Saturday, May 16, 2015

Schooling is for Christians, Not Just for Fish

Photo by Avoini 2013 (note shark below, stalking the school)

If you have ever marveled at the beauty of the seas from the unique perspective of a diver or a submergible vessel, no doubt you have been awestruck by myriads of small fish swimming in organized patterns, known as schooling.

Each fish on its own is tiny, weak, and often brilliantly colored or gleaming in silver scales, making it easy prey for larger fish or marine animals. Yet together, the school takes on a life of its own, swirling and darting about as a single organism, confusing and warding off predators while promoting foraging, feeding, and reproduction.

Scientists suggest that there is a genetic basis for this behavior, which has many advantages including the multiplied sensory input to many pairs of eyes, making it easier to spot danger and avoid it, or to find food and swim toward it. The hydrodynamics of swimming in a group formation make travel faster and more efficient, with each fish expending less energy than it would if it were swimming alone. And, being in a group has many social advantages including making it easier to find a suitable mate.

Schools of fish are an apt metaphor for the church, or body of Christ, and Christians who are faithful to church enjoy many blessings not available to those out of church. When Jesus recruited Peter to be one of His apostles, He promised that if they followed Him, He would make them “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17).

In the early days of the church, the fish was used as a symbol of Christianity (Acts 11:26). The Greek word for fish, “ichthus,” is an acronym containing the first letters of the Greek words translated into English as "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour" (Mark 1:1; John 20:31; Acts 8:37).  

The two intersecting arcs, representing the profile of a fish, were easy to draw in the sand as a subtle declaration of one’s faith. If a newcomer was a Christian, he would recognize it and announce that he, too, was a follower of the Way (Acts 16:17), But if the stranger was hostile to the cause, he would not know the symbol and would assume the Christian was just doodling, so the Christian would avoid persecution.

Like fish, born-again believers (John 3:3-8) are meant to engage in schooling rather than going it alone. Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), we become members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12,27).  When we come together as His body, we can follow Him with new beauty, submission, and holiness, glorifying Him (Ephesians 5:24,27).

The unity that should bind together the body of Christ allows the church to function “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12, etc.). The church acting as one can sail on currents of peace and righteousness (Isaiah 48:18); feed on God’s Word (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4) encourage one another even while swimming against the tide of public opinion (James 1:6); and ward off attacks of Satan, who constantly tries to devour us (1 Peter 5:8). 

Sadly, few churches today accomplish this ideal. Instead of following Christ’s command to carry out the Great Commission by sharing His Word at home and throughout the world (Matthew 28:19), many churches function essentially as social clubs designed to entertain their members. Because they are focused on self rather than on Him, they tend to stagnate, like schools of fish that remain in one place too long, becoming slowly poisoned by buildup of their own wastes and depletion of oxygen.

Praise God that He is the Living Water Who will forever satisfy our thirst (John 4:10-15) with His pure, flowing fountain (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; Revelation 7:17), if we remain sensitive to move freely (Acts 17:28) wherever and whenever He leads us! A church should facilitate this in its members by having a clear, Christ-focused, Bible-centered mission to follow Him.

Many churches today do attempt to encourage their members and foster a sense of belonging, but not always as members of the body of Christ. Even atheists have banded together in “churches” that sing “feel good” songs, discuss self-help, and contribute to community causes.

But when Christians assemble together (Hebrews 10:25), their main purpose should be to glorify Him, and to encourage one another through God’s Word rather than apart from it. They should strengthen the body by submitting their own needs to those of one another and to the common good (Ephesians 5:21), Then the church experiences the joy and peace of unity (Psalm 133:1), loving, praying and caring for one another (1 Peter 4:7-11).

As the tide of political correctness turns against Christianity (1 Peter 4:12), church members should encourage one another to strengthen their faith and to know and follow what they believe (Ephesians 3:17-19), not only individually, but corporately (Hebrews 3:13). But this is difficult, if not impossible, when leaders in some churches allow their thinking to be conformed to the world, rather than transformed by the renewing of their mind through God’s Word (Romans 12:2).

