Point of Reference
by Fred Price
When Jesus started His earthly ministry, He called fishermen and challenged them to be "fishers of men." (Mark 1:16-18) The idea was that they were to be intentional and diligent in seeking the lost. (NOTE: A big difference is that fishermen catch living things that die, while fishers of men catch dying things and bring them to life.) To be an effective fisherman, or fisher of men, you need to know your surroundings and the characteristics of the fish you're trying to catch. Weather, season, time of day, type of fish, water conditions, etc. all have an impact on what you do and how you fish! Two hallmarks of good fishermen are patience and commitment (1 Peter 3:15 & 1 Thessalonians 5:14); yet more than that, accomplished fishermen love to fish! In the same way, Christians need to be aware of their cultural surroundings and changes if we want to be effective in "catching" people for Christ. Like the sons of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel should do; we need people of faith and vision who understand the times and know what the church should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)
Fish are not comfortable in a sterile environment and they do not live in swimming pools. A swimming pool is a convenient place to learn the basics and craft some skill. You can learn to cast with some accuracy and develop your touch as you pull the line through the water. But if you want to catch fish, you have got to leave the convenience and security of a clean swimming pool to find a more natural environment. In the same way, we need to understand that sinners don't flock to church or feel comfortable in the sterile environment of stained glass structures. We, the church, need to get out of our safe and comfortable "swimming pools". We need to become intentional and diligent in going to and living among lost people just like Jesus did during His earthly ministry!
All fish are not the same, and they are not attracted to the same lure. If you only use one type of bait, you will only attract one kind of fish and if you use that exclusively, it will eventually lose its appeal. Many churches are still trying to use methods of evangelism that worked for them in the past and wondering why no one is biting any more. They don't realize, or aren't willing to accept the fact, that the world is constantly changing. As a result, the church needs to constantly be developing new methods of ministry and evangelism to be effective.
I am NOT suggesting that we change our message or compromise the Truth. God forbid!! I am simply pointing out that we have got to be willing to evaluate our methods, challenge our traditions, and adapt our outreach in order to be good fishers of men. Jesus routinely challenged the techniques and traditions of the Jewish "church", preaching wherever he could draw a crowd, taking advantage of every opportunity that came his way. In doing so he encouraged others to try their hand at fishing - with some modifications - achieving astonishing results; solidifying his own ministry while launching the ministries of others through his call to follow him and become fishers of men. (Luke 5:1-11) In an incident hauntingly familiar to this early call to ministry, Jesus appeared to a number of his disciples after his resurrection yet before his ascension. Returning to the familiar rhythm of life as fishermen, several disciples had fished all night on the Sea of Tiberias, again coming up empty-handed. Once more Jesus met them on shore and inquired about their catch, advising them to try again, with a minor adjustment. "When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish." Having already called them to ministry, he used this experience to re-invigorate and rededicate them to their original response; specifically challenging Peter to recommit his life to ministry as a result of his love for Christ (John 21:1-17); expressed in service to others.
We can go on fishing in the swimming pool and although many will laugh at us, few will oppose us!! Or we can pack it up and launch out into the untamed places where there will greater risk and greater reward. I want to go fishing. How about you?
Based in large part on an article by Greg Comp, featured in "In Focus" (a bi-weekly newsletter of First Christian Church in Brazil, Indiana).
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Fred Price - married (48 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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