By Bill Easum

Late one afternoon, some fifty miles off the Texas coast, I had an unexpected encounter with God that would forever change my way of thinking about God and the Christian life. Prior to this encounter, I expected, or at least hoped, to experience God when I was “at church” in worship. However, after this encounter, I never again separated God from my everyday normal experiences world.

We had left the dock some ten hours earlier and had been trolling around all day looking for the “big one.” We weren’t looking for guppies. We wanted a marlin, and we wanted it on light tackle. But after six hours of trolling, not one fish had shown us the courtesy of grabbing our bait. But if that weren’t enough, the wind had laid and the sun was showing us no mercy.  We were hot, tired, and bored out of our gourds.

Then it happened!

None of us saw the fish when it bit, but the screaming reel spoke only one language- big fish!  The fish made one long run, almost spooling our 30 lb reel.  Then without out any reason, the fish made a u-turn and headed straight for the boat. About a hundred yards from the boat the fish rolled and we realized that we had done something that few fishermen had ever done – we had hooked Flipper!  That’s right, at the end of our line was a larger than average dolphin. We’re talking in excess of 250 lbs.

For a moment, we stood there, mouths hanging open. None of us had ever seen such a site. This isn’t suppose to happen. Dolphins don’t bite baits and when they do they miss the hook.

As the dolphin came closer, we regained our wits and noticed that the mammal wasn’t alone. Following along, was a slightly smaller dolphin.  As the pair reached the boat, the companion dolphin began standing half way out of the waters, chattering at us as if trying to communicate.

The hooked dolphin came to the side of our boat, opened its mouth, and allowed the deck hand to reach into its mouth and retrieve the hook. Then the two dolphins circled the boat a couple of times as if to say “thank you,” and off they went. Of course, no one had a camera and if we had we were to dumbstruck to use it if we had one.

It was one of those experiences that change a person’s life for ever. This dolphin was large enough to spool to us. But he didn’t. Instead of putting up a fight that might have left him dragging hundreds of yards of line, he came straight to the boat, as if to say “I trust you!”  As a result he and his spouse were united once again to swim free.

Now apply this to the church.  According to Ephesians 4:11-12, unity occurs when the saints are equipped to do ministry. In order to equip the saints trust must be foundational to the ministry.  Laity must trust their pastors enough to free them from ministry so they have the time to equip.  Pastors must trust the laity enough to equip and release them to do ministry on behalf of Christ.

I have never seen a church, where trust is in question, equip the saints much less reach the point of trust where the church becomes an incubator of faith.  So here are the formulas for a unified and caring church.

Trust + Equipping = Unity.  Trust + Unity = Incubation.

Unity and Incubation are two of the most needed aspects in most established churches today.  No one in their right mind is going to come into a church where trust is lacking among the leaders, not when a lack of trust is rampant in their daily lives already.

And what is the point about incubation?  Most new people coming into the church today are blank slates on which the church must imprint what it means to be a Christian.  These folks need a warm, caring congregation in which they can fine a safe place to hear the dangerous gospel.  They are like a premature baby being placed in an incubator. If the incubator malfunctions the infant dies. The same is true with new converts in the church. If the church doesn’t provide them a warm, safe place in which to grow spiritually, they wither and die.

Usually a lack of trust is the result of one or two things.  Most often it is because two or three people keep stirring the water. If that is case, you must convert them, neutralize them, or show them the door. Sometimes it is simply because the church hasn’t had a leader who can solidify a common, unifying mission throughout the congregation. If that is the case, some leader, most often the pastor needs to lead the church into discovering what God has put it on earth to do.

So, the next time you wonder why people attend your church and never come back, remember the Dolphin who had sense enough to trust his life to the folks on the other end of the line. Then ask yourself, is trust rampant in our congregation? If not, what can you do to change the situation?