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.

47 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.

  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.

      • Just one important note on taxes. The church may be tax exempt but pastors are not. I am a pastor and while I would love to have 1% of the money spent on this facility to do some basic maintenance at our church I’m not going to judge them because I don’t know them. I don’t know that they don’t spend 10 times this on local and world missions.

        Now back to the tax issue. Churches do not pay taxes on donations or property unless they choose to or the IRS decided they do not qualify for various reasons.

        Pastors are responsible for Federal and State taxes on their income like any other citizen. Unless the pastor opts out of Social Security they are also responsible for the self employment portion of Social security, which is twice what most people pay.

        If a pastor lives in a parsonage that property may be tax exempt, but the pastor must declare the fair rental value of that property on their taxes and pay social security, state, and federal funds on that income.

        If a pastor owns a home a portion of the pastor’s salary can be dedicated as a housing allowance but the pastor will still pay social security on this and property tax on the property itself.

        In my experience, I pay more in taxes as a pastor than I did as a carpenter making more money.

        Granted, my annual income is a fraction of the cost of the fish alone, but the IRS makes sure they get their share.

        There are a few pastors that have extravagant wealth, but most live below the poverty level and still give generously.

      • 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!

    • people i hope you realize that solomons temple was a few billion dollars to make so its not a big deal for the kingdom to build a five million dollar tank! come on!

      • Since Solomon was building the ONLY home for the spirit of God and the ONLY place of worship for God’s people, it’s a completely different story. Now the spirit lives in God’s children. A better analogy would be spending 4 mil on taking care of human bodies, like those starving, diseased, and forgotten.

  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.

        • There are many stories and articles on this church and it’s multimillion dollar fish tank. I’ve seen quite a few comments from people who’ve stopped going to that church because of that pastor’s life style. He’s become a millionaire off of the church. He lives in a mansion and drives a luxury car. Also the church has no assistance programs for the church goers or community outreach programs. It’s very disturbing to me to see a pastor who’s become rich. I thought they were here to spread the word of God and to share the teachings of Jesus. Unless I’m mistaken, I’m pretty sure Jesus encouraged helping your fellow man not buying yourself luxury cars and mansions from the tithing of the church goers.

  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

  16. I’m a,member of Iboc, we don’t have a lot of high profile people as you call it,,..we are all regular messed up people needing,Gods word like everyone else..we also help the less fortunate, and give back..we have poor members in the church that need help too and have been very Blessed! Also the tanks are apart of a Vision! And when God places something on your heart it will never be,small! So what we have a 4.7 million dollar aquarium! Peoples lives have been changed just by hearing the story behind it! we do not apologize for our Church, our tank,.or our praise! All the pastor is obligated to do is preach Gods word!! Not give money to homeless etc etc,,that doesn’t make him any less of a pastor if he didn’t even though his heart is too big not too! I’m a proud member! I have grown so much passed worrying about what churches are doing with money! I know what the word has done for my life!! I love my church!!

  17. It’s sad that the Atheist is the one that made the most logical post. While some of the so called Christians sound like a bunch of jealous judgmental gentiles that either don’t really know what the word of God says about these things or just pick and choose verses to validate their personal feelings.

  18. IT BREAKS MY HEART…..WINNING SOULS? Really that church could preach and evangelize with a 10 million dollar church…really… many people and familys….homeless…lost hungry….needy…with the other 30 million……at what.point in the bible did jesus win souls..with Things.?!!!!..he met there needs and spread the word!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Such a Sad misleading representations of Christianity…!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is the ulimate example of.worldlyness……Which God commands us NOT! to be like the world….to come out…and be christ like. I AM SURE.they church does alot of good things…..Christ was not materialistic!!!!!!!… to be a christian means to be CHRIST LIKE…..BLESSING TO YOU AND THEM WE ARE SINNERS……BUT 40 million Sad…

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