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OUTDOOR TRUTHS: Exceptions and Rules

By Gary Miller

Three days last week, I rolled out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to meet some friends at the lake. Two of those days were spent with friends from North Carolina and the other day with a local friend who wanted to take his young son on a special trip. Our guide was another friend and Outdoor Truths sponsor, Mike Allen. He guides in the local lakes for big stripers. (Shoot me an email if you would like to go.) These half-day trips are plenty long enough to catch lots of fish and get plum puckered out!

Everyone in these groups went home with some great stories around their time on the lake in East Tennessee. My job, however, was not to fish but to help Mike guide. I was the glorified gopher whose main job was to bait hooks, net fish, and take pictures. I may have had the most fun.

What always intrigues me about these trips is watching Mike find fish. The truth is, while we caught about 30 fish each day, the bulk of the time we spent locating where the fish actually are. Since Mike doesn’t stay all night with them, each morning his first job is simply finding where they meandered to during the night. Once that is accomplished, the fun begins, until they leave in directions unknown. Then we set out to find another school in another part of the lake. Sometimes this process is not very long and other times, It’s a big part of the day. On one of our three days, we went about 2.5 hours before wetting one line. When we did, however, we caught 16 fish in about 15 minutes. At one time, there were four fish on at the same time. Now that was fun!

For many years of my Christian life, I spent most of my time ministering just to be ministering. I never gave much thought to whether the holes I was fishing in had fish or not. I thought God never really cared about effectiveness, only effort. I thought He didn’t care about being strategic or about spending time finding the places and the people who are most receptive. I thought waiting and watching was wasting time. Boy was I wrong! I later learned that if you want to catch the most fish, go where the most fish are. Does that mean that one can’t be effective at random or in an unseemingly effective place? No, but doing ministry according to the exceptions and not the rule is like catching a fish next to the dock and deciding to sell your boat because from now on, you’re going to fish from the dock. It may work on occasion, but if that was the most effective way, everyone would be doing it.

Gary Miller can be reached via e-mail at

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