For those who know me, they know my deep love for fishing. It began as a little boy on my grandfather’s farm digging for worms, catching grasshoppers, cutting cane poles, and fishing for bream in Stock Creek. I remember the first time my dad took my older brother and me to Abrams Creek to fish for trout. I was more hooked than the fish I was trying to catch. Over time, I have fished in many different waters for many types of fish in many different ways. I’ve learned a lot about fishing and the fish I try to catch.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17, ESV)
Jesus has called His followers to be fishers of men (Mark 1:16-20). His call upon us makes us people for His mission: fishers of men. We need to cry out for God’s power to infuse our obedience as we share the gospel intentionally and consistently with those who are far from God. Perhaps, the lessons I’ve learned fly-fishing can help us faithfully fulfill our calling.
1. To catch fish, you have to understand the fish and the water.
In fly-fishing, we study the water’s flow, temperature, and clarity because they influence how the fish feed. We study the insect life of a stream during a particular season to understand when and how the fish will be feeding. In order to catch the fish, we need to understand them and their environment.
We should do no less when sharing the gospel with people in our world. We need to understand how their environment affects their receptivity of the gospel. The more we understand about the way people behave and live in their culture, the more we are prepared to share with them the life-giving truth of God’s gospel.
Distraction 1: Complaining about culture.
When you go fishing, complaining about the weather, water, or fickleness of the fish never helps. In the same way, complaining about the culture in which people live serves no positive purpose in sharing the gospel.
The darkness of culture serves to enhance the light of the gospel. If indeed there are fewer cultural Christians, and if indeed fewer people claim to be Christian simply because it is not as fashionable today as it was a few decades ago, then we are living in times that are more similar to the New Testament church. And we would agree, I’m sure, that the church in the book of Acts was pre-eminently effective in sharing the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ, regardless how dark the culture may be.
2. To catch fish, you have to get to the water.
It’s not enough to understand the fish and the environment. We’ll never catch fish if all we do is remain cocooned in a cabin, studying the ways of fish in our aquarium but never venturing to the water. Fishing isn’t about aquarium fishing, catching fish that have already been caught. Fishing is about going to the water to catch the fish that have never been caught.
When Jesus called His disciples to be “fishers of men,” He was calling them to make disciples of those who weren’t yet disciples. He sent them on mission to the nations (Matthew 28:18-21). Think about His journey. He didn’t remain in the community of heaven, but determined to “dwell among us.” He came to the water in which humanity lived to build a bridge to God for sinners far from Him. His mission is our calling, but we have to get to the water.
Distraction 2: Comfort in the cabin.
So often, we compartmentalize our journey as followers of Jesus to our time spent inside the walls of our gathering with other believers. We love the community of God’s people gathered together for His glory, as we should. But we forget that our journey as followers of Jesus is also outside the comfort of the church. With God’s mission pulsing through our hearts, we must leave the comfort of the gathering of God’s people to share the gospel with people in the world in which they live.
3. You can’t catch fish unless the line’s in the water.
When I was first learning to fish, there was a simple principle that I learned. Unless the bait was in the water, I wouldn’t catch a fish. I’ve learned a lot of different ways to get the bait in the water, but the principle remains the same.
In the same way, if we’re going to help those far from God find life in Jesus, then we need to share the gospel. It’s not enough to get to where they are, but we must also talk with them about spiritual things, purposefully pointing them to Jesus and His gospel.
Distraction 3: Never wetting the line.
Spiritual conversations aren’t always easy to initiate, but I believe people truly want to talk about spiritual things. Jesus has called us and he is making us to be “fishers of men.” Without talking about Jesus with them, we are not fulfilling His calling on our lives as His followers. We have to “wet the line” if we’re going to catch fish. We have to talk about the gospel with those who are far from God if we are going to help them discover life in Jesus.
Jesus has called us to be His followers. He is working in us by His Spirit and through His Word to grow up as His followers so that we will join Him on His mission to help those who are far from God find life through Him.
So let’s understand the people to whom He is sending us every day. Let’s go to where they are. Let’s share the gospel!