Jesus often went fishing with his friends. It must have been one of those sports that he enjoyed. We also see in the scriptures that he loved having fish with his disciples for a nice meal. Jesus even used the idea of fishing as an illustration to reach others with the gospel. He told his disciples to follow him and that he would make them fishers of men.
Matthew 4:18–20 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and commissioned his church to do the same. This causes me to consider a question. Would it be plausible that if we are not fishing for men, then we are not truly following Christ? As I thought about fishing, some parallels of fishing for fish and fishing for men came to mind. Here are eight thoughts that I hope will help encourage you to follow Christ in fishing for men.
Wise fishermen make preparation before they actually go out fishing. They put appropriate attire on for the activity. They get their gear. They’ll often prepare several leaders for their line in advance so they’re not spending too much of their time making leaders when they’re supposed to actually be fishing. We will generally be more effective in sharing the gospel with others when we prepare our self through prayer, meditate upon the word of God, and are actively part of our local church. When we come together as a church to exhort one another, it helps prepare us to go out into the world and be fishers of men.
It is important to bring a tackle box with you when you go fishing as it provides storage for you to have enough supplies to go fishing. I’ve gone fishing before and didn’t have the right bait. I’ve forgotten to bring weights with me. When I was without these needed supplies, the time fishing wasn’t very profitable and I went home rather quickly. It is important to memorize bible verses and references so you can have scriptures stored in your mind to readily give the gospel and answer questions people may ask. For starters, the “Romans Road” is a good selection of scriptures to memorize (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 5:1). Underline them in your bible, make cross references to other scriptures, and store them in your memory and it will do you well as a tackle box does for a fisherman.
The first time I went fishing at a river I thought to myself, surely since I got here early in the morning and if I stay till dark then I’m bound to catch at least one fish. I didn’t catch anything after being out all day! Another fisherman told me that you can usually expect to catch a Steelhead every 500 casts or so. Then I read online that Steelhead is sometimes even called the “1,000 Cast Fish.”
I learned to be a good fisherman requires patience. Some may give up fishing after trying only once or a few times. But real fishermen are patient and keep on trying. If a fisherman hasn’t caught any fish, or simply hasn’t caught his legal limit yet, he will often keep on trying. They don’t want to give up. They will tell themselves “just one more cast” over and over again. Fishing takes both patience and endurance. I’ve been told that when a relatively big fish takes the hook then it can take 1-3 hours to successfully reel the fish in. That can be exhausting.
After going soul winning for so long and not leading anybody to Christ can sometimes be discouraging and make you think it’s useless spending your time that way. Yet we see the fisherman enduring with much patience till he catches something. And if he unfortunately doesn’t that day, he doesn’t just give up. He goes fishing again another day. The eternality of the soul in heaven or hell ought to be more of a concern to us than a steelhead or salmon. The more we go fishing for men, the more likely we’ll make a catch. We often will reap in proportion to how much we sow. The more patient and passionate the fisherman is, the more likely he will catch fish. The more passionate and determined we are as Christians to fish for men, the more likely we will catch some. Let’s gain the excitement to “just give out one more tract” over and over again.
Fishermen use bait, lures, scents, etc, to attract fish so they can catch them. We also need to do our best to attract people to Jesus Christ, to persuade men to believe upon him for salvation (II Corinthians 5:11). I’m not talking about sugarcoating the gospel. The gospel must be given in its pure form, teaching repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, our life ought to reflect an attractive life in Christ. I’ve known Christians who if I was lost and saw their life, I would want no part of it. They were sour and mean spirited. We won’t successfully fish for men if we are not living a life that is spirit filled and following Christ. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Where some people error is when people say their only method of evangelism is their life style. They say that they don’t want to impose their beliefs on others, so they will just live the best life they can and maybe people will want to believe the gospel. According to a study by the Barna Group, three out of four Christians in the United States (74%) will share their faith only through “lifestyle evangelism,” an approach void of direct, verbal witness to the lost around them. The oxymoron is that by not sharing their faith with others, they are not following Christ’s command to teach the gospel to every creature.
Suppose there was a man who lived by the lake and bought some fishing rods and reels. He also purchased bait, lures, and clothes for the occasion. He talked about how he loved fish. He even decorated his house with fishing gear and photographs of fish. Yet he never personally went fishing. He lived much of the life of a fisherman, but he could not rightfully be called a fisherman. His lifestyle alone does not catch fish. We ought to do our best to live for Christ, to have a testimony that is attractive to others when they see your love, the peace you have, and the joy that you possess. A lifestyle that is becoming of the gospel combined with a verbal witness of Christ will attract people to the good news of salvation from sin.
