It’s a golden oldie. Many of you know it well. It’s the call of Jesus to His disciples who were fishermen. At the very beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee and encountered these simple fishermen.
He simply said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And please remember that “men” here, as throughout Scripture, is not gender specific, but is the classic term for all of humankind.
“Fishers of men” is what Peter, Andrew, James and John indeed became, and it’s what every one of us as disciples of Jesus Christ is also. What an enormous wealth of information is compacted in that one simple phrase.
Recently I preached on this again and I gave “The Top 10” for the concept of being “Fishers of Men,” which means that we share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everybody we possibly can in order that they, too, may enjoy the salvation and blessings of a relationship with Him. I’ll share these with you here.
#10. Jesus didn’t say, “Sit alone on dry land,” but “go fish!” Every fisherman, not gender specific, knows that you can’t catch a fish unless you wet a line. It’s action, activity, and intentionality. To “catch fish,” meaning bringing others to Christ, we must be about action, activity, and intentionality. All day every day we look for opportunity to share the love of Christ with those around us.
#9. Be addicted. This picks up on the “all day every day” theme. The true fisherman is “addicted” to fishing, fishing incessantly to catch that next fish, and the next, and the next. We disciples want to be “addicted” to sharing the Gospel, working incessantly share Christ with the next person, and the next, and the next.
#8. Decide which fish to fish for. Anglers must make the important first decision about whether to fish for trout, bass, perch, stripers, or marlin. No fisherman would have any success without first making this important identification. We Christian fishermen will want to lovingly identify specifically those whom we will approach with our witness about Jesus. Is it your spouse? Your parents or children? Your brothers or sisters? Your workmates, classmates, or teammates? Your neighbors? Make this important first decision.
#7. Learn to think like a fish. Watch any fishing show on TV and every professional fisherman will state quite emphatically that to catch fish you’ve got to learn to think like a fish. What are their habits? What are their patterns? What are their likes and dislikes? We Christians must get to know the thoughts and realities of our non-Christian friends. What are their lives like? What are their needs? What are their hurts and hopes? And how can we help them see Jesus as the center of all of life’s realities, good and bad?
#6. Go to where the fish are. Think bass boat. Fishermen will travel great distances, away from their normal locations, to get to where the fish are. We Christians must not park ourselves inside our beautiful sanctuaries and expect the un-churched people of the world to come running to us, bursting our doors down to get in with us. Let’s get out there! Move out of our comfort zones. Go where people are who haven’t connected to a church, and lovingly connect with them and lovingly bring them to Christ and His Church.
#5. Use the right tackle and equipment. The angler’s rod and reel are his foundational tools. This is similar to the key to a carpenter’s success, that is, “It’s all about the tools.” We Christians have the foundational tools quite worthy for success. These include the Good News of Christ, God’s word of Grace, the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and the life of The Church. We have what we need.
#4. Use the right bait. Fishermen must figure out the right bait. Worms or minnows or cut bait or any of the thousands of artificial baits? What will connect for their success? We Christians must figure out how to connect with the interests of non-Christians. This may be programs and ministries for children, youth, and adults, special services, or thousands of other connecting methods. If what we’re using is not working, change to something else, ala fishermen.
#3. Fish on! When a fisherman connects with a fish she carefully and gently proceeds with ongoing attention to keeping the fish on and into the boat. We Christians give careful attention to those who have begun to show interest in Christ. We stay connected with our ongoing love and attention.
#2. No limit. Fishermen get bummed out by “limits,” and love it when there’s no limit on their favorite fish. We Christians celebrate that as we reach to the world with Christ there is no limit imposed. We can keep at it! Nothing needs to stop us.
#1. We catch ‘em, but God cleans ‘em. This is the best one. Ultimately God is the difference in people’s lives, not us, and that’s a very good thing.
[Kollmeyer is Sr. Pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Find out more at www.princeofpeacefayette.org]