Many people enjoy fishing as a hobby. Growing up in southern Illinois I had the opportunity to fish in dozens of farm ponds, creeks, old quarry beds, and large lakes.
While I was in high school my church youth group took a float-trip down Missouri’s Current River. There I discovered you can even fish while lying back in an inner-tube, floating lazily down an Ozark stream!
There is however one element common to all the fishing I have done in the Midwest. It always involves the use of a hook and line. Strange as it may sound, experience with the hook and line style of fishing can limit our ability to understand some of what transpires in the Gospels.
Let me explain. You may be familiar with Jesus words to Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19, “Come follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”
In this verse, as Jesus calls His first disciples, He uses fishing as a way to illustrate that those who receive Him as Lord and Savior must learn to share their faith with others. When we read those words, we may naturally think in terms of a hook and line. We often forget that catching fish in a net was the more common practice in Jesus’ day.
There are many differences between fishing with a hook and line and fishing with a net. But for the sake of understanding Jesus’ call to discipleship, the biggest difference lies in the area of cooperation.
Hook and line fishing is very much an individual activity. Although you may see several fishermen in the same boat, fishing the same water, with the same type of equipment, make no mistake about it, they are still individual fishermen. Even among the most cooperative of hook & line fishermen, when the day has come to an end, there is a keen awareness of which fish “I” caught and which ones “YOU” caught.
By contrast, the net fishing methods of Jesus’ day depended on cooperation and partnership. In Luke chapter 5 when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to become his disciples, He grabbed their attention by leading them to a school of fish so large that their nets began to tear as they struggled to haul in the outsized catch.
Luke’s account of what happened next reveals the spirit of cooperation that characterized this method of fishing. “So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:7) Bringing in the catch required a team effort.
Making disciples also requires a team effort. When lost souls are saved, there can be no “My fish” VS. “Your fish” way of looking at the day’s catch. When we make ourselves available to God He allows us to partner our efforts with our believers in ways both known and unknown (to us anyway), so that together we become effective fishers of men.
In the body of Christ, we possess various gifts and temperaments which lend themselves to differing evangelistic styles. Some are quite comfortable confronting sinners with the error of their ways, while others evangelize best by using the gift of hospitality. Some thrive on inviting strangers to church activities, while others prefer to quietly share their personal testimony with a trusted friend.
Whatever your preferred fishing style may be, Jesus invites each of us to step into the boat, join our efforts with our fellow believers, and joyfully serve as fishers of men!
The work of IDES reflects that team approach to disciple making. We praise God for each of you who make our ministry possible day in and day out. Our donors, our volunteers and our prayer partners are all vital to accomplishing the mission He has given us. So are our global mission partners who serve each day as the hands and feet of Jesus. The ministry of IDES is very much a team effort.
Whether we work together to assist disaster victims, feed the hungry, care for the sick, or address the plight of the poor, all is done in the name of Jesus. IDES is above all else a ministry of benevolent evangelism. Our goal is never to simply meet the physical needs of those we help, but to also share the good news of Jesus’ love and His offer of salvation. Each project we undertake is connected to the larger goal of making disciples for Jesus.
Speaking of making disciples, ICOM (International Conference on Missions) will meet in Lexington, KY November 17-20. This year’s theme is “Mobilize – Disciples Making Disciples”. The weekend will be filled with challenging messages, practical workshops and inspiring worship opportunities. As you enjoy all that ICOM has to offer, be sure to connect with IDES representatives at booth #1302.