Some people understand fishing. Some fish local rivers, lakes, streams, or ponds. Some fish only oceans or deep lakes. Some fish for monetary gain and some fish for pleasure. I fish for leisure. Of all the fishing trips none stand out in my memory like a trip to Lake Paradise.
One day my friend Ryan and I went to an unfamiliar town for other business and brought along a boat. This particular boat was an aluminum Jon Boat that I had repaired many times. The plan was to try the backwaters of a large lake near where we had work to do. But when the time came to buy bait a local resident told us of a lake not listed on the map. A secret place! With some excitement we followed the man’s directions and with the help of a few home-made signs found our destination.
Arriving at the lake only increased our excitement. Not another fisherman in sight. The lake was quite large and clearly people frequently camped here. Within a few minutes of having the boat in the water I caught a fish. Ryan describes it as the size of a good lure but I say a catch is a catch. Although it is amazing how this particular fish was able to get the hook in its mouth.
Well, after spending some time working the shoreline with no more luck, we decided to head across the lake. Understand this was a goodly distance to cross in a boat notorious for leaking. The possibility of having to swim back to shore required consideration. After some protest I convinced Ryan to put on a life vest. Our destination point was a visible weed bed that looked perfect for bass to hangout. The boat was powered by a battery operated trolling motor and an oar for backup. Halfway across the boat came to a sudden stop. The motor was turning up mud. It appeared we ran into high ground. Using the oar as a depth gauge it was discovered that we were in knee-deep water. Looking at the area that seemed to promise large bass stood a white Crane in water below its knees. It became apparent that flotation devices were not needed. It also became suddenly clear that this secret lake was a massive rain catch the locals used as a party site. We never found water more than a few feet deep, nor were any more fish caught.
One analogy Jesus used for evangelism was being fishers of men. Matthew 4:18-22 reads One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. Many sermons have been preached and many devotionals written about this passage. Why not? This is a great example of the genius of Jesus’ teaching style. Reaching people where they are is easier if they can connect with what is being offered. These men understood fishing. Jesus also used farming, sheep herding, and property management as analogies to name a few things, but these men understood fishing.
It doesn’t take long after a fisherman finds a great secret spot to tell others about it. It doesn’t take long after a person receives Christ as their personal savior that they want to share that secret with others. That is evangelism in a nutshell.
That fishing trip to the ‘secret lake’ is similar to some evangelistic attempts I have made. With great enthusiasm I have been known to venture into unknown territories using patched together theology that may spring a leak or two. Wearing faith like a life vest, just in case my preaching doesn’t float, I head out for places that are sure to harbor the spiritually hungry. After all if you want to catch fish you gotta go where the fish are! More than once I found myself trying to be a fisher of men in shallow waters. When that happens the good intentions that drive me usually end up stirring up mud. I guess Jesus understood this would happen and that is why he also talked about farming and such….
Rev. Burt Schwab