Have you ever seen the Disney movie Finding Nemo? Finding Nemo came out 20 years ago. That makes you feel old, doesn’t it? For those who haven’t seen the film in two decades, it’s about an overprotective dad clownfish whose son gets taken from him. The dad goes on the adventure of a lifetime across the ocean, looking for a son.
Meanwhile, the lost son finds himself at a dentist’s office in Sydney, Australia. The other fish freak out when Nemo, the little fish, is thrown into the fish tank at the dentist’s office for the first time. Their home is not sterile anymore. The other fish scrub everything, including Nemo, because their space has been tainted by the ocean. After they clean everything up, they’re actually happy Nemo’s there. They’re excited they’ve got a new friend in the tank.
This scene fascinates me every time I see it. How often is it that when someone comes into our “circle,” we initially freak out? I think about the Christian Church. We have a building, and it’s lovely. Then someone new comes in, and we know we should be excited because we read in the Bible that Jesus is excited. But everything is set up the way it should be to us, and new people mess that up…
So we try cleaning the outsider up politically or religiously, or socially. We’ve got to ensure that they don’t say bad words. We’ve got to verify they’re listening to the right music and only watch the TV shows we watch. But that’s not how Jesus lived.
Jesus is the God of the ocean. Jesus didn’t live in a sanitized tank. Jesus went to where all the people were, where life happens. He lived among them, and he did life with them. That is the example we are supposed to follow. And now it’s our turn. As we follow Jesus, we’re gonna see other people find and follow Jesus. It won’t be because any of us are super saints. It’ll be because we keep our “circles” open.
Do that however long it takes. However long you have to be a friend. And even if they don’t choose to follow Jesus at any point, love them anyway because Jesus loves them until the end, even if they reject him.
That’s the most challenging part of this study. I believe God has put people in and around our lives that he loves deeply and dearly and died for. I don’t have to be a great evangelist. You don’t have to be a super extrovert. There are many people in our lives whom Jesus loves and has been working through. Our task is to keep our “circles” open.
Think about your family “circle.” It’s always open. Somebody has a new baby, gets married, or gets divorced. It’s a changing “circle.” As a spiritual family, MC should be an ever-changing, open “circle.” “Circles” should not be closed.
As I was planning and praying over 2023, I felt God put on my heart the importance of us getting beyond Sunday-only gatherings again. As we continue to move away from the pandemic, we must re-emphasize the importance of going out and getting together during the week.
You didn’t need my permission to do that, but if you feel like you did, I’ve been giving it to you explicitly for the last three weeks. Reach out to someone and get together. And if or when you do, I believe you’re doing things God wants you to do. It’s good for the other person too.
Some people don’t know about Madison Church, but they know you and, more importantly, trust you. People need to learn about what we have to offer. How will you use your influence? Will you show them that it is possible to have a positive experience in a church community? If we do this, well, by this time next year, by this time next month, there will be people experiencing community who are lonely today.
Think about the “tank” you live in and how you have worked hard to keep it clean and organized with your values. I want you to get out of the tank and back into the ocean where you belong because Jesus is the God of the ocean.