Are We Swimming in the Same Direction? Lessons from "Finding Nemo"

Last night, after our venture to the Newport Aquarium near Cincinnati, we came home to watch Finding Nemo (Pixar) for some relaxation and for the kids to see if they recognized any of the fish they saw at the aquarium.

In the process, I was struck by one of the last major scenes of the movie. Rather than try to describe the scene, I hope you’ll watch it. It is the portion where the fish are caught in some fishermen’s nets and what they do to escape.

Here’s the clip:

What do we see here? An allegory of sorts. An allegory is “a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another” (Dictionary.com). In other words, most of the items in this story represent something in real life. So here we go.

The fish represent us at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church

How? None of us live the same type of lives, do we? Even in my house, though we have the same last name go about our lives in slightly different directions and from different perspectives. When it comes to backgrounds, jobs, mindsets over the temperature of the house, how to wash dishes, what to eat for dinner–we come at life from different perspectives and directions.

Each of the fish in this scene is heading in a similar direction, but clearly they are on their own. In other words, they are together, but they are not together. What gets them together?

They see the net coming (more on what that net means in a moment), so they reverse course in an attempt to save their lives! So they see a common threat. Fear has a way of galvanizing a group–even members of a church. It could be fear of having no money, a fear of becoming obsolete, a fear of change from the traditions developed and held dear, a fear of not being relevant, a fear of having less and less influence, etc. But notice that even this fear does not bring unity–these fish were on their own. They were heading in the same direction for the purpose of escaping the net.

Let’s talk about this net

This net represents a group that is stuck. Groups become ‘stuck’ for various reasons. This group of fish grew this way due to an enemy coming along wishing to capture these fish in order to sell them. From the enemy’s perspective, these fish are an ends to a means.

Yet, these fish recognize that them being ‘stuck’ in this situation will lead to certain death. And in many ways, those fish understand better the dire consequences of being ‘stuck’ in this nature–for it will lead to death. In Boone’s Creek’s case, it may not lead to death by way of extinction, but it will lead to the death of our influence and witness and Kingdom effectiveness.

We must understand that there are ways in which we must be ‘stuck.’

  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Scriptures (Psalm 119:15-16; John 17:17);
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) by whom all Christians are to be identified through baptism (Matthew 28:19).
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15; John 3:1-21);
  • We must be stuck in the “one anothers.”
  • We must be stuck in our commitment to the body of Christ that clearly proclaims Christ and His gospel (Col. 2:6-15).

Yet what are ways that we fish may grow stuck?

Music

This is clearly the biggest flashpoint. As one who served as minister of music for ten years, I understand how so many view the music used in the worship service. For many, if the music isn’t their style, they say they ‘haven’t worshiped.’ This is particularly troublesome, because we should worship based upon what Christ has accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection. Our worship should hinge on this, not on man-made compositions and styles. We must beware that if a style of music affects our ‘worship,’ we will become worshipers of music (and that, dear friends, is the epitome of an idol) (Jeremiah 2:9-11; Romans 1:18-23).

Man-made traditions

I equate some traditions to lint in the lint trap of my dryer. (Now, hang with me on this one.) The more the clothes roll along in the dryer, the more lint accumulates. For many churches, the more time rolls along, the more traditions accumulate until they become as much a part of the church as the furniture in the sanctuary. And as generations inherit these firmly-grasped traditions, they become more aware of these traditions than of Christ and the gospel. This is part of the reason why so many Southern Baptists (SBCers) are sucked into other cults: they know their traditions, and as such they know the terms we evangelicals use (salvation, eternal life, church, Christ, the Bible), but they don’t know the substance of those terms. So when cults come along using the same verbiage yet having a clearly different meaning, SBCers take the bait and become stuck in a false religion with a false gospel giving false assurance. Yet, what they have done is simply exchanged one man-made tradition for another.

This is why it is good to evaluate and clean out the lint traps frequently before the lint gets into the machinery. Isaiah 29:13 says:

And the Lord said:”Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.”

Memories

Like music, memories are powerful in churches. While God provides this function of ‘memory’ as a great gift, the flesh and the devil use this as a net in which we may be stuck. Like the changes in music or moving away from traditions, changes in the church may come about because of a memory some may have. For instance:

  • We cannot change the baptistry. My granddaughter and daughter were baptized in that baptistry.
  • We cannot change the color of the walls. Why, Sister Sue painted this in this manner years ago! She put so much effort into it!
  • We cannot tear down our old sanctuary! I was married in that building, as was my parents! I came to faith in Christ in that sanctuary. It would be unbearable to tear it down.

Could I go on? While these examples are not real (at least, I’ve never come across them), I know some from other churches who have. And maybe some in our church have certain things in our church that really effects them if they are moved, changed, redirected, or reset.

So as we must not make an idol of our musical preference, or our man-made traditions, we must not bow down to the idol our memories. One person once said, The past is meant to be learned from, not lived in. It is good to look back on our memories, but we must glean out the lessons from them as we move forward.

How Did The Fish Become… “Unstuck”?

In the movie, Dory is caught in the net with the rest of the fish. Nemo remembers how they escaped in the fishtank earlier in the movie: each of the fish in the net swam down. Their collective power and energy helped them break away. So Nemo instructs the fish to do the same thing. Eventually, they break out of that net and are free.

Those fish had to receive outside instruction on what to do. This is the same with us as followers of Christ. In our own fearful state, we can cling to music, traditions, memories, etc. to find that much-coveted stability.

Or …

We receive outside instruction from the Word and the Spirit and we all move in the same direction with the same purpose for the same glory of God.

Preaching and teaching and read the Word of God is that outside instruction. And as the Spirit begins to apply that Word to our hearts at Boone’s Creek, we will soon be heading in the same direction.

Those fish had to act on those instructions given. Receiving the Word so that the Word grips you is so key. Now, it’s time to bear that fruit. The Spirit regenerates our hearts, causing us to be born again. Through the Spirit, God gives us the faith to believe in His Son (something we could not do on our own). Then the Spirit sanctifies our hearts as His will becomes more prominent. In other words, the flesh has less and less influence as the Spirit has more and more. Our actions which come from these instructions are not actions in hope of salvation, but are actions which give evidence to that salvation.

Closing Thoughts

Some churches, like many businesses, are about mission statements and vision statements. We have ours as well: We aim to spread the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations. Yet, we failed to be dialed in to the fact that every sermon preached, every lesson taught, every hymn sung–all these things are used by the Holy Spirit to craft a vision into the hearts of all Christians at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.

We must come into our times of worship with this understanding: God’s Word is his revelation, his vision, for his people. We don’t wait for something to be “relevant” (a very self-serving word) before we’ll listen. We listen and prayerfully absorb even if it doesn’t seem to be personally relevant to us. It’s in His Word, and God has given preachers and teachers to help us understand that He put these things in His Word for a purpose.

Christ brought the fish into the boat (salvation), and he brought His fish together here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church (membership)–now what will our fish look like? A me-first attitude, a fearful attitude, or a faithful attitude as we all swim together in the same direction toward the same Christ for the same purpose?

All this from a kids’ movie! Isn’t God amazing?

Categories: church, missions, SBC, vision | Leave a comment

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