Aquarium-dipping is
not really evangelism

by Dave Havir

BIG SANDY, Texas--Many people in church organizations love to talk about evangelism. But it is amazing how much of the discussion is all talk without any discernible evidence of fruit.

Unfortunately, the emission of hot air is not the worst trait of this exercise in futility.

A few traits

Here are some of the traits that are often descriptive of people who promote personal evangelism:

  • A holier-than-thou attitude. They often view themselves as having the answers, and they view other people as not being as dedicated as they are.

  • An approach to try to change other people. They often feel justified in attempting to elevate other people to their high level of righteousness.

  • Hypocrisy. They often talk about evangelism without being very successful at it.

  • Aquarium-dipping. In case this reference is new to you, aquarium-dipping is stealing members from other Church of God groups. This is obviously not evangelizing society.

Supporting service projects

The congregation where I pastor is blessed to associate with like-minded sister congregations around the world.

Allow me to mention three perspectives that many of us share.

First, most of the people in my circle of life happily support the right of a group or individual to engage in religious service projects.

By service projects I include religious television, radio, books, booklets, magazines, Bible studies, seminars, retreats and camps.

Many of us think that such service projects can be beneficial. If done properly, these projects can be helpful to the audience and to the participants.

However, notice the next two perspectives.

Deluding themselves

Second, most of the people in my circle of life recognize the folly of people who believe that their nice little service projects are in some way fulfilling some biblical directive.

Just because a service project can be helpful to an audience (and the participants) does not mean it is fulfilling scriptures in the Bible.

It is not wise for people who do service projects to ruin their ultimate value by exalting themselves. (Remember Matthew 23:12.)

Some people don't realize how foolish their proclamations make them appear to other people both inside the Church of God and outside the Church of God.

Deluding others

Third, most of the people in my circle of life recognize when other people use their rhetoric about their service projects to control other people.

What is the purpose for people to try to control other people? Power. Money.

Some leaders seek to convince followers to view them as extremely important. Therefore the service projects must be advertised as more important than they really are.

Of course, religious salesmen do not rely only on positive advertising. They use negative advertising to influence the audience to view the service projects of others as inferior.

Sometimes they even resort to belittling other people doing other service projects.

The Father sees it

Back to the idea of aquarium-dipping: Remember that aquarium-dipping is stealing members from other Church of God groups.

Let me conclude with the following two truths:

  • Since each believer is free to attend wherever he wants to attend, he is not doing anything wrong when he switches congregations. The members of a congregation are not the property of any group or any person. (Remember Acts 20:28.)

  • However, it is sleazy and dishonorable for religious people to seek to build a following by fishing in the ponds of other groups.

Our Father in heaven knows those who have been doing aquarium-dipping naively. He will help people recognize their error. Our Father in heaven also knows those who have been doing aquarium-dipping deliberately. Just because He lets it continue does not mean He has not noticed (Ecclesiastes 8:11).


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