I find the words that Paul wrote to Timothy very compelling: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1-2, NKJV).
The semiannual salmon run was a favorite for many on Whidbey Island, Wash., where Windy and I pastored for nearly 20 years. The fishers would line up every few feet during the peak of the run, sharing their secrets to success.
Catching salmon is a combination of providence and skill—and so is catching people for Jesus. If you are using the same old bait you used years ago, you might want to ask those next to you what they are using to catch effectively! And don’t try to catch those whom someone else has already caught. Find out how to catch those who have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In his classic book, Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, Jerry Cook asked, “Are you a fortress or a force?” What are you trying to do in your local church? Is your goal to keep the “bad” out, or to go and get those who don’t yet know Jesus? Are you a gathering place of the “good,” or are you a force of grace and transformation in your community? We cannot discount providence, but we must continuously adapt our skills as we fish for people.
Although many of the fishers had huge salmon feasts and filled their freezers with the semiannual bounty, I observed people who were fly fishing purely for the joy of the sport. Victory was in the catching, but it was also found in releasing the salmon to be part of the continuing journey upstream to repopulate the streams and oceans with thousands more.
We are to be like those fishers: We are to catch people, make disciples of them and send them out to produce more people who will follow Jesus. We were never asked to keep those we disciple in our possession; rather, we are to train them and send them out into the harvest.
We are to catch, train and send. It’s what Jesus modeled for us with His original disciples. People don’t belong to us; they belong to Jesus. They are to fulfill His call on their lives and go about building His kingdom. So the challenge remains: Are we “stocking our freezers,” or are we releasing disciples as fully trained followers of Jesus to go and multiply?
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