One of the things I love about fishing trout streams is that most of the time I can find a fishing hole and see the fish. Sometimes the stream is loaded with fish in every direction and other times there is a fish here and there. I know that there are usually many more fish than the ones I see but seeing a few tends to make me fish harder and longer.
Unfortunately, lots of that great water full of fish lies in Missouri’s trout parks where there are hundreds of other anglers casting all sorts of things at the fish on any given day between March and October. I’ve seen marshmallows, corn, minnows, worms, giant plugs with three treble hooks dangling from them, trout dough bait, carp dough bait, catfish stink bait, plastic lures in all shapes and sizes and of course, my favorite, fishing flies. Nothing would surprise me in the trout parks. There are fishermen from every experience level, people using the infamous Zebco 202 all the way to the most expensive and high tech fly rods.
Everyone knows that somewhere in the park, a truck dumped more fish in the stream during the night. So if there are tire tracks in the sand and moisture from the water sloshing out of the truck, people will gather round as if they are moths coming to the flame.
So if the truck tosses a hundred fish in that hole, maybe half will swim off to another hole. That leaves fifty fresh from the hatchery hungry trout. That’s a pretty promising bunch of fish for one spot until fifty people show up armed with every rig on the planet to catch those fish at the sound of the starting gun (or in this case a big, loud horn). Some of those fishermen will be just terrible at fishing but a dozen or so of the fish will allow the guys sitting in their lawn chairs using the wrong gear to Forrest Gump them onto their stringer.
There are thirty-eight fish left. A half-dozen really good anglers will be there and catch their limit in what seems like seconds. The limit is four. Now we are down to fourteen fish to be caught between the other thirty-two anglers. Those fish will be caught by about half of those fishermen. That leaves sixteen guys getting skunked in a trout park by some of the stupidest fish alive. Hatchery fish don’t have many survival skills when they hit the water.
I tend to avoid the crowds and fish outside the parks. No trucks rolled down there during the night and stocked fish but the fish are more wild and act more like real trout. I can wade past a few hundred fish in a morning and not have to share them with hardly anyone else.
I’ve spent a lot of my life as a trout park rookie when it comes to my church. I wanted to do things that made me the center of attention at church or else I didn’t want to do anything at all. I wanted to sit in my lawn chair and reap rewards without preparation or contribution.
I have heard of division in the church but haven’t really thought of myself ever being a part of it. I’m beginning to see that the most harmful kind of division is the one that separates the people that do most all of the work from the people that come in and pretend that magic fairies make the church work. Big trucks come in the night and refill the areas that are lacking so that when the whistle blows they can swoop in and get their limit and head home to brag about how great church was for them.
I’ve seen people that work hard for the church get a chip on their shoulder. They carefully and faithfully do what God has called them to do but they are getting really aggravated at the guy that shows up and consumes and then complains about how bad his stomach feels after he had his portion and most of what the next guy needed.
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
You might think that all those people fighting for the same fish in the same hole are united in one purpose just as I have thought I was united with my other church friends. The truth is that most of those people in the trout park will cut your line in order to catch more fish than you do.
I have to examine myself in this matter. Am I trying to cut another believer’s line by criticizing the work they do? Am I putting them down to make my tiny sacrifices seem more significant? Am I a part of the mass confusion as we gather and fight for the blessings that happen in the building rather than preparing myself to actually accomplish something every single day to further God’s Kingdom?
I’m not going to like everything that happens at church. But I can choose to look at what God can do and is doing in people’s lives instead of what people are doing. This erases lines of division. This changes me from being a consumer to a contributor. A church becomes a valuable asset to the community one changed heart at a time.
If your church seems more like a trout park on a warm summer day than a body of believers united in Christ. Don’t give up. Give more.