False doctrine and false teachers (Matthew 7:15; 24:11) can then infiltrate the body, introducing corruption and heresy instead of Scripture-based schooling (2 Peter 2:1-3; Revelation 2:8-23). Even worse, they can cause division and argument among the members, which is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:16-19).

When worldly entertainment and dress (1 Peter 3:1-4), focus on self-help instead of Scripture, and social networking replace the unity of purpose to serve God and spread His Word, that church is doomed to leave its members vulnerable to spiritual attack. Instead of small groups for age- and gender-appropriate Bible study, cliques form based on popularity, multilevel marketing, or other worldly pursuits (Revelation 3:14-19).

Those left out or even actively wounded by other church members often drift away from the school, where they are most vulnerable to Satan’s attack (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). The Christian can expect spiritual warfare daily (Ephesians 6:12), but his chances of defeat are much greater if he is not part of a loving, protective, strengthening body of Christ (Ephesians 6:18).

My husband and I are blessed to be part of such a God-honoring church family, and my prayer is that all Christians would be equally blessed to serve Christ in a body of believers moving as one to serve, worship and honor Him.

Because every church is made up of people, all of whom are sinners (Romans 3:23), no church is perfect. Yet it is also my prayer that members of every evangelical church would work together in unity to serve God, support their pastor, encourage one another, pray fervently (Romans 12:11-12), strengthen one another in God;s love and in His Word, and to spread the Gospel in their local neighborhoods and across the globe!

May we learn from schools of fish that there is strength not just in numbers, but in unity of purpose. May that purpose be to move in synchrony with His perfect will in all that we do, and to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Connie Arnold said...

Wonderful post, Laurie! Never thought about churches as being like schools of fish. We are also blessed to be part of a church that moves, serves and worships God as one.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Connie -- I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post! Praise God that He has also placed you in a church home blessed by unity!
Love in Christ,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I just love the header photo you have posted this week, since I have done coral reef snorkeling at the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef, the Canary Islands, and at Malta, along with a spot of diving at Rhodes. So I have a keen interest in marine life.
But to liken the Body of Christ to a school of fish is indeed original, as I have not seen this comparison before. And the matter of the devil looking for something to devour - have you ever watched any documentaries on marine life? Great schools of fish tighten into a swirling ball if threatened by sharks or whales.
The whales circle the swirling ball, forcing the fish to the surface, then dive into the ball itself, sucking into their mouth as many fish as possible, until the entire school is devoured.
This has made me think of the three "sharks" out to devour the church: The flesh, the world, and the devil. They swim around the "swirling ball" until fully devoured. This may give an answer to the seven churches in Western Turkey, to which John wrote a letter, recorded in the book of Revelation. To most of then, Jesus had warned that their lamp will go out if they don't repent of certain characteristics. We can see to this day that their lamps are long extinguished, they no longer exist.
But praise be to God that this has no need to happen. But relying on the grace and mercy of the Lord, churches can last a long time.
God bless.

Brenda said...

Amen to all you have said here Laurie,
We, as the body of Christ, must always remember who is the Head. It is beautiful when the Holy Spirit leads, and not man.
This morning I have been to the little church gathering that I attend, and it was absolutely lovely how the message of loving one another, and forgiving one another came through several different testimonies that were shared and the message that the speaker had prepared.
I have been singing all week the little song.' A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.'
God bless you Laurie in your church and in your personal ministry.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
I am blessed to hear that you enjoyed the metaphor and the photo! It is sad that so many churches fall prey to attacks from the flesh, the world, and the devil. As you so rightly point out, this has been true since John wrote the book of Revelation, and it has continued through the present, no doubt getting worse as we draw near the End Times. But praise God, He will heal churches as well as nations if we humble ourselves and seek His face.

Thanks as always for your insightful comment, and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda -- may we always follow the Chief Shepherd, and pray for the undershepherds of our churches to be sensitive and obedient to His leading. It sounds like you had a blessed service filled with the Spirit and with love one for another, praise God! May all our services be like this and honor Him!
May God bless you, your uplifting writing, and your ministries also.
Love in Christ,

Saleslady371 said...

