I have never fished with a net, but the Bible uses this as the primary analogy in evangelism. Some say line fishing – a pole & line attached to a hook – is like reaching just one person at a time while net fishing is like a large event that gathers many people at once. Well, I beg to differ on that meaning of net fishing.
I have organized several large-scale outreaches in Ukraine, and in one we saw 3000 decisions in two weeks. We knew none of these people before the outreach, and even with organized follow-up we only saw about 10 people added to the churches involved. Even large ministries will tell you that follow-up is the most problematic aspect of large crusades. Our intentions were always good, but the nets simply broke. Most of our growth has always been through one-to-one encounters.
I started this series talking about an “itch” that I had when I first heard about the way the church was growing in Manila, and now the itch has been scratched and satisfied. The net is not the super evangelist or the crusade. The net is community: individuals, families and social groups that already exist in the world’s community that are saved, trained and ministering in community where the lost live. When we tap into the potential of our members then true net fishing occurs, and fruitfulness is multiplied.
In many western countries individualism has eroded the fabric of community to such an extent that people no longer know their own neighbors. This erosion weakens the very net that facilitates reaching society from within. It makes us strangers to the world even before we become Christians, and when we do finally come to the Lord the church can unwittingly estrange us even more from the lost around us. The most expedient solution to this erosion has been to rely on professional ministers to do 80% of the work that all the members should be doing, but this produces a further atrophy in our God-given ability and desire to share our faith. We simply lose by default.
When Steve first invited me to Manila I asked him what I would be doing to which he replied, “The same thing everyone else does.” This was a bit of a jolt to a full-time missionary like myself, but it was the medicine that I had to take before the itch would leave. Desiring titles or the position as “the man of God” will never advance God’s kingdom, and it may even hinder it as we make ourselves the roadblock that younger growing leaders can never get past. Over the years God has removed much of this mindset from me, and every honest pastor must admit that it is an issue in a world where performance and success are exalted.
As a full-time missionary I am at best a leader (to Jesus, not myself), an equipper, which I love to do, and the rest a follower of Jesus and fisher of men. Matt 4:19 The kingdom is best advanced by ordinary, equipped Christians following Christ in community. This is the essence of what we call “discipleship”.
The highlight of this week for me was taking my friend, Marcus, through our One-2-One booklet over sushi at Teriyaki Boy. He is already a Christian, but I was mentoring him to better reach those whom he meets every day. I am convinced that he will bear much fruit, more than me because he lives and works in community. The examples here of ordinary people bearing extraordinary fruit are too numerable to mention! You need to see it just once…in your own church...in your own life.