|By all accounts, even modern commercial fishing is dangerous, cold, wet, and
grueling work. Not only that, it is a tough and often uncertain way to earn a living.
However, it would seem those who have chosen this profession would not want to
change places with anyone—they truly seem to love both the challenge and
rewards of their vocation.
Even though I have never spent a single day on a real fishing boat, I can relate to
those in this exhilarating profession! This is because Jesus has called me to be a
fisher of the souls of men (Matthew 4:19). That is what this issue of Proclaim is all
about—the adventure of fishing for souls!
A Dynamic Fishing Lesson
One day Jesus was beside the Lake of Gennesaret, and as usual He was fishing
for souls—preaching to a great crowd. His disciples had also been fishing—all night
in fact. They were only fishing for fish, and they were exhausted and downcast
because after hours of hard work they had caught nothing.
As they were cleaning their nets, Jesus got into one of their boats and asked Peter
to push it out a little from the shore. As the little boat bobbed in the waves Jesus
preached a dynamic message to the eager crowd who had pressed in to hear the
words of eternal life. The Gospel of Luke tells us of a very exciting fishing lesson
for Peter and the other disciples following Jesus’ sermon.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all
night and haven’t caught anything. But because
you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large
number of fish that their nets began to break. So
they signaled their partners in the other boat to
come and help them, and they came and filled
both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’
kneesand said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a
sinfulman!” For he and all his companions were
astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,
and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch
men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed
him (Luke 5:1-11).
As we enter a new year of ministry, my heart is yearning to see Jesus do
astonishing things. I’m especially hungry to follow Jesus and see a miraculous
catch of human souls to come into the Kingdom of God. This passage speaks so
many things to my heart. First, it compels me to listen so carefully for HIS VOICE.
The disciples had worn themselves out fishing all night long and had caught
nothing. But when they listened to Jesus, He not only told them where to fish, He
gave them the motivation to give it one more try. Hear the bone-tired weariness in
Peter’s voice: Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught
anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.
I must confess I know all too well the
frustration that comes when even fervent,
enthusiastic human effort produces
absolutely nothing. Ministry burns people
out like no other profession. But Peter
was obedient! He loaded the heavy,
freshly cleaned nets and all the other
equipment back into the boat, and
pushed his worn-out body to shove the
vessel past the breakers and back out
into the water.
Then he and his helpers began the really hard work of rowing a great distance
from the shore. Jesus told them to Put out into deep water. Deep water is far
from the safety and comfort of shore. Many times I have stood on a beach at night
and stared across a vast expanse of ocean at the tiny little lights of small lonely
fishing boats out on the horizon. The thundering surf pounding the shore, the chill
in the stiff whipping wind, the suffocating blackness of the night sky, along with the
sheer magnitude of the great sea stretching before me makes me feel uneasy and
vulnerable. I can’t help but ponder what it must be like for those fishermen way out
there, miles and miles from shore, working on that little dot of light on the horizon,
letting down their nets for a catch. They are there because that is where the fish
But I do know to a degree how they feel. I too am a fisherman, and more times than
I can count I have been literally thousands of miles from home, from my wife and
family, tired, lonely, feeling weak and vulnerable—preaching and throwing out the
gospel net and praying for a catch of precious souls! I know what it is like to feel
exposed and at risk, having endured earth-quakes, bandits, jungle heat, bitter cold,
behind iron curtains surrounded by bobbed-wire, in poverty stricken, war-scarred
lands. I have lived for months at a time on the very edge of the Kingdom where
churches and believers are few and far between.
I also know what it is like to preach about faith on the world’s most atheistic
continent, Europe. To stare into the desolate faces of multitudes who believe they
have no soul. I know what it is like to be laughed at, ridiculed and mocked. On
America’s college campuses I have faced the utter disgust of sin hardened, angry
crowds who hate the very name of Jesus. But I am in all these places because
Jesus is there and that is where the lost and un-churched live—that is where the
fish are, in the deep water!
The Thrill of the Catch!
I also know the matchless thrill of throwing out the gospel net, by preaching the
everlasting Word of the living God, and seeing precious souls respond to that
message. Imagine the eyes of those weary disciples that day as they strained to
pull in their cumber-some sopped net, as suddenly the surface of the water began
to explode with hundreds of thrashing fish.
Fused with joy and adrenaline they labored
furiously to haul in this great catch of fish. In
all their lives they had never seen so many
fish; finally the nets began to tear under the
strain. They caught such a large number
of fish that their nets began to break. So
they signaled their partners in the other
boat to come and help them, and they
came and filled both boats so full that
they began to sink.
These were not the enormous commercial trawlers of today, this was a group of
small boats all working together to pull in their nets full of fish. We too must work
Their catch was nothing short of miraculous, and so it is with us too in soul-winning
ministry. Like Peter and his companions, we expend everything we have in this
effort, but when it actually occurs we are overwhelmed. No wonder Peter sank at
Jesus’ feet and wept at his own human unworthiness and sinfulness.
So many times I have prayed, prepared, and labored for months on a single
campaign for souls to be saved. But at the moment when people begin to respond
to the gospel and call upon the name of Jesus, I feel the overpowering
awkwardness and even embarrassment at thinking God has used me. This is God’s
holy work! He alone deserves the honor; He will share His glory with no one!
Get on Board!
So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. Like
never before I am overwhelmingly aware that I simply can’t do this work alone.
I often say the reason Evangelism
Fellowship exists is because telling a
lost world about Jesus is too big a job
to do alone. I believe that now more
than ever. I need churches that are
ravenously hungry to see a soul-
saving movement both inside and
outside the walls of their sanctuaries!
I need pastors who recognize the
necessity of networking together with
the ministry gift of evangelism to bring
precious lost souls into their churches.
We must all row together in the same
direction; we must all grasp the edges of the net and pull with all our might!
I need partners who will pray for me daily that I will stand firm in all the will of God
(Col. 4:12). I need partners who will gird me up with encouragement and words of
wisdom. I am so hungry to see a miraculous catch of souls for the glory of Jesus in
the coming year. I need partners who can support and undergird this little vessel,
called Evangelism Fellowship, financially.
We have always been very low key about fund raising, seeking to avoid gimmicks
and high pressure tactics. Simply put, we depend on God’s Spirit to move on the
hearts of His people. Even over the past year as a significant part of our support
base has eroded we have said very little. Even our home church has felt the need
to cut our monthly support by half.
But now in this New Year we place the need before you. We need help and we
signal partners in other boats. We know things are tough but fishing for the souls of
men and women must go on! Even seemingly small monthly gifts add up to make a
huge difference. If you are not currently giving to this ministry, I unashamedly ask
you to pray that God would enable you to do so.
If you are already supporting this ministry YOU ARE NEVER TAKEN FOR
GRANTED. Thank you! As much as I deeply appreciate your faithful support now,
my real hope is that a thousand years from now in eternity, a host of people who
were once lost and on their way to hell, will instead be standing in the glorious city
of New Jerusalem wearing white robes of righteousness. I’m fully persuaded they
will be eternally grateful that they heard the words of Jesus—because you gave! I
want so much to arrive at heaven’s shore with my fishing boat full to the very
gunnels with souls for King Jesus. Thank you for helping me in that endeavor.