It is a beautiful thing when Christians can swim together in unity and accomplish the work of the kingdom here on earth. Too often we get in the way of that purpose when we get our eyes off Jesus and onto ourselves. Yet, He never gives up on us. Grace!
Thanks for dropping by and visiting me!

Many blessings to you in the coming week,

Unknown said...

Thank you Laurie. I never thought about all the benefits of a school of fish before, and how we as a church can be like that. I love that our church reaches out to our community. We all need to be careful that we do not become a social club, for sure. Your words are encouraging and affirming!

Mary Hill said...

So true. We have to swim together as Christians, supporting one another and lifting one another up, taking care of the weakest members and protecting them. Church is a place for wounded and sinners to come to Jesus for healing and sanctification. I enjoyed reading your post so much. :)

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Mary! Praise God for His amazing grace, love, mercy and patience! May we keep our eyes fixed on Him and move toward Him as one body.
Thanks so much for your lovely comment, and may you have a blessed week also!

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Momo, for your words of encouragement! Praise God that you belong to a church that is a light to the community. It is a blessing in our church also to participate in their "Back Lot" ministry to neighborhood youth.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Mary -- may our churches encourage those who are hurting to find, trust and grow close to Him! I am so blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post!
Love in Christ,

a joyful noise said...

Your examples of swimming together in schools for protection from predators and also for fellowship, encouragement and company were excellent. I am reminded of the scripture that tells us to gather together often for prayer, singing, praise, and even more so as the day approaches of His soon coming. Churches do have personalities, and it is amazing how unbelievers gather for fellowship in clubs, lodges, and activities. People need people, and the greatest need is to first fill up that lonely void with Jesus. Thank you for your excellent words shared with us here at Tell me a Story.

Laurie Collett said...

So very well said, Hazel! God designed us to need Him, and He is glorified when we love Him and love one another. May believers support and encourage one another through their local church, and may unbelievers realize that they will never be at peace without Him.
Thank you so much for you encouraging and insightful comment and for hosting!
God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Hebrews 10:25 is vital for Christians. A marriage where one partner is only concerned about his or her own needs soon become just a sham, offering little happiness to either partner. In the same way, churches where people are only concerned with their own benefits soon become a sham church, offring notheirn of real value to anyone.

Laurie Collett said...

Great analogy, Donald! If the bride of Christ focus only on herself, she loses the joy of her relationship to the Bridegroom. Others who are not yet in the church, or bride of Christ, will not see the true benefit of being in that relationship and will be resistant to salvation. Thanks as always for your comment, and God bless,

Karren Haller said...

Such a good analogy the school of fish, a congregation of Christians is much strong together than just one. Thank you for your post, I enjoyed reading it.
Thank you for your visit.
Be blessed in the coming week!

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Karren, for your visit and lovely comment! I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post!
May you have a blessed week in Him,

Aritha said...

Thank you so very much. I places this morning a quote from C. H Spurgeon on my Google+ site:

It is Christ's presence that confers success. It was His will that drew the fish to the net as He sat in Peter's boat. It was His presence on the dry land that drew the fish to the right side of the ship. Christ's presence in the midst of the Church is the Church's power. (C.H Spurgeon)

Unknown said...

Great post. Thanks for linking up this week at the Best of the Blogosphere Linky Party!

Laurie Collett said...

Ariella, I love this Spurgeon quote, and how appropriate for this blog post! Thank you so much for posting it. Without Christ in our life and in our churches, we can do nothing.
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Deb, for your sweet comment and for hosting!
May you have a blessed weekend!

Tina at said...

This is a really interesting metaphor. Thanks for joining us at Booknificent Thursdays this week! Always great to have you!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Tina, for your lovely comment and for hosting such a wonderful party!
God bless,

Aritha said...

Thanks. God bless you too. Hope you have had a good week!