Be Ye Fishers of Men…. And Build Aquariums?

Illustrating Christ’s command to be fishers of men, the IBOC (Inspiring Body of Christ) Church in Dallas, TX, operates the world’s largest privately-owned aquarium.

The 75,000-gallon aquarium contains more than 80 species of salt-water fish. Two full-time marine biologists and six certified dietrists care for the tank, with at least one person being on site at all times. It’s a good thing too; the 300+ fish in the tank are worth over $100,000.

The tank serves as the centerpiece of the church’s new $40 million building. The aquarium alone cost $4.7 million to design, build, and stock.

Generally speaking, I’m all for reminding people to evangelize. However, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to reminders. American churches tend to spend incredible amounts on displays and events to showcase evangelism rather than getting it done. How many people could this church have reached with the $4.7 million spent on a fish tank? What could they be doing every year with what must be a staggering maintenance budget?

There is nothing wrong with showcasing evangelism with displays, missions conferences, survey trips, and even aquariums. However, our ultimate goal is not that people would see but that they would do. Christians are called to be fishers of men not aquarium curators.


40 thoughts on “Be Ye Fishers of Men…. And Build Aquariums?

  1. Amen! Most of those churches don’t proclaim the gospel anyways. This also shown through their finances they spend. Why spend the money on the hungry who are starving to death when we can have an awesome aquarium to lure people in to tell them 5 ways to have health and wealth. No mention of Christ and Him crucified for my sins, so utterly sad.

    • I worked with someone who went to this church. It’s a high profile church around here and one of the largest. A lot of black athletes from the area like former Cowboys Safety Roy Williams attend.

      • Yeah, except this is pretty stupid. I mean, really, unbelievably stupid. Even on an aesthetic level it’s a pretty ugly and gawdy aquarium.

  2. All this bashing! It doesn’t seem to me like we should be bashing them. That is exactly what Satan wants. Divide and conquer. He does it to families ALL the time. He also wants to distract. We spend so much time fighting over doctrine, money. What this church does. What that church does. If we focused solely on Christ, & winning the lost, perhaps we wouldn’t have the time, or feel the need to criticize others who proclaim his name. Keep your OWN heart in check. God will have his FAIR judgment day! Christians fighting with each other is NOT going to save those who are dying Every day, & going to Hell.

    • This is not bashing. I raise IBOC church’s excesses in order to point out that Christians can easily substitute a symbol for the real thing. This church employs more marine biologists than pastors. Hopefully a church like this would cause us all reflect on American church culture.

    • You are a delusional christian like most. Instead of looking at the facts in your face you decide to persuade others that a fictional deity is dividing the critisim that this church is getting. Isn’t it stated in your “bible” that we are to give all we have to others in need. So instead of spreading the wealth they built a gigantic aquarium for people to look at and that’s it. I does not help fight hunger or disease or fund research to cure illnesses in anyway. I’m sure the pastor lives in a huge multimillion dollar home and not pay taxes. Must have been gods gift of wealth instead of helping the needy and sick. Hey your god sounds wonderful! Maybe you guys can pray and It will all go away. I guess I’m in the wrong business.

      • Well, I’d say it’s for education and preservation (isn’t that a good thing?). Something that may inspire children to become scientists- piquing their interest into studying oceanography, or marine biology. It may inspire children to become activists to preserve endangered species in the ocean, which is solely need. It may make children have a more objective mindset despite being in a church setting. It’s not a total waste if it inspires just one person into preserving our blue dot.

      • See what I mean. That’s always the response when facts smacks you in the face. I know, I have a valid point. Why don’t you pray for all the fish in the tank to multiply and feed the starving children and families around the world. It’s ok I’ll wait for the miracle!

  3. i bet if you check, all the preachers live in million dollar homes and drive big fancy cars. all donated and tax free of course. talk about lowlifes

    • I don’t think you can make assumptions about the staff’s personal lives based upon their church building. The choice to lavishly decorate the church building rests on the congregation as well as the leadership. It’s unfair to assume that the pastor(s) are anything but genuine. Pastor Rush gives a credible reason for the aquarium in the episode of Tanked that featured it.

      That said, there are some things about the church that don’t seem to add up. I do find the fact that there seems to be only one pastor curious. Also, the church has a restaurant on site for meals after the services called the “Rush-turant” (named after the pastor, Rickie G. Rush). However, I will gladly admit that this church runs in a circle of evangelicalism whose culture is quite foreign to me.