Using a net helps prevent losing fish that are on the line. We don’t just give up on catching a fish when it is close to the shore. Sometimes we use the assistance of others to draw a net. When one professes Christ as their Saviour, we ought to do our best to help them be grounded in their understanding of the word of God. This sometimes takes a team effort. Some plant, others water, and God gives the increase. One may have shared the gospel with someone, and yet it may be later when they hear the gospel again when they get saved. Then there may be a Sunday School teacher that helps them continue to grow in their walk with the Lord. Or it may be you teaching them one on one that they may continue to grow in grace. Just as fishermen use the help of others, we also can be more effective when we utilize help from others as well. Someone made the fishing rod, another provided the line, another made the hooks and lures, and another person made the bait. Then one catches the fish. We can be assisted in our evangelism through bringing a prayer partner with us when we go on organized church outreach events, help prepare for an event, design or order tracts, praying for others when you’re unable to physically go out. Having genuine hospitality towards others when they visit your local church can also help net them in.
When one catches fish, it doesn’t take long to learn that fish stink. Some don’t go fishing because they don’t like the smell. Fishermen can’t get around it. If they’re going to fish, there will be unpleasant smells. Everyone of us stinks with sin. We may all have different sins that we struggle with, but all of our sins stink. If you follow Christ and go fishing for men, you’re going to find sinners. We must be willing to go where it stinks, and be loving towards sinners whether they’re out in the world or visiting your church. It is Jesus Christ alone who can clean up their life, so point them to Jesus who washes away our sin.
Fishermen make fishing a priority. That is why they end up bringing fish home on a regular basis and feed their family. Christians ought to make fishing for men a priority. Many people are eager to launch a new business, career, hobby, or start a new relationship. Many see the spiritual need surrounding them. Yet few have the faith and courage to take action. Few are surrendered to launch out in response to Jesus’ command, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Will you begin making fishing for men a priority? Perhaps start out by committing yourself to give out at least one gospel tract a day. By the end of the year you would at least have given out 365 seeds of the gospel message.
Besides enjoying spending time with my children, going fishing with them brings another advantage. We get more poles in the water and are likely to catch more fish. As a church, we will lead more people to Christ when more of us are fishing for men. I encourage you to be faithful to give the gospel message to those God puts in your path as well as get involved in your church’s scheduled outreach opportunities. The more people there are fishing for men, the more people you are likely to catch with the goodness of the gospel. After Jesus got Peter and Andrew to follow him, he didn’t stop there. He called after James and John as well, and many others.
Matthew 4:21–22 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Fishing can be challenging, but good fishermen are optimistic when they go fishing. They go with an attitude of hope that they’re going to catch fish. Recently a restaurant owner asked me how the church was doing and said “Your job must be more difficult than mine. People have to eat food. They may not always come here, but we’re likely to have a steady customer base as people need to eat and people love pizza. You on the other hand have two options to grow your church, and both are difficult."
- "You can try to get people from another church, but if they’re already at another church then they’re probably already content where they’re at."
- "Or you need to convince people that don’t believe in God, or hate church, to change their mind and all of a sudden desire to start coming to your church."
He was right. Fishing for men can be challenging. Our focus is not the first option, but rather the second. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If myself and two other men go fishing together, let’s say Daniel and Bruce for example. Suppose Daniel catches three fish and puts them in his ice chest. However, Bruce and I don’t have such luck. So Bruce takes two of the fish out of Daniel’s ice chest and puts them in his own. I see that and take one fish out of Bruce’s ice chest and put it in my own thinking its fair that we all have one fish. Have we caught any more fish than the original three that Daniel caught? No! There were still only three caught, they just changed hands. A church’s growth ought to be primary of reaching new people with the gospel, not simply swapping members from one church to another. Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not keepers of an aquarium.
Although this can be challenging, we are most likely to catch men if we are optimistic in our attitude and pray believing that the Holy Spirit will use us when we fish for men. Set aside pessimistic attitudes about soul winning. Fishing for men won’t work if you don’t work at it. You may have already toiled a lot by giving out many tracts, inviting people to church, telling them about Jesus, but seemingly having no results. Don’t give up. Keep on fishing for men. Cast your net out at Christ’s word and you’ll reap a harvest of fish.
Luke 5:4–8 Luke 5:4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
Luke 5:10–11 …And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.