Fishing Is Simple

It’s Canada Day weekend 2007 and I’m going fishing with my not quite 5 year-old daughter Anya. I’ve got a tackle box full of lures, a container of worms, and a myriad of accessories to help me catch “the big one.”

Anya, on the other hand, only brings her pink, plastic, Barbie fishing rod with a single rubber worm on a hook.

I’ve packed a tonne of stuff because I’m attempting to prepare for every possible scenario. Anya brings very little because, for her, fishing is simple—attach the rubber worm to the hook on the pink plastic fishing rod and cast repeatedly.

Simple.

For the last month at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I have been delivering a series of messages under the heading “Go Fish” (the title is inspired by Andy Stanley). Go Fish is a series about evangelism. Go Fish comes from the agenda Jesus articulated to His first would-be disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).These messages are aimed at helping followers of Jesus understand why we talk about Jesus to others, and how we can do that more effectively.

In my message delivered on Sunday November 15 (audio below), I made the assertion that the Christian church, when it comes to talking about the way of salvation, has often been guilty of muddying the water. My conviction is that we need to keep things simple. We need to remember that the Gospel is simple—profoundly simple, but simple nonetheless.

In an effort to highlight the simplicity of the Gospel, the message below unpacks one of the most familiar verses in the Bible—John 3:16.

If you’ve ever been anxious about talking about Jesus with others, if you’ve ever imagined the message to be beyond your ability to articulate, if you’ve ever doubted that you know enough to tell the story, then I urge you to listen to this message.

I’m convinced that my daughter Anya has it right. Fishing is simple.

And when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. If God wanted to have a relationship with us, you wouldn’t expect Him to make the way complex or confusing. You would expect Him to make the way clear and understandable. The way is clear. It is simple. May that give every follower of Jesus the confidence to Go Fish!

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Don’t Fish Alone

My wife gets nervous when I go out fishing alone. Often she’ll insist that I take along a walkie-talkie when I’m fishing alone from my canoe (which is also handy for summoning me for lunch!). Admittedly, there is a safety issue here, but there is one big setback to fishing with a buddy: There is competition for the limited supply of fish!

Yes, fishing can be a competitive sport. How many fish did you catch? How big were they? Fishing with a buddy will likely limit your personal catch.

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus approached four men on a beach and called them: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). When Jesus called these men, I don’t think He was calling them to a competitive sport. My sense is that Jesus was calling them, and us, to a team pursuit. When we’re “fishing for people” we’re not fishing for personal gain, but for a bigger purpose. We’re fishing  in response to Jesus’ call, and as a way of participating in the growth of the Christian Church.

But here’s the awesome thing: my fishing ability does not determine the size of the catch. When I fish for fish, skill and experience matters a tonne. When I fish for people, however, the “catch” is determined by another. Jesus, who calls me to fish for people also makes this promise: “I will build My Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

In other words, Jesus is not relying upon us to build His Church. Our job is simply to fish, to drop a line, to explain the way of salvation to another. It is also encouraging to note that fishing for people is not a solo mission. Jesus made a group of followers into “fishers of men”. You could say that the early church was a collection of “fishing buddies”—followers of Jesus got together, and one of the primary things they did as a group was assist one another in spreading the message of Jesus.

We admitted in the post prior to this how fishing for people can be an intimidating exercise. I am encouraged by the example I see in the New Testament: We need not fish alone.  And, as we commit ourselves to fishing with others, Jesus promises that we will succeed—not with every person, not on every occasion, and maybe not immediately—but ultimately, Jesus promises that our efforts to fish for people will not be in vain.

For my complete list of fishing tips for fishing buddies, I encourage you to listen to a message I delivered at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on November 8. Once you’ve done that, grab a buddy and go fish!

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Afraid To Fish?

I think most Christians get that we’re called to “fish” for people. Jesus made His agenda for His followers quite clear (Matthew 4:19).

And yet, from what I see, many Christians are reluctant to fish. It’s not that we think fishing for people is unimportant or unnecessary. Our challenge, I suspect, is that we’re afraid to fish.

We’re nervous about the potential of fracturing a relationship if we talk about Jesus. We’re paralyzed by the prospect of offending someone. We’re anxious about what to say, and how to respond to difficult questions.

It should be of some consolation to note that the first followers of Jesus began as a bunch of cowards. When Jesus was arrested, they all deserted Him. When Peter was approached, he denied knowing Jesus on three successive occasions. We’re not the first group of people to be afraid to identify publicly with Jesus.

But here’s the thing. The first disciples ultimately overcame their fear. Not only did they overcome their fear, but they became the courageous leaders of the early church. How did this happen? The first followers learned to rely on a power bigger than themselves—they stepped up their commitment to pray (see Acts 4:23-31).

I note that the early disciples prayed differently than I often do. When adversity strikes my instinct is often to pray, “Lord, get me out of this”, “Lord, make this go away.”

Amazingly, the early church didn’t envision a life without persecution, and they didn’t pray for their adversity to go away. Instead they prayed: “Lord, enable us to speak your message with boldness” (Acts 4:29).

My dream is for followers of Jesus in 2009 (and beyond) to own this prayer. Our fear, in a sense, is normal. However, it is the Lord’s custom to equip His people to do that which He calls them to. Jesus has called us to fish. If that makes you nervous, may I encourage you to pray for boldness to deliver Christ’s message.

You may also appreciate the longer version of my perspective on this—the audio below comes from a message I delivered at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on Sunday, November 1.

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