19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you cfishers of men.”
Let’s return to the subject of impact we began in Part 1. The above passages are often used to talk about Kingdom metrics. Are we catching any fish? Can you show me a little produce? If some ministry is undertaken and doesn’t immediately turn into a Billy Graham Crusade, there is always some critic standing off to the side saying, “The Lord must not be in it.” I hope I thoroughly debunked such thought by pointing out that Jesus’ earthly ministry was a far cry from a 20th Century revival meeting. We’ve forgotten the hard truth about bearing fruit.
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Fishing is a very different venture today than it was in Jesus day. One did not fire up the ol’ bass boat and go shooting across the lake, fishing poles in hand, looking for a lunker to mount on the wall. Peter, for instance, was a subsistence fisherman. He sold or ate what he caught as a way to make a living. It wasn’t pleasure boating and there was no motor. Sails, oars, nets, and calluses were his companions. He was usually not alone, but in teams; generally part of a family business. It wasn’t always successful either. I’m thinking about after Jesus’ resurrection, when He was on the shore broiling some fish for breakfast, with His identity hidden from the disciples. He asked, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” (John 21:5)
True, after that they do catch a boatload of fish, pun intended. But it was a miraculous catch. When you see a giant catch, of either men or fish, it is miraculous.
In Acts 2, thousands believe at once. But later in Thessalonica, Paul sends a letter to the church there wondering if any of the initial small band of believers remained faithful after he was forced to move on. It is good news, they were still plugging away. There was persecution. There was heresy regarding the resurrection of the dead. Some had likely been killed. That is why that particular church is concerned with the resurrection of the dead and whether they missed it. The point is, there are a few great days in a fisherman’s life, and a lot of just ok days in a fisherman’s life. There are some days and seasons where they catch nothing. You cannot just say, “Show me some fish,” and then if there aren’t any, tell people they are not real fishermen. It is a poor measure of Christian impact
But Jesus only used the fishing analogy with fishermen. He used farming metaphors and parables far more often because most of the world were subsistence farmers. The apostles preferred them, too. Farming is a slower operation than fishing. Especially if one is pioneering. Fast forward a few thousand years to America, when a pioneer left the eastern seaboard to cross the Mississippi to go into the unsettled Western lands, he was not going to prepared fields. He had to cut down trees and pull up stumps. He had to remove the rocks from the fields and then build fences for his livestock with them. He did all this without one power tool or diesel tractor. Once the land was cleared and prepared, he could then begin to plant crops. Then, if the rains failed he had to carry water to each plant. He had to hoe and weed every day between planting time and harvest. Months of labor to get one annual crop.
To cultivate vineyard crops to fruitfulness takes 2-3 years. To cultivate an orchard from seed to fruit bearing tree takes 7-10 years even today. These are not fast operations that pay dividends in a few weeks. There is an art to them. Pruning vines and trees is a skill still sought after today. Again, the point is this, that in a culture with microwaveable popcorn and instant pudding, asking the question, “Where is the produce?” can get super skewed because of the speed at which we live in the modern world.
Human Trafficking ministry is in a pioneering stage too. We are not generally working in pre-cultivated fields. I heard a TBI agent say recently, in a meeting filled with anti-human trafficking non-profits, that U.S. law enforcement was late to the game. While non-profits had been laboring in the fields of human slavery since the late 18th century, the legal framework and the services needed to help bring an end to human trafficking and restore its victims to wholeness are just now coming online. We’re cutting down trees, pulling up stumps, and removing rocks at this point. Cultivated fields will be left for those that come after us. Catching fish and bearing fruit will come with the daily labor of going out, faithfully, with scant resources and no knowledge of how the Lord will supply, just that He will; and casting a net with a team, or hoeing hard ground and hauling in water for individual plants. One day there will be a miraculous netfull of fish. One day there will be a harvest feast of celebration. Until then we should,
- Measure impact by faithfulness to God’s Word, allowing it to guide us to best practices, without our eyes on the emptiness of the net or the barrenness of the field.
- Follow the Apostles example of being willing to go for no personal profit and without the knowledge of where the resources will even come from.
- Realize that fishing, pioneering, and farming are long, slow processes and it takes years to develop the skills and knowledge to do them well. Therefore, we are to labor faithfully, like the Thessalonians did, where Paul wrote to them saying, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Questions for Meditation
Do you get discouraged easily if there is not near immediate fruit in ministries that you are a part of?
Are you willing to be a bridge builder for future generations of Christians to labor for the Lord on foundations you help to lay? If not, why do you think that is?
Do you think some of the problems the American Church has experienced has been caused by its unwillingness to do the hard work of seed sowing and planting, coupled with its desire to pick the low hanging fruit on trees planted by others?
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Rescue 1 Global