Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “Fish Out” as: Depleting a body of water by overly fishing. As followers of Christ, Jesus instructed us to, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17-18). Yet, we look around today and there are many ponds, lakes, and oceans still overflowing with fish waiting to be caught. Is there a problem with our fishing gear, or is it that we’re simply not being shown how to fish correctly?
It is said that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. The idea behind fishing is to know the fish you are looking for and attract them with bait that they’re unable to resist. As technology has advanced in the sport of fishing, shiny spinners and flashy bait that swims on their own have seemed to take the focus off the fact that a plain old worm on a hook with a weight and bobber still catches more fish. That’s the mindset today in the American church. More focus seems to be going into distracting light shows, pyrotechnics, and rock-concert stage antics, all in an effort to lead people to Christ. However, these churches are left with a troubling anomaly. Do they focus more on those they’re trying to reach or do they focus on those they’re trying to keep? This is the decision all churches are faced with; “Do we want to be fishers of men or just keepers of the aquarium?”
People today have been enticed by the trappings of this world. In truth, we spend more time looking at our iPhones, than focusing our eyes upon God. Why? Because we’ve become a culture with an incestuous need for entertainment and self-indulgence. With this, have come churches more concerned with catering to the personal preferences of the few, rather than pursuing the salvation of the many. More time seems to go into becoming the “Next Big Thing” in ministry, than our obligation to preaching the objective truth of God’s Word. The result, a room full of “Lukewarm Christians” looking for entertainment, while occupying the seats of people that really need to be sitting there and getting saved. You may be saying to yourself, “Why can’t the church have both types of people?” The truth is you actually can. By shifting the attention to the people the church wants to reach, the people you want to keep will end up staying; and then those believers that come and go like the ocean tide will find a church somewhere else to drift to and fro.
In the Bible, while Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee He came upon two men, Simon Peter and Andrew. These men were casting their nets into the water, for they were fisherman. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:17-18). While I realize the fishing that Simon Peter and Andrew were doing involved nets and not a pole and reel, let’s break that mold and talk about fishing in today’s terms. The basic idea behind fishing is simple. It’s knowing what bait attracts fish and then cast it out in hopes of fish taking the bait. Along with this comes learning the area in which to fish, the depth of the water, and what type of equipment is best to use. While these are the basic principles for catching fish, in the context of Christ’s word, how do we apply these principles to become fishers of men?
If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles. –Doug Larson. Just as a fisherman carefully selects his equipment for his battle between fish and man, we too need to be choosey in the equipment we select to be fishers of men. It starts by being ready for the fishing excursion before we ever leave the house. Choosing to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) is one of the best ways to insure we have the proper equipment and are ready for whatever lies ahead. Particularly important are the Sword of the Spirit; which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), and the Shield of Faith; useful in deflecting the fiery arrows of demonic forces who don’t want men saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:16). Unless we equip ourselves with these two pieces of equipment, fishing for men’s souls will become virtually impossible.
Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish. –Mark Twain. While having the right equipment is important to our fishing excursion, we must also become aquatinted with the fish we’re trying to lure in. Unless we study and become knowledgeable about the people around us and their condition, we will never “reel in” these fish on our own; no matter how good of a fisherman you claim to be. Rather we will become fatigued from unsuccessful attempts. Because, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Just like fish, he drives them farther into the depths where the light of the gospel becomes harder to penetrate. Yet, while the deeper Satan tries to drive them, our Heavenly Father already knows which “fish” are already His. Thus, He uses some of us as His best anglers to penetrate the darkness, and bring light to a forever-dimming world.
Never throw a long line when a short one will serve your purpose. –Richard Penn. While shiny spinners and flashy bait has seemed to become the desired choice of many anglers, we must never fall to modern day consumerism. For the plain old worm on a hook still catches more fish; and so does the only effective bait—the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel has the transforming power to change lives, deliver those from darkness into light, and triumph over every obstacle bringing us to eternal joy. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is the power by which no other message, no other “bait” can reel in the fish of God. The same message that Jesus spoke to Simon Peter and Andrew that is still spoken today; and the message of any successful angler fishing the waters for Christ. With heavenly authority, we cast out our nets while declaring, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Unfortunately today, the vast majority of churches aren’t willing to teach people how to fish. At times it appears that more concern goes into building the congregation (the fish), rather than building up its members (the fisherman). An atmosphere of no accountability or true church family exists. People begin to enjoy the freedom of being part of the crowd; yet don’t reap the benefits of being a member of the church. In the end, what is found is continuous turnover because while the church says they want to reach people, in reality they’re more focused on preservation rather than expansion.
Yet, even with the greatest knowledge of how to fish, many times we’re simply left scratching our heads because we don’t know where to begin fishing. But thankfully, we serve a God who does, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish” (John 21:6). We must patiently wait on the Lord like we would when sitting on the shore waiting for those fish to bite. Have our lines ready to cast out, and He will guide our steps to the place where fish are frantically biting. Of course, there will be times where God leads us to fish in areas that may not seem acceptable to us. It is in these moments that we must make a decision. Are we going to follow Jesus like He told Simon Peter and Andrew, or are we going to go fish on our own and come up empty (John 21:3)? It’s your choice; will you become true fishers of men? Or be left telling one of those big fish stories about “The one that got away…”
In closing, when Jesus proclaimed, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” notice He made this statement in future tense. Like you, Jesus saw the potential in their lives before that potential was ever revealed. Many of us live in doubt of our true capabilities and talents provided by God. The fact is, even though you may doubt your abilities, Jesus has already equipped you (Acts 1:8). So grab your nets and head for the largest body of water you can possibly find. Place your faith in Jesus to show you where to fish and go for it! Don’t settle for catching a few little fish in a pond. Run to the oceans and keep casting your net, hand over fist, until you can proudly proclaim… Fish Out!
Building HIS Kingdom One Soul at a Time…