It must have been just after dawn on the shores of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus began to teach the crowds that had assembled. The people must have been searching for something that was missing in their lives and found it in Jesus’ words.
People are very much the same today. All week we are fed a steady diet of political rhetoric, grim war news and financial scandal. Surely there must be a place where we can go to have our spirits fed and our hopes renewed with Jesus’ words. This is one reason why people come to church.
So Jesus was there on the shore, speaking to hurting folks just like us. And because the crowd was so large, he jumped into Peter’s boat. When the sermon ended and the crowd began to dissipate, Jesus said to Peter “Push out into deeper water and let’s fish!”
Have you ever been called into deeper water? In this life, every time we make a change, take a step, move in a new direction, that’s deeper water. It’s always risky. It’s never a sure thing. And this is when the excuses begin to fly. But deep water is where the fish are!
When Jesus suggested deeper water, Peter’s mind was full of excuses as to why he could not or should not go. But Jesus is a persuasive friend, is he not? He led Peter to the place where the fish were plentiful, and there, in the deep water, they caught a boat load.
Have you ever wondered how people find their way to church? Have you ever wondered how people first come? I have been aware for some time of a study to answer that question. The results surprised me.
2% of people come to church for the first time because they have a specific need. Someone has died, or they have plans to get married, or perhaps they are interested in having their children baptised. Maybe that’s how you found your way to your church, and you liked it there so you stayed.
3% come to a church because they just walked in. Maybe the building was inviting, or the sign was funny, or they got lost and needed directions. Only a small fraction, just 6% come and stay because of the sermon.
5% come because of Sunday School. 1% come because of door-to-door evangelism. One half of one per cent is the result of crusade evangelism.
But overwhelmingly, the most common reason for people coming to church is because someone invited them. 79% begin attending a local congregation because someone whom they know and trust has said “Why don’t you come to church with me this Sunday? I go to this church and I know you’re going to love it.” And they come.
Let me ask, why did you first come? Who invited you? Who was the first one to mention to you that there is a God who loves you very much?
Your answer will likely affirm that you were invited or you were dragged to church by someone who loves you very much.
Now here is an observation that I have made — I have observed that the more active we become in our churches, and the more serious we become in our faith, the fewer unchurched friends we have.
We sing in the choir, we fellowship in a small group, we serve on the Property Committee, and pretty soon, all of our friends are church friends. It’s comfortable in the shallow water. It’s predictable there. But that’s not where the fish are!
Move out into the deeper water!