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"Give someone a fish and they will survive for a day; teach them how to fish and they can feed themselves for the rest of their lives."

This proverb is attributed to Confucius, though it accords with Jesus' teaching. For example, in describing the effect of Jesus' resurrection to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul writes: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (chapter 4, verse 8). Paul then enumerates some of these gifts and adds that they were given "to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (verse 12). In other words Jesus was investing in his people in order to multiply their impact for the good of society and the growth of the church.

The decline of the church in Scotland may be linked, at least on part, to our retreat into an introspective attitude in which a diminishing body of inactive members rely on highly trained professionals to prioritise their survival within an increasingly hostile environment. Thus revealed, the writing is on the wall, for there can be no future in such an attitude, only further decline until the whole edifice collapses - and we are nearly there!

The antidote is to rediscover our resourcefulness, for the Holy Spirit continues to gift God's people; and to reignite our sense of purpose, for works of service and church growth. It will require a revolution in our assumptions and in our behaviour. We need to wean ourselves out of that dependency mentality, which looks forward only to the next hand-out and replace it with an appetite for learning how to fish. Our ability to apply this to our lives together in church will spill over into our desire to serve our communities as salt and light, not only meeting people's needs but teaching them how to fish too.



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