First off I think it’s important to understand what the title means. I’ve talked to many people about this book and most of them were initially turned off because of the title. Dave does a great job explaining what the title means at the beginning of the book. I’ll give you my version of a paraphrase of what this is.
The monkey and the fish is an eastern parable in which a monkey spies a fish that is struggling in the water. The monkey gets the fish out of the water and sets it down next to him. The fish is happy until it realizes that it’s in worse shape than before. The monkey can’t figure out what the problem is and is quite puzzled when the fish no longer moves.
If any of you have ever fished before then you know that the monkey killed the fish despite its good intentions. And that my friend is exactly what this book is about. We, especially here in America, have tried so hard to change what the church is (trying to help it) that we’ve nearly killed the church. Talk to the people around you that don’t go to church, I’m sure that most of them have a lot of reasonable explanations of why they don’t go and why they don’t want to go. For those of us who have an understanding of what Jesus wanted and still wants the church to be typically see these as excuses, when in fact they are completely rational to that person.
There were two main principles that I took from this book.
1) Take the church back to an Acts church. Keep it real. Our job is not to shove Jesus down people’s throats, it’s to show them love and support.
2) Love your neighbor.
The first point is quite easy to understand, and in fact many churches around the world are already pushing for this since they see what is happening. The world is changing so fast, and we now have to deal with global scenarios not just local ones. So as a church we need to get back to supporting one another and showing the love of Christ to the world. Jesus didn’t just sit in the temple and say “Let them come to me if they want to know my Father.” He went out and found the people in their environment. To get down to the nit ‘n gritty of it, go out and do!
The “love your neighbor” part is probably the biggest part of the book for me. Dave’s understanding of what Jesus meant by this is totally different from what I’ve ever heard from anyone else. Dave tells us that when Jesus said “Love your neighbor,” He didn’t mean the people right next to you. He didn’t even mean the people on the other side of the world from you either. Jesus meant the people you can’t stand, the people you hate even. You see, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan was the person who was neighborly. But the Samaritans were a hated group of people; hence putting this in a different light and making us play a whole different ball game.
We’ve made our churches (in general) a group of people who are like one another. This process helps a church grow, and grow rather quickly. Yet if we focus on reaching out to the groups of people we have little in common with, a hard time dealing with, and make our church a place where truly everyone from every background is welcome, then we make a healthy church that grows slowly but healthy.