When Jesus spoke about His mission to His earliest followers, He said it this way to them in Matthew 4:19.
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [ESV]
For nearly 2000 years, that text has been read or quoted at one time or another in churches all across the globe. Millions of believers have nodded their heads in agreement. Maybe they even let out an “Amen” under their breath. Or an emphatic, “Preach!”
There’s a big difference between agreeing with what was written or said in Scripture and surrendering to it and obeying.
When I think about fishing I think about a person out on a boat in the water, wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off. They have a cooler of PBR or Bud Light and likely wearing a Nascar hat. I am probably way off in that image, but there is one image I think I have mostly right. Every fisherman I have ever seen only has one rod.
When I hear Jesus say, “fish for people,” the mental image in my mind is this; one. Who is that one I’m searching for? The one I have bait for. The one I have time for. Who is my one? In fact a couple years back that was the drum I was beating… “Who is your one?”
But I don’t think that’s the reality of the image Jesus had in mind. To be clear, many fisherman use multiple rods at once. You can drop eight lines in the water at once if you want or use multiple rigs when fly fishing.
I think this is a more accurate picture of what Jesus might have been going for because the men he was talking to weren’t using a single rod. They were using a net.
How should this inform our view and methods for making disciples? Here are three truths about fishing for people.
Don’t Get Tunnel Vision
Tunnel vision is when we get locked in on one, singular thing. In this case it’s a particular lost person we have in mind.
I have to save grandma
I have to save my husband
I have to reach my kid
I’m called to reach my friend
I want all of those people to be saved too. I want God to reach them and transform their lives. But if we get tunnel vision on that one person, we miss the dozens that God is preparing all around us.
Please hear me clearly: I’m not saying don’t pray for those people. I’m not saying don't reach out to those people. I’m not saying forget about them. You must have a vision for their salvation. I’m simply saying, don’t sit for 40 years on a boat with your fishing pole waiting for that particular one to bite, when hundreds have swam all around your boat waiting to be caught.
God is going before you to other people. Don’t get so tunnel focused you miss all the other opportunities God is giving you.
Cast A Wide Net
God is going before each of us and is preparing the hearts of people who will be open to Him. He desires the salvation of people more than we do. Because of that, we should cast a wide net.
When I walk into Starbucks and get to know a barista, I never know if that person is having a rough go of life. It may be that me starting a simple conversation with them is the catalyst to the beginning of a relationship that God uses to reach them.
Cast a wide net.
When I sit at a restaurant to eat, I never know where the conversation with the waiter/waitress is going to go. It may be that God is working things out in their lives in such a way that me starting a conversation with them might be the thing that gets them to make a faith decision.
Cast a wide net.
I started discipling a guy who I met in a Panera parking lot simply by talking about the motorcycle I ride. If I was only thinking about the one fishing pole I had cast out for my neighbor back home, I might have missed that opportunity.
Cast a wide net.
The disciples weren’t told by Jesus to cast out a line. They were commanded to drop their nets. And on a couple of occasions, they caught hundreds at a time. The truth about becoming a fisher of men is: I’ll never get there if I’m simply waiting for a bite on a single line.
Casting a wide net means you should always…
Be Ready With Your Story
One of the best ways to discover if someone is going to get caught up in your net is through your story. Learn how to tell your story in two minutes, in a compelling way, that leads them to a next step. Make it quick because you never know how much time you’re going to have.
Maybe they are about to catch a plane heading out of town
Or their coffee order is almost complete
Or they simply don’t have 30 minutes
Be ready with a simple version of your story that will help you discern if they are someone that God is preparing for you to disciple. This takes practice and surrender to the call to become “fishers of men.”
Put down the single line, fishing pole.
Grab a net.
Cast it wide.
Share your story.