We fishers of men are the only fishermen who don’t throw any back. At least not normally. … We once had a waterfront home on the South Carolina coast. The fishing was the best I’ve ever done. But occasionally while fishing for dinner, we would catch sharks. Sharks are edible, and in some cultures a delicacy. But you probably would not like it. We Americans like fish that doesn’t smell or taste like fish, and sharks really do.
Every church planter will eventually have to decide to throw a fish back over the side. It’s a sort of ecclesiastical catch and release. Many of the fishermen who actually fish for sharks carry a gun with them to dispatch the shark in the water before pulling him into the boat. A live six-foot shark can bite your leg off just as easily in the boat as out. So it’s best to recognize a dangerous animal and treat it accordingly before bringing it aboard.
A few years ago, when one of my church plants was fairly new, we were having an evening meeting. My wife and I arrived early, as did another couple. We were enjoying some fellowship in the foyer of our newly built facility when a man walked in and asked if we were having a meeting that evening.
When he heard we were, he was pleased and explained that he was looking for a church for his family. I greeted him kindly, at which point he launched into a tirade about the church he had been attending. The pastor was shallow … they were only interested in his money … they were unfriendly … there was a lot of theological error being taught.
There was a time in my ministry when I would have done everything possible to retain that guy. But this was my seventh plant, and, having had sharks in my boat before, I knew what had to be done. I told him how sorry I was for his experience. Then I slipped my hand gently under his arm and slowly began walking him to the foyer door.