Fishing With a BlackBerry
James C. Denison
Would you rather be paid cash or a compliment? An article in Wednesday’s news says that each activates the same reward center in the brain. In other words, you feel as good when people same something nice about you as when they give something nice to you. Just for the record, our finance committee would rather you put money in the plate than compliment the ushers.
But that’s not all we want you to do. We want you to give of your time and talents to the cause of the Kingdom as well. For weeks now you’ve been hearing about the “gospel,” the good news that God loves us and has sent his Son to redeem us. We’ve talked about the gospel and us, the gospel and relationships, the gospel and the church, and now taking the gospel to our community.
The trouble is, most of us are uncomfortable talking to other people about our faith. We’re afraid they’ll ask a question we can’t answer and we’ll be embarrassed, or that we’ll offend them. We would like our friends and colleagues and neighbors to know Christ, to understand and believe the gospel, but we feel inadequate to the task. We’d rather trust the professionals, the same way we don’t practice medicine unless we’re a doctor or try to fly a plane unless we’re a pilot. Someone could get hurt.
We know that Jesus called us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) starting in our “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8), our community. Some people don’t care about winning the lost, but most of us do. We’re just not sure we can do much to help.
If you want your life to count for God’s Kingdom but aren’t sure how to go about it, you’re the person I’ve been sent to help this morning. I need to answer two questions.
Why does God need you?
Jesus called his disciples to be “fishers of men.” Why? Why do we need to give other people the gospel? Why tell them about Jesus? There are several very honest questions wrapped up in this issue.
First, aren’t the fish fine where they are? Why do they need our boat? Our lake? Our religion?
Our postmodern society believes that the individual is the sole arbiter of truth, the only one with the right to say what is right and wrong. There are no absolutes. We have no right to impose our reality, our values on others. Religion is a private, personal, subjective thing. Except that people make these claims as absolute truths. And to deny absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim.
But do we really believe that the good people we know who don’t happen to be born-again Christians are going to hell? Your neighbor down the street who works hard, loves his kids, and lives a moral life needs to accept your religion to go to heaven? Your friend at work who believes in God and lives a good life needs more than that?
God says they do. Jesus was clear: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14.6a). Acts 4:12 says that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. John 3:18 says that whoever does not believe in Jesus is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And there is a heaven and a hell. Jesus claimed, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). This is the only way into the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” And Revelation 20:15 warns us, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Just because someone doesn’t believe in hell makes it no less real. I can decide to ignore terrorists, but that doesn’t make them go away.
People need us to find them. You are not imposing your own subjective values on them. Their eternal souls are at stake.
Second, isn’t this a job for professionals?
Many of us enjoy fishing, but we’d never survive if it were our living. That’s why God calls professional “ministers,” right?
Actually, he doesn’t. If this were true Jesus would have called rabbis and scholars to be fishermen, but he didn’t. He called Galileans to reach Galileans, tax collectors to reach tax collectors, fishermen to catch fish.
The idea that “clergy” would do the ministry while “laity” pay their salaries and watch is a third-century invention, not a biblical concept. Ephesians 4:12 says that the job of religious leaders is to equip God’s people for works of service. We’re the coaches–you’re the players.
Third, don’t we have all the fish we need?
Our boat has plenty of fish on board, doesn’t it? We have a bigger boat than nearly anyone else, and the fishermen seem happy. Don’t we have all we need?
The fact is, 85% of church growth today is transfer from church to church, swapping fish from boat to boat. Less than 1% of today’s churches are growing primarily by conversions.
When we last checked, we discovered that there are 114,000 unchurched people within three miles of this “boat.” Not until every person has a realistic opportunity to be saved, churched, and discipled, can we quit fishing.
What does God ask of you?
So God needs you. To do what? To go to the fish, where they are, because most of them won’t come to us. That’s what the men in our text were doing: “casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen” (v. 16).
Fishermen in Jesus’ day used two kinds of nets. The sagene was a trawling net, dragged behind the boat.
The more common was the amphiblestron, a circular net weighted on the perimeter with a rope attached at the middle. As it sank down into the water and closed, it trapped the fish, which were then hauled into the boat by hand. This was the kind of fishing Peter and Andrew were doing. These were the nets being “prepared” and repaired by James and John after their fishing was done.