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Pastor hopes to reel in worshippers

May 30, 2013 at 03:14 PM

The Associated Press

GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) — A Greenfield pastor hopes a planned "fishing church" will help get people hooked on the gospel.

By holding Sunday afternoon worship services at a 10-acre fishing lake, Wade Compton aims to draw people who might not venture into traditional houses of worship.

"Part of the Great Commission (an instruction given by Jesus to His disciples) is to go into all the world and invite people," Compton, 58, told The Indianapolis Star ( ). "Our tendency in the church in recent decades has been to tell them they must come to us."

Compton is pastor of Bradley United Methodist Church in downtown Greenfield, which is housed in a 111-year-old stately limestone building that represents exactly the kind of place Compton says some people find intimidating.

"The Fishing Church will be a place where folks can feel comfortable coming in their blue jeans or even their waders if they want," Compton said. "They can wear hats with fishing hooks in them and just be at ease."

Compton himself was dressed in casual attire on Tuesday - jeans and a brown T-shirt emblazoned with an image of a largemouth bass leaping at a lure and the words "Fishers of Men" across the top. Underneath the fish, the shirt read, "You catch 'em; God cleans 'em" and a passage from Matthew 4: "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."

In his spare time, the pastor seldom fishes, he said. He had the idea for the fishing church, though, after he and his wife, Teri, moved onto the property containing the 10-acre lake, which at one time served as a pay lake for area anglers.

"We just thought there's got to be something we can do with this beautiful property for the kingdom of God," he said. "I always thought there was opportunity for some kind of ministry out here."

Compton plans to start the Sunday fishing services in late June. He anticipates starting the evenings with 45-minute services in a 3,100-square-foot metal pole barn on the property. A former bait shop has been converted to a "sanctuary" and is decorated in a fishing theme, complete with a cross on the wall formed with fishing poles.

After the service, congregants can find spots around the lake with friends or family members and fish for 90 minutes to two hours. The fishing will be catch-and-release, he said. All are welcome to be part of the services and take part in the free fishing, he said.

"It might be interesting for wives who have husbands who don't go to church," he said. "Maybe they'll have some interest. Or it might work out for people who want to expose their children to some fishing. They'll get to be part of a comfortable, informal service with some music and message and praise and some Bible study."

The fishing church has one hurdle to clear this week, Compton said. The Hancock County Board of Zoning Appeals is set to vote at 6:30 p.m. Thursday on whether to approve the pastor's request to use the property for worship services. Compton does not expect any problems, however.

Developing the fishing church, Compton said, has whetted his appetite for trying innovative approaches to ministry.

"This may not be our last port of entry," said Compton, who has been in full-time ministry for 35 years. "If we can pull this off, we want to think about where are other places out in the community where we can create some ports of entry."


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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