The only time I ever went fishing was when I was ten years old and away at camp. I vaguely remember sitting beside a river on the Norfolk Broads with a rod and line for hours, not catching anything. Nothing about the experience has ever induced in me the desire to go fishing again!
One of the first encounters with Jesus recorded in Luke’s gospel is when, after an unsuccessful night’s fishing, Jesus commands Peter & Andrew, James & John to let out their nets again on the opposite side of the boat. The four business partners are astounded at the extraordinary number of fish they catch, so they leave their nets and follow Jesus. Jesus speaks directly to Peter and tells him that from now on he will fish for men.
If we are to understand that fishing for men is a picture of gathering people to become Christ followers then it is also helpful to reflect upon the kind of fishermen these were. My fishing with a rod and line was essentially a solitary activity. The two pairs of brothers however would work together as a team, operating the boat and their fishing nets in partnership. Making disciples is a corporate activity for the whole church, working together in partnership, rather than a specialist task for a few key individuals.
In a recent prayer time I felt that God was inviting us to draw an imaginary circle round each of us to represent the different places we go and the different people we meet. As I looked I realised that many of these circles overlapped and created a net that covered our locality. A regular part of the fishermen’s work was mending the nets. The reorganisation of our small groups that we have undertaken over the last few months is akin to mending the nets, getting them ready for fresh fishing adventures.
In one of Jesus’ resurrection appearances we find that these same disciples have returned to Galilee and gone fishing. Again they had caught nothing. Again Jesus tells them to throw to their nets out of the boat. Again a huge catch is landed that threatens to sink the boat. As we launch Connect groups straight after Easter let’s do so in the expectation that Jesus knows where the fish are, and that he will bring in a huge catch. Let us do so recognising that fishing for new disciples is a team activity which depends upon strong connections between the different parts of the whole church.
This blog post featured in the April 2014 edition of Lifelines