Do you like to fish? Yes? No? Sort of? Seems the people I know who like to fish are extremely passionate about it while the rest of crowd is indifferent or, at the very least, confine their fishing to memories with a parent or grandparent. Many families have a photo or video or post of a small child, standing next to a pond, squinting because of the sun in their eyes, but smiling, holding up a Sunfish or something similar. That first fish is a rite of passage, isn’t it?
It’s interesting that the first disciples Jesus calls to follow Him are fisherman, and busy ones too! They were part of a fishing operation that included not only the males of the family but additional hired hands. The connection to catching fish and subsequently “catching” people can’t be missed. It makes for pretty powerful imagery. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men!” says Jesus.
But beyond the obvious connection, there is something else for us as well and that is the larger, and I think more personal idea that God wants to use us in our context to share the love of Christ. It’s the idea that “fishing” isn’t limited to only those who fish for fish. Instead, it’s enlarged to include where we live, work, shop, and play—our context for our times.
Let me give you an example. When we lived in Atlanta we decided we would live our lives as suburban missionaries. We wanted to find creative, non-church ways to share the love of Christ. A mentor of mine taught me to think of my circumstances in terms of “circles of influence.” I’ll illustrate with three:
So, these three areas of my life (gym, school, and neighborhood) were where I spent a great deal of time. Because I spent so much time there, that’s where I could have the most influence, and, to help things along, my goal was to befriend and prayerfully invest myself into 3-5 people per circle. Any more than that then relationships became unmanageable—at least those which were deeper than the surface. One result of keeping my investment of time and energy confined to something manageable was a men’s Bible study in our home for 8 men who weren’t into Bible reading!
But here’s another fishing lesson: fisherman will tell you they know where the fish are biting and they’ll return to their favorite spots again and again. In the same way, I would go back again and again to those circles where I spent most of time. I had the best chance there of repeating previous positive experiences. I was known to people, I had built trust, and was seen more as a friend and a neighborhood rather than just trying to evangelize people. Everyone knew I was a pastor, but that was secondary or even tertiary to being a friend and neighbor.
As we continue our sermon series titled “Go Fish!” and learn more about what it means to follow Jesus and fish for others, what are your three circles of influence? Where are the places you spend your time? With whom do you spend most of your time?
One of the challenges I’m facing right now is that I pretty much exist in a Christian bubble. I pastor a Christian church and my children attend a Christian school. Our family budget doesn’t have any room for a gym membership and our neighborhood, well, it’s turning into a whole different experience than Atlanta. Excuses aside, this all tells me I need to find a few new fishing holes! I’m changing my prayers to better reflect that need and praying to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit—where is He calling me to invest in others and invite them to join me as we follow Jesus? Where are the best fishing spots in the year to come?
I’m not really interested in fishing as a hobby. I think the last time I did any legitimate fishing was when I was 9 or 10 and my dad took me on a fishing trip. I still have some old pictures and the memories of that special time together, but that’s about it. I’m grateful for it, of course, but now recognize I’ve been invited by Jesus to “go fish” as His follower no matter my age or place—to share His love and power with others for their sake and for the sake of His Kingdom. They’re out there—somewhere—and they’re biting! Let’s go fish!