjoyed that long abandoned pleasure. Jan had a full day of appointments so I packed my pole and fishing gear and drove to a beautiful lake near our home. I found a quiet cove that was off the windy main body of the lake and plunked my bobber and bait out into the mirror-like water. I had high hopes. All across the lake, I could see fish jumping - everywhere. I was going to come home with my limit – no doubt!
Well…after about 10 minutes, I realized nothing was taking my bait. The trout were jumping all around me in what appeared to be a well-crafted display of mockery at my fishing ability. Further out on the lake, I heard the sound of bigger fish jumping completely out of the water and flopping their meaty sides down on the surface of the water just to let me know they had no fear of ever meeting my hook.
A guy in a pickup drove by and asked, “Catch anything?” I began to explain to him that I brought the wrong fishing tackle. I should have brought a fly rod, not a spinning rig since the trout were hitting surface flies, not a bobber and bait setup. He began driving off as I tried to finish the last line of the excuse for my failure. After a few more minutes of being humiliated by the fish ballet troupe, I packed it up and headed home.
On the drive back home, I thought of my failed fishing expedition and all my good intentions. No matter how well I thought I would do if I used the wrong bait, I wasn't going to catch any fish. Fish can be jumping all around us and that activity can create the illusion of a coming success but if our tasty morsel is not what’s on the fish menu, nothing will happen. We do this in the Church. We assume what we are offering to the world as a representation of Jesus Christ is what they want. When no one bites, we have a choice to make. We can either blame the fish or we can change the bait.
Paul told the Corinthians he was concerned that, “your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Paul might say the same thing to some segments of the Church today. People are no longer interested in a lot of what we have to offer. I can’t blame them. We have become too complicated and overly defined. We do our best to disguise the stuff of religion we have accumulated over the years hoping people will still bite but they are simply not interested. Maybe the culture is actually teaching the Church something in this moment instead of us assuming we are always the ones doing the teaching.
The reformation currently taking place in the Church will become known historically as a reformation that returned us to a simple and pure devotion to Jesus. That return will become the “bait” on our hook. A reformed Church will look more like a quiet morning of fishing on a beautiful mountain lake or a quiet dinner with good friends. Simplicity is the best bait to offer a busy and overly complicated world.