Church Uses Huge Aquarium as Evangelistic Tool
Centuries ago, church buildings were quite predictable. Steeples might have varied in look, and the rows of pews might have been wider in one church and shorter in another, but rarely did church facilities each try to offer something unique to help those outside of the church who normally would never step foot into a church, actually want to visit, and in doing so, they hear the Gospel.
At Inspiring Body of Christ Church in Dallas, founding pastor Rickie Rush intentionally designed their current facility, which opened in 2009, to trigger constant “come and see” moments. With 80,000 gallons and about 600 fish, it’s the world’s largest church aquarium. People literally walk through the aquarium (made of 5” to 7” plexiglass) to come from the front entrance into the 4,400-seat sanctuary.p>
The words of Jesus from Matthew 4:19 to “follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” are printed in huge letters above the aquarium. In fact, the entire property follows a similar theme from the fish logo on various directional signs to “Fishers of Men Road” as one of the parking lot entrances.
Along with two smaller aquariums at the church’s other entrances, the tanks are under 24-hour monitoring by licensed marine biologists on church staff. “Given all that salt water, small drips and other surprises are inevitable,” aquarium curator Stephen Burkett shared with me on my recent visit. Additionally, eight certified divers, who are volunteers and church members, are joined by other church volunteers to prepare food for the fish to eat.
The predominantly African American church sponsors dive shows every Sunday morning between worship services, highlighted by feeding time. The aquarium has even been featured on Animal Planet’s show, Tanked, as the most challenging and largest aquarium they have built to date.
Given the leadership’s big evangelistic heart of “everyone win one,” it’s little wonder that church, founded in 1990, has grown so dramatically. Today combined attendance for the two Sunday morning services averages about 6,000 adults and children.
Pastor Rush, age 52, is not only an evangelist, but also a teacher. “Just as each fish has come from the deep – the world – and now living harmoniously with one another, we hope to draw people to Christ by displaying the special care and love God has shown us, teaching us to get along in the same environment,” – Pastor Rickie Rush.