I remember reading an article written by Gary Nicolosi about some pelicans in California. He wrote, “If you’ve ever seen pelicans in action, you know they’re great fishermen, or fisher-birds, I guess. These pelicans were hanging out near a fleet of fishing boats. The fishermen on the boats would pull into the little harbor, and clean the fish right on the spot, throwing the heads and the rest into the water. The pelicans picked up on this, and began eating the leftovers without having to go out fishing. And if you’re a pelican, that’s good eating. So for weeks, they just sat by the harbor and waited for the fishing boats to come in.
After a while, the fishermen found out they could sell the fish waste, and so they stopped chucking it into the water. The pelicans were caught unprepared. They continued to sit and wait for the fishing boats to come in and throw free food in the water. And they grew thinner and thinner and seemed able to do nothing about their situation.
Wildlife officials came to check out what was going on, and concluded that the pelicans had forgotten how to fish. So what they did was to bring pelicans in from another area to join the flock and teach the starving birds how to fish again.”
The story is almost unbelievable. Pelicans are meant to fish, they were designed to fish. Could they really forget how to do something that is seared into their DNA, something that should be as natural to them as breathing or flying? Apparently so, as strange an idea as it seems.
Jesus, when He called His first disciples along the shores of the Sea of Galilee [MK 1.14-20] told them that in following Him they would become “fishers of men”. Those who would answer His call and become His disciples would themselves be those who made disciples. The pattern that Jesus sought to establish was relatively simple: disciples making disciples who would make disciples. Not just “winning” new converts but actually raising up new disciples who had built into their spiritual DNA the desire and drive to replicate themselves in the lives of others. In this way alone the population of the Kingdom would grow.
Jesus did not have any other plan than this one, simple, very straight forward strategy and this was mandated for the Church [MT 28.18-20]. One might argue quite successfully it was intended to be the raison d’être of that new community the Jesus called out in His name.
As surely as the pelicans in our story forgot how to fish, so also the Church has largely forgotten its primary task before the Lord. That is not to say that we do not do some very wonderful things, some very wonderful and needed things indeed. We care for, and love one another and we regularly come before the Lord to worship and honor Him. We set ourselves to the task of growing more intimately with Him through the study of His Word, and we do embrace [from time to time] those programs designed to impact the communities around us with the Good News of the Kingdom come through the Son Who was sent to live and die and rise for us. But we have forgotten that the DNA of replication was always intended to direct each one – this needs to be reiterated – each of us, in the living out of our own lives of discipleship; it would not only be the principal way He intended for His Church to grow, but it would also be the principal and highly practical way He intended for each one of us personally to grow [nothing makes you more serious about your own growth than when you bear responsibility for someone else].
Imagine if you will a Church community where each and every member understands the call to be a fisherman as critical [and urgent] as each one’s need to regularly fill one’s lungs with air. Imagine if each member went about this business of disciple-making as if it was as natural [and necessary] as eating and drinking. Imagine a Church that actually took seriously the Lord’s mandate to make disciples, each and every member embracing the incredible responsibility and joy of the Great Commission.
Maybe we could begin the process of re-establishing connection with this fundamental DNA of what it means to be a follower [read: disciple] of Jesus by inviting and bringing a friend to worship with us this Sunday. Again, as said Philip to Nathaniel [JN 1.46] we could begin with a simple, “come and see”.