If I were to invite you to go fishing with me, what would you expect?
You would probably expect a relaxing afternoon on the local lake in a small boat, holding a fishing pole, and making casual conversation while waiting for the fish to bite. And why wouldn’t you? Living in America, all we’ve seen of fishing is canes, poles, lines, tackle and bait. Fishing in America is recreation. (Unless, of course, you work on a shrimp boat on the Gulf Coast.)
So, when we read that Jesus told His disciples that He would make them “fishers of men,” we tend to envision fishing poles, spoon lures and minnows.
In the Bible, Peter was a fisherman. Popular tradition holds that he was an expert fisherman, and had honed his craft well, building a great fishing business that he walked away from upon becoming a disciple of Jesus. However, if you were to travel back in time, and hand Peter a rod and reel, he would look at you like you were crazy. Peter had never seen such.
Fishing for Peter, and the other disciples so employed before following Jesus, involved the casting of nets in order to draw in as many fish as possible. This was not recreation to them, this was survival. It was how they gathered food, not only for their families, but also to sell for necessary provisions. Fishing was work. Fishing was business. Fishing was absolutely necessary for survival.
The casting of nets not only enabled Peter and his colleagues the ability to draw out as many fish as possible, but it also required a team effort. You never see the disciples fishing alone. In fact, in many cases, it took two boats to cast and draw a net. There are fish in that sea. We need the food. Therefore, we are going to draw out as many as we can.
With the modern American approach to fishing involving a rod and reel, many get the wrong idea when Jesus said, “Come, and I will make you fishers of men.” Some church leaders have taught that this means that the church should use bait to lure unsuspecting sinners in the door, then hit them with the surprise Gospel. Others have advocated that this means “finding the right fishing hole.” As a result, Christianity’s evangelistic efforts have suffered. As a whole, Christianity is not reaching as many as it has in the past, and new converts are not being properly discipled.
However, if we apply the imagery of casting a net, and drawing it back out of the water, we get a more beautiful picture of what Christ was referring to when He called His disciples to be “fishers of men.” Instead of targeting outreach to certain “fishing holes,” or trying to find the right “bait,” we should instead cast a wide “net,” reaching as many people as possible, regardless of location, demographic, or socioeconomic status.
In essence, our evangelistic efforts should be an all-out effort to reach every individual in our communities. This is accomplished when the membership of the church takes on the responsibility of personal evangelism, and when the church openly promotes, propagates and teaches the Gospel. When the church commits itself to its message, the Gospel, and relentlessly communicates that message, people will be reached and lives will be changed.
The mission of Life Point Baptist Church is to cast as wide of a net as possible, reaching as many as possible with the Gospel. This we will do, if we follow the example of the disciples, and follow Jesus as we continue to learn from Him.