Several years ago, “catch and release” became the gentlemanly thing to do as a fisherman. I love to fish, but lakes in our area were becoming overfished. Catch and release was the solution to a simple problem. The fun in fishing is catching fish, and releasing them back into the lake after taking a pic of you holding your prize largemouth became a general rule of thumb for sportsmen.
I remember joking with my fishing buddies when we would get a fish on the line and get the fish right up to the edge of the boat but not land him. Instead, the fish would sometimes spit the lure right out of its mouth because the hook had never really been set in the first place. We called it the “Texas Quick Release”. But I digress…
Unfortunately, many churches practice “catch and release” too.
I became aware of this one year while serving as an education minister. We had experienced a really great year in baptisms, the best year ever for our church in fact. But as we progressed into the following year I noticed something that began to bother me. Attendance in our Sunday School and Worship services did not increase as much as they should have, especially considering how many people we had reached with the Gospel and baptized the year before.
A deeper look into our system revealed that we were only getting a small number of the people we had reached into our church’s small group structure. They would attend worship for a few weeks, and then disappear. We did notice that if we could get them connected to a Sunday School group – and if the group would follow up on them – we almost always managed to keep the people we had reached plugged in and moving forward in their walk with Christ.
If I had only been aware of this need before our church had reached so many people with the Gospel the previous year! Unintentionally, we were practicing “catch and release” evangelism.
We get very excited about professions of faith and baptisms, and we should!! I’m a Southern Baptist and we are passionate about Acts 1:8.
But it’s just as important to be passionate about Colossians 1:28. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
If I had only known then what I know now, that it is just as much work to present someone as mature in Christ as it is to lead them to Christ in the first place.