(Jesus) said to Simon, “Push the boat out further into deep water. You and your partners let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” They caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. Peter fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!”…Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5: 4-9 GNB)
While praying about this post, the Spirit impressed on me what a great fisherman Jesus was, He had divine gifts, of course, enabling him to teach fishing professionals like Simon the best spots. We don’t believe He caught any himself just that he taught the pros a thing or two.
Here in this text, Jesus instructs His future apostles where and when to catch fish, preparing them to catch people. While it hardly seems fair to the fish, it was necessary for Simon and the rest to learn to obey and follow the Master Fisherman
Like Peter, modern churches work very hard to catch fish (new disciples). Church professionals employ a basket full of glitzy lures: amazing lighting and sound systems, highly skilled musicians, talented preachers in designer suits or jeans (depending on the age of their audience), sophisticated programs and curricula, beautiful cathedrals, elaborate mega-church campuses, every media technique known to man and a host of community service projects.
Yet we don’t find any of these expensive, elaborate lures on Jesus’ list. The first church grew explosively without them. Sadly, we are in the same boat as St. Pete. There’s little to show for all this work. In fact statistics indicate that in the U.S., not only are churches failing to catch new disciples, more and more are jumping out of the nets. The arm of flesh has failed. Catching and making disciples is spiritual work which takes the power of the Spirit AND following the Master Fisherman.
When fishermen talk on the bridges of Florida, a favorite topic is, “What’s your bait?” As we said in our last post, Jesus ordered us to use the best possible bait. The Greek word he used for “command” was the same strong noun used for Ten Commandments. ”This is how everyone will recognize you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”(John 13:35 The Message) A former generation sang “What the world needs now is love, God’s love, that’s the only thing there isn’t plenty of.” (Our paraphrase). We all want to be loved,
The first church was wildly successful following His formula. They were the “love one another” church, They were “in one accord.” They practiced charity among themselves thereby obeying Christ and demonstrating God’s love to their neighbors. With this tried and true formula they witnessed many “fish” brought into the Kingdom of God.
Of all the modern lures used by today’s church, community service is most attractive. After all, it follows the command to show love to our neighbors. It’s a favorite of liberals, but I remind you their churches are closing in droves. Jesus never taught it would win people to the Kingdom, the early church didn’t practice it and it just plain doesn’t work. Commercial fishermen don’t catch fish by loving the fish. A TV program about these professionals depicts them as being most successful when they work together in a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie, like the disciples in our text.
Veteran missionaries will tell you that charity given to unbelievers produces “rice Christians,” fair weather disciples. When I was in Taiwan, I witnessed indigent people becoming “Catholics” when priests showed up with goodies. If Presbyterians came with their charities…you guessed it.
How can we preach a gospel of love if we don’t demonstrate it among ourselves? Ask the man on the street his opinion of the church or of Christians. It’s not likely he will say, “Oh, those Christians, how they love each other!”
So, if we really want to love our neighbor we will turn to the Master Fisherman and the power of His Spirit to win them to Christ. Our prayer here at Horizontal Church is His church will begin turning from the arm of flesh to obeying Jesus clear command, that the world will believe.
Lord forgive us for using human means to do your spiritual work. Come Holy Spirit, pour out your love into our hearts for one another and also for our neighbors