Too small?



What is the point of biblical literacy amongst the congregants of the church?

Soren Kierkegaard made a fascinating statement. He said, “The problem with Christendom is that, as fishers of men, we have made the holes in our nets too small.”

What a strange statement. Isn’t being ‘caught up’ in our faith meant to be easy? Kierkegaard’s argument implies that we allow for ‘any-size’ to be ‘caught’ –> Therefore folks that are ‘caught-up’ in Christendom become stunted and never ‘need’ to get ‘bigger’ in order to be ‘caught.’ So where is the problem with this?

First let me say that I don’t believe that Kierkegaard is implying that those with a simple faith lack salvation — rather in the way we do church we allow ‘little’ to be enough.

How do I explain this without upsetting, you, the reader?

I would liken Kierkegaard’s statement to today’s more understood cliche of ‘remaining on the milk of your mother’ –> at some point you must be weened off in order to grow, remain healthy, and (even) survive. ~ The church on the other hand has created a culture that allows one to remain on the breast of the faith. (Kierkegaard pointed this out in the church well over 100 years ago) Worse, even, is that many churches, in my opinion, are designed in such a way as to keep you there – or – at the very least to make it difficult to move on to better healthier eating habits.

So, how has this hurt the church?

I would argue that it has reduced our ability to have intelligent conversations regarding our faith and lifestyle; reducing us into sniveling children treating our conversations as if someone just took our favorite toy.

Like a child we know only a few intelligible words/sentences (read::verses) and mostly we don’t even know where we learned them, or worse, how to properly use them in context.

When was the last time reasoning worked with a toddler?

Imagine having a literary discussion with a child who can’t read and has only had ‘Golden Books’ read to them. Pastors, typically, are instructed to preach between a 5th and 7th grade level. I would argue that most sermons are not even that complex.

Is this how we ‘equip’ our faithful to be a witness to the Messiah? Treat, teach, and train them to be toddlers while telling them to be an example to adults…Why isn’t this working?

I recently asked my son (9yo) a question about Star Wars – to which he did not know the answer. Instead of expressing that he “did not know” he made up a fairly believable answer – that was wrong! Children are afraid of ‘not knowing’ something…especially about something they love and cherish! Many ‘milk dependent’ Christians are the same way, afraid to say “I don’t know” especially when speaking to someone that is not a part of the faith. Does a child making up an answer ever seem ‘trustworthy’ for life changing decisions?

[This is part of my daily 250 word discipline to help my writing process…but I’d love to hear your thoughts!]

5 thoughts on “Too small?

  1. hmmm…Once again you make me think Pastor! Or maybe Kierkegaard has missed the “boat” completely. Maybe it is not so much the size of the holes in the net but rather how deep we cast? It is not so much who, or this case size of fish, the fishers catch, but moreso what they become. What if those small fish, those still at the breast of Christianity, continue to remind us of the wonder and awe of simply being loved. In fact if the nets were only use to filter out the bigger fish, let’s call them theologians or pharisees, would that help the church? If Christ told Peter to re-cast his nets, but this time deeper allowing to catch every variety of fish (153 I believe at that time), then there must be a reason for Christendom’s need for variety more than it’s need for higher levels biblical literacy. There’s something beautiful in diverse communities where one picks up where another has stopped.
    Just a thought…
    Great post!


    1. Thanks Chris. I believe – if I could speak for Kierkegaard (big shoes!) that the point he is most concerned with is that there is no mechanism for fish to grow once they are in the boat! I realize as a metaphor this quickly falls apart (all metaphors do after all) but the point still stands that in the way we have organized a lot of our churches there is little or no mechanism included that allows for believers to grow.

      His concern is that too many folks have been told that they’ve arrived when they still have much growth to go. I personally see this frequently in conversations and interactions with many Christians who have little to no real connection with the scriptures. Most of what they know about their faith came from a cliche (oftentimes not even Christian) that they believe is from the Text. [ie. G_d helps those who help themselves – is a famous one. Or Love the sinner hate the sin – Ghandi!]

      The diversity and shapes of the faith that surround us is indeed beautiful and I don’t believe that Kierkegaard was suggesting homogenizing the faith into theologians/pharisees but rather removing the power from the church leadership that prefers to lord over a day-care instead of raising up disciples.

      Not sure if that was coherent as I’m about to run out the door…I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this!


  2. I get the feeling that this issue is bigger than the thoughts arising from this box sitting upon my shoulders, yet….somehow my heart “knows” what I can’t express verbally – but that never stopped me from trying 😉
    To me, the point your conveying through Kierkegaard is a beautiful voice of a grateful servant wanting to please the One who makes all things new. This answer deserves a cup of coffee and thoughtful give and take instead of pounding keys on a keyboard.. since it is challenging as it the answer is mysterious to me.
    At first blush, the problem seems simple, the have’s “lording” over the have-nots. However rational this approach is it must eliminate the orchestration of the Holy Spirit and a “believer’s” accountability. It also begs the question of what is this “free gift of faith?” Your response profoundly raises this question that “they still have much growth to go.” Why? Because we are ultimately accountable for each action and inaction. How did mega-churches become mega-churches? Because there are no holes in their nets. You know, say a sinner’s prayer, which isn’t even biblical, and hey…”you’ve arrived!” What Kierkegaard now makes clear to me (sorry it took awhile!) is found in faith-filled like St. Francis of Assisi, or Pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer, who exemplify the need for the constant renewing, reform, and rebuilding of the church. Christendom is shadowed by minimalism desperately waiting for leadership whose voices challenge us with the real cost of discipleship in exchange for this free gift of faith. God provides the gift to love Him so He may know us – but how? Action by willingly choosing to love God through our neighbor and responding in our fearless praise of His goodness. Thanks to you, I now see the holes are too small in our nets maybe because a church is satisfied with lording over its daycare. However, the inept sheep are possibly receiving mixed-messages from their shepherds and therefore are not being properly fed to truly understand the balance between free will and God’s free love. When we dare raise our eyes and gaze into the eyes of Christ, the very One who shivers when we shiver, our hearts will be fearlessly transformed and hopefully…so too our will.
    So, do we partake in our own salvation?
    Thank you not only for making me think Pastor, but for your example.

    1. Chris – thanks for this response. James 3.1 comes to mind.

      I mostly hold accountable the lack of biblical illiteracy (my term) on the teachers not on the students…after all you are only afforded the ability to learn what is being taught.

      I love what Bonhoeffer says in Cost of Discipleship: “One that ceases movement stops being a disciple. One can not stand still and follow.” [my paraphrase]

      Another Bonhoeffer concept that helps to add some pause while looking at these questions is that of Christ as Mediator…if we don’t view ‘the other’ through the Christ (first) then we are always imposing our removing something from their being…and if, indeed, we place the Christ as mediator then we can ‘just love our neighbor.’

      Thanks for this discussion.

    2. Oh – I also wanted to respond to, “So do we partake in our own salvation?”

      Philippians 2.12 comes to mind: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

      Which brings us full-circle since Kierkegaard’s most famous work is “Fear and Trembling” – the beauty of the Greek in this verse is that it implies and ‘over and over and over again’ – never ending working out…this wording also implies a personal participation. Much like the Israelites had to cross the Red Sea we, too, must follow in order to be rescued from oppression and ultimately enter the Promise Land…BUT it is only through the LORD’s mercy and grace that the rescue comes.


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