Gospel Fishing – Partners In The Other Boats

Gospel Fishing – Partners In The Other Boats

Gospel Fishing – Partners in the Other Boats. 

“Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And that time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.” (Luke 5:5-7).

One thing right at the start… When we are fishing for people with the gospel nets, keep in mind that Jesus knows where the fish are, and we don’t.

Often enough the kingdom fishing enterprise comes up empty. No catch. Not one fish. An empty boat. A barren net. Other times, fishing can be successful in kingdom terms. Revivals happen as the Spirit leads. When the church has let down their nets and there is abundant fishing, like with Peter in his boat in Luke 5, what does the church do? How does a church handle revival? Two options:

(1.) Hoard the fish no matter how full the boat. Keep the fish for yourself. Expand your building programs, it puts your name in lights, it could make you famous in Christian circles, the envy of churchianity. Who could pass up an opportunity like that? More programs, a packed sanctuary with a real buzz, the excitement of success, a larger organizational structure of course. The bigger the better. The more the merrier. A full to bursting church boat certainly could massage the ego of the minister and the pride of the church. Look at how successful we are! I must be a pretty good preacher! We must be an amazing church! That may sound crass if not cynical, but ministers are human, church members are human. Success unfortunately brings along with it pride, the kind we are all vulnerable to.

(2.) What would happen if the churches did what Peter did in Luke 5, call out to the partners in the other boats? How about we share the fish haul with the well-led, trust-worthy churches down the street? Why not do a  Simon Peter…. Here, take some of these fish in your boat. “The mark of the authentic net of the kingdom of God is that when it comes up loaded with fish, it shares the blessing and the work with others. There is none of this, ‘These are my fish, I caught them, and I am going to keep them even if my boat sinks.” (Rev. Richard Bieber).

When we lose sight of the fact that these fish were drawn into the gospel net by the winsome power of God, we may lose the presence of Jesus in our church. When we start to think of God’s gospel net as our net, not God’s net; our boat, not God’s boat; our fish, not God’s fish; our success, not God’s success… then the real fishing of the real kingdom starts to take place elsewhere. If God brings a revival, we can choose to exploit it to our ends, or use it as a way to build a wider kingdom net that can be shared with other boats, with the brothers and sisters in other churches. Perhaps the partners in the fishing business could form a wider net to bring in more fish? And maybe the new fish will see that we are not trying to fish everyone into our kingdom, but God’s kingdom. The more we share the fish, the greater the likelihood that we aren’t into our own kingdom-building.

But discernment is needed, isn’t it? There may be some churches down the street that don’t believe in the centrality of Scripture, in the Trinity, in keeping away from morally compromising beliefs. The churches down the street might try to disciple new fish away from Jesus