Fishing for Men

by Doug Batchelor

When Karen and I decide that it's time to get away and pursue some much-needed R & R, we often head for the enchanting big island of Hawaii. Our friends Steve and Chris Boyl, who live near Kona, always open their beautiful home to us on such occasions.

Steve is a building contractor by trade, but his real passion is for fishing. He owns a little fishing boat and is always happy for an excuse to use it. Though I am a fish-free vegetarian, I do love the sun and water and have often joined Steve and his brother, Joe, while they pursue their favorite diversion. As a result of numerous fishing excursions on the ocean with Steve and his friends, I have come to better understand why Jesus said that if we follow Him, He will make us fishers of men. Here are a few similarities I have noticed between fishing and soul-winning.

1. Fishing can be an addiction.
No matter how busy Steve is with multiple building projects and overdue deadlines, he always drops everything to go fishing. It's as though his contracting work exists only to support his fishing habit. Every Christian should be a fish-a-holic. Whatever our earthly career, it should only be to support us during our soul-winning endeavors. Paul was a good example of this principle. He made tents so he would have funds to save more souls.

Also, because fishing is an addiction, a real fisherman does not easily give up. If we were unsuccessful in one place, we went to another. Sometimes the catch was bigger than others, but Steve refused to return empty. He would continue trying until he caught something. If we were all addicted to fishing for men, we would not be easily discouraged.

"When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Matthew 10:23.

2. A real fishing boat is a tool, not an ornament.
Steve's boat has caught tons of fish, but it will never win a beauty contest. It looks more like a floating toolbox than a yacht. Twenty-five feet of fiberglass built around a large icebox for fish, it has a motor and one chair for the captain with a live bait chamber under it. Not even a primitive bathroom can be found. (This could be why Karen never chooses to join us!)

The whole vessel was designed with one purpose in mind-to catch fish! Though he likes to keep it simple, Steve isn't too proud to make the most of modern technology. He uses fish radar, hydraulic reels, and sophisticated lures.

I believe this should be the pattern for our churches. Jesus would be pleased if all the programs and churches' plans revolved around one paramount goal-to save people! We should be willing to use everything from satellite to video in order to reach people. Too many churches are nothing more than luxury liners built for the comfort, convenience, and entertainment of fruitless fishermen. As Paul Harvey once said, "We have been called to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium."

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." Proverbs 11:30.

3. To catch fish, you must go where the fish are.
Sometimes we had to plow through the ocean for long hours to get to a spot where the fish were. It would have been much safer and cleaner to leave the boat and trailer up on dry land, but the fish were in the water! There is a delicate balance between being in the world without the world being in us. We must guard against allowing our churches to become exclusive clubs that shut out the needy world in order to insulate ourselves from contamination.

Remember that rich man who feasted while the poor beggar lay starving at his gate? The beggar was full of sores and longed to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. The world is also hungering for truth, and to feed the people we must go where they are.

It was fairly common for sharks or barracuda to show up when we started to catch fish. Sometimes they would eat our prize just before we pulled it into the boat. Likewise, the devil always comes around just when people are about to join the church.

Because we knew that there were some impressive sea monsters under the boat, we never got in the water-even on the trips where we stayed at sea for several days. We do not reach sinners by joining them in sin. Remember Jonah!

"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." John 17:15, 16.

4. Sometimes to find fish you must look up.
I was always impressed by Steve's uncanny ability to find the fish in a trackless ocean. One simple rule was to watch the birds. A flock of sea birds working the water meant there were schools of small fish, and where there were small fish there were usually bigger fish, too.

In the same way, when fishing for men we will often need to look up and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit to find the hungry and receptive souls.

"The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7.

5. Fish are attracted to light.
For some reason, we always caught the most fish at night. I know how Peter felt when he said, "We fished all night." However, we always caught plenty. (Incidentally, Peter would have loved the waters around Hawaii.)

After sundown, we would drop a waterproof light off the back of the boat and down into the sea. In the clear water below, we could see thousands of creatures-big and small-swarming around our light. One night we accidentally unplugged the light. By the time we discovered the problem and plugged the cord back in, all the fish had gone to a neighboring boat where the light was still burning. If our light is shining, we will attract souls.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16.

6. Different methods catch different fish.
Another lesson I learned on my trips with Steve was that each fish is caught with different techniques and in different places. For marlin we used a pole, for big tuna a hand line, and for bait fish we used a little rod or even a net. The marlin and ono were near the surface, and the big tuna were down deep. One rule that seemed to apply to all fish was that you can't force them to the boat. You must wait until they stop fighting to reel them in, or you will break the line.

On my last fishing trip, in the middle of the night I caught a 25-pound alua with a 15-pound test line, but it took 20 minutes. Likewise, when catching men you need a tender touch and patience or you'll break the line and the "fish" will get away.

One of the best ways to catch a fish is with another fresh fish. Many times Steve would take a fish he had just caught, put a hook in it, and throw it back out in order to catch a bigger one.

New converts electrified by their first love are often the most enthusiastic to tell their friends and family about Jesus. When reaching men, God uses all kinds of different people with different gifts to reach a diverse spectrum of souls. Everybody can be used of God to reach someone.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." Matthew 28:19.

7. If fishermen work together, they catch more fish.
On one of our trips a few years back, we hooked a 300-pound marlin. There were four of us on the boat that day, and we landed that trophy only by all of us working together in harmony. Steve steered the boat, Jerry pulled the line and kept it out of the motor, and Joe kept the incoming sharks away, took pictures, and helped me work the reel. It took all four of us to lift the monster into the boat, and we all rejoiced together on our way to shore!

"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." 1 Corinthians 3:6.

We all know that fishermen are notorious for telling colorful (and often exaggerated) stories of their adventures and exploits. If they do finally catch a trophy fish, there's a good chance that it will be stuffed and mounted on a prominent wall somewhere for all to see. Then that "humble" fisherman will quiver with excitement to tell the story to any warm body that passes by.

How much better will it be for the fishers of men when, through the ceaseless ages, they with beaming faces can behold their living trophies walking on golden streets.

"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." Daniel 12:3.

Would to God that every church was a fishing machine, with each member using his or her distinct gifts in concert to catch souls for Christ's kingdom.


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