This is really a note … a lesson … an admonishment to me … please read and consider as such.
When I was a kid, and even well into my late teens, I loved to go fishing. For the most part, I was a bank and bait fisherman … basically fishing from the bank of the stream, river or lake. My fishing was all fresh-water fishing.
Be it a cane pole, a fly fishing rod and reel or a spin casting rod and reel … the concept was pretty much the same. Some kind of bait … live or artificial … was attached to the end of my fishing line and then either cast into or upon the water where I thought there might be fish. The goal was quite simple … tempt and entice the curiosity and appetite of the fish until they would succumb to those urges and take the bait. Then I would reel in the catch. Obviously, sometime it worked and sometime it didn’t. Also, a lot of sitting and waiting was involved.
Of course you could also buy practice lures or flies without hooks that you could use to practice your casting … then you would practice your casting in the yard or in a parking lot. You knew you wouldn’t be catching any fish … you were just perfecting your casting skill.
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20 (ESV)
I know Jesus said He would make His followers fishers of men but I don’t think He meant for us to become bank and bait fisherman or for our outreach/evangelism technique to be temptation. But oftentimes I have sat in the safety of the church (on the bank so to speak) casting out the pastors, facilities, technologies, sermon series, messages, activities and programs of the church (the bait) hoping that someone would take the bait … hook, line and sinker … and I would reel them in to my church … my religion. Sometimes my casting was into and upon the waters … but more often than not it was on the lawn or the parking lot … being more focused on perfecting my casting skills than on actually bringing in the fish.
And while bank and bait fishing may be acceptable to the Lord in some limited situations, Scripture seems to suggest He is far more interested in net fishing … as noted in the fishing method of Peter and Andrew above.
I believe there is much wisdom to be gleaned from the following Jesus encounter in Luke 5. Read and consider …
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11 (ESV)
Here is what I see in the above passage …
- If you don’t know where to find the fish Jesus wants caught, you’re going to put out a whole lot of time and energy but come home tired and empty handed
- Bank and bait fishing, or doing your casting into the world from the safety of the church, does not appear to be Jesus’ fishing technique of first choice … Jesus said, ‘Put out a little from the land … Put out into the deep’.
- If the Holy Spirit reveals where to find the fish God wants caught, we are to respond in obedience
- When you go fishing with Jesus, He wants you to leave the safety of the shore and launch your boats out into the deep, or the world. That’s where all the fish are.
- There is no bait, or temptation, in net fishing
- The following is my analogy so take it for what it may be worth: the net is the gospel or Good News and it is cast upon the waters in the power of God’s Spirit and His love … then the word of God will be heard and complete its work (Isaiah 55:10-11)
- When you throw out God’s net in God’s way you will catch the fish God has chosen to be caught (see John 6:37,44,65)
- The catch is going to be so large it will require the help of other fisherman.
- And you will be astonished!
My conclusion is that bank and bait fishing is done in relative safety for my pleasure while net fishing has a degree of risk and is done for God’s purpose.
Oh Lord, prod me away from the safety of the shore and into the depths of your purpose!