      • We have Not even heard the man speak, & we are judging him? We need to be careful with that. It is Easy to stereo type. I catch myself doing it, & find that I can be wrong. Perhaps if we tried to love, & understand one another we would be less critical. Lord, help us to see people the way you see them. Through eyes of mercy, & compassion. We will find ourselves surprised when we get to Heaven when we see who else made it there. Many church denominations, & races will be present. There is one God with enough love for All who humble themselves, & turn to him.

  4. This is awesome. Poor people deserve to be poor because they don’t take responsibility for themselves. Churches need more aquariums and other grandiose displays of wealth to prove that God loves Christians the most.

  5. forget evangelizing — by virtue of their not paying taxes on church income (EIN 752341444), the rest of us subsidized this aquarium. for jesus.

    never mind that the *donations* were also tax-deductible — coulda given to a soup kitchen, coulda given to youth programs, instead you bought an aquarium. some charity.

    i mean, what portion of that $4MM do we figure the taxpayers were forced to make up between the exemption for the church and deductions for donors? $1MM? $2MM? we’re getting upset about big bird but don’t have a problem with this? trillions of dollars in debt and we’re letting churches like this off the hook?

    churches are free to do whatever they want with their money. why i should be forced to make up their tax burden when this is OK is beyond me.

  6. It’s all about money, just like any other church – a scam from top to bottom. Build an aquarium, people come and see it, people give money. Rinse and repeat.

  7. On the bright side they could be even less responsible with their funds. They could be spending it to protect child rapists or subjugate gays spread ignorance in Africa like other churches.

  8. Friendly Neighborhood Atheist and former evangelical here with a tiny bit of input…

    How is this any different from the beautiful buildings that the Catholic church has funded over the years? Or other religious groups? Mosques are GORGEOUS and we’d all love to have one of those in our sky-line.

    I think this aquarium was meant more to be a display of the beauty of God’s creation (fish) and a very clever and meaningful integration of scripture and art.

    I think that probably this requires a lot of care by skilled professionals, so they’re spreading the job mojo too.

    Why can’t a religious group have a beautiful place of worship? Yes, we’d like to see the money spent on charity, but there are certainly denominations of Christianity that favor moderation and do not condone this kind of extravagance. These are obviously different Christians!

    Not to mention I love aquariums. 🙂

  9. You missed the real point: Jesus said to heal the sick, tend to the widows, clothe the poor. How many people could be fed with that much money? How many lepers could be treated? How many homeless people could have a DRY roof over their heads? And how many of those people could be led to Christ by the example of their good deeds?

  10. This is where the money gets spent that the far superior to the rest of you lot right wingers claim they give in “charity” every year. Like the mormons used mitt’s charity money to build condos and a mall full of luxury stores. Charity, baby!

  11. For those of you complaining about tax issues …… please consider planned parenthood. They receive 1/2 Billion per year! All tax free and the same tax issues you mention. And they are only the 8th largest. All this to mostly kill black babies.

    Please keep your perspective.

    • OK, how’s this for perspective:

      Based on 2010 rates of taxation, not taxing churches represents $71 BILLION in lost revenue. 1/2 billion for an organization giving breast cancer exams, in comparison to $71 billion for social clubs for superstitious fish-lovers. Pffft.

  12. Aren’t we all glad they are tax exempt?

    We could solve our budget problems in a heartbeat, particularly locally, if only churches paid taxes the same way other corporations do. Just the lost real property taxes in my part of Virginia must be staggering. On some roads there are a dozen or more churches per mile.

    • The most widely discussed figure I’ve seen is $71 Billion annual in federal taxes alone — that’s without getting into property taxes to support, you know, cops, firemen and teachers.

  13. Pingback: Should we tax churches (and other houses of worship)? - Page 4 - Religious Education Forum

  14. Pingback: Should Churches Pay Taxes? | The Parallax Perspective

  15. I’ve read a lot of you talk now its my turn… I believe you have spent money on things that was not wise,,,, you can correct me if I’m wrong… I really like the tank & my son eyes light up when I show it to him… We as people are so quick to judge people and what they do but you have to understand something no one,, I mean no one is perfect… If you had 4.7 million you would make some bad decisions to,,, am I saying the tank was a bad decision no!!!!!! It’s what you see is what you talk about, what about the things behind the Seene that the Pastor & Church do that you don’t see or what it took for the Church to get to this point,, you don’t talk about that… All I say is this do you research before you be so quick to judge… I look at it like this if you have not gave any of you money to this Church what are you worried about what they do… If anybody need to complain it should be the people who’s money is being put into this Church…. Let God use you to help out in this world ,, you might not have 4.7 million but what you do have could make a difference… how much of your check are you giving to the homeless, needy or hungry? you really dont need alot to make a difference…If you want to know I’m not a member there

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