I had a seminary professor years ago who used to say: “In ministry, we always have to broaden our field of vision.” Perhaps that is what Jesus was getting at when he said: “Go ye into ALL the world...”
It’s so easy to focus on “mine, us, and ours.” And, there is nothing wrong with that... so long as it is not our only focus. I feel both called and privileged to tend specific flocks and honor particular legacies. But, I also feel called and privileged to be open to and responsible for that which is to come, the not yet, the still to be.
A friend of mine has a cottage on the coast of North Carolina. He spends his summers there. He’s an accomplished fisherman (as opposed to me, one who is simply satisfied to eat what the accomplished fishermen have brought ashore). My friend told me some time ago about a neighbor of his, a man who owns a nearby cottage. That man also loves to fish. However, though owning a home at the coast, he never fishes in the sea. My friend said: “His whole life he has fished the inlet and ignored the ocean."
“Go ye into ALL the world.” Those words from Christ force me to ask: “How broad is my field of vision?” Do I see and reach out to everyone, or do I limit my scope? Do I invite (evangelize) only those who are like myself (which is roughly equivalent to fishing the inlet and ignoring the ocean)? As I conceptualize “church,” do I see it as a fraternity of people who are alike, or do I envision it as a fellowship open to everyone?
So, what about it? Do you remember the post-Resurrection story of Jesus on the shore beside the Sea of Galilee? The fishermen (disciples) had limited their field of vision. Jesus said to them: “Cast your nets down deep, out on the other side.” After doing so, their nets were filled with fish. What is “the other side” for us? Who are the people who might not yet be on our field of vision? Old, young, rich, poor, straight, gay, conservative, liberal, moderate, couples, singles, a variety of races, different cultural or economic backgrounds? Who needs what Christianity and our church have to offer, regardless of the shallow labels we attach to them (or they attach to us)? If any life could benefit from what you and I have experienced at church, why would we not invite them to share the treasure?
“His whole life he has fished the inlet and ignored the ocean." I don’t want to do that. I want to have a broader field of vision, to see people who need what you and I have found and to offer it to them. Call it what you will: “evangelism,” “outreach,” “hospitality,” “church growth,” “re-visioning”... the ecclesiastical phrases are endless. I just know that I do not want to miss the ocean by focusing solely on the inlet. There is someone in close proximity to you and to me at this moment who needs church and faith and Christ. That person needs to be on my field of vision. He/she is waiting for me to say, “The door is open.” And if I do not say that, how do I know anyone else will??