When I say think like a fish, I really mean to let the habits, behaviors and ideas of the fish guide the process, even when they contradict your own conveniences, understandings, and traditions. It means seeing church through the eyes of the non-believing, unchurched, inexperienced fish.
For example, most fishing takes place early in the morning. There is nothing convenient about getting up at 4 a.m. and driving by a bait shop and out to a lake at the crack of dawn. However, if I am going to catch fish, then I must understand that this is the best time to catch fish. The habits of the fish determine the process. The fisherman is the one who adjusts to the habits of the fish, not the other way around. Why? Because it is the fisherman’s sole intention to catch as many fish as he can that day. Therefore, the fisherman thinks like a fish and goes out early when the fish are hungriest and awaiting the bait.
I once asked my church what time should Sunday Morning Worship Service start. People said 10 a.m. because they like being home by Noon. Some said 11 a.m. because they like to sleep in on Sundays. Others said 8 a.m. because an early service allows them to get worship out of the way and enjoy the rest of their day. But, a true evangelist—one concerned about the fish floundering about in the worldly sea—would turn that question around and ask: “What time do the fish bite?”
When we think like fish, our worship times aren’t driven by our own conveniences but by the habits of the fish. That’s thinking like a fish. If we are posturing ourselves to reach professionals who tend to normally get up early, maybe 8 a.m. is best. If our fish are young people who tend to stay up late on weekends, maybe 1 p.m. is best. There is no right or wrong answers or times here; the real issue is for the church to remember that it’s not about us, but it’s about the fish. Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy (or those who have received his medicine already). Jesus wants a relationship with those who do not know him.
So, in addition to the time of your services and programs, what other things do you need to consider while preparing to fish?
Fishermen know the waters; they know when they are cold and when they are warm. They know what temperature produces more fish looking for bait. Sometimes similarly, circumstances around a community or a group of people can force them to want to try something new or different. Bait, in essence, is food and nourishment. It’s something the fish is looking for and needing right now. Your church services and worship services should be bait, something nurturing and attractive that the fish need and desire.
But how will the fish know about your church? About your Jesus even? How will they know to come close to your bait and sniff it out to see if it is something they want to try? Your message to the outside world, the fish, is critical.
So, start by studying the waters of those around you and those you want to attract. What do they need? Who are they? What do they like to do? What are the circumstances pressing in on their lives now? What do they read or watch or listen to? How will your bait lure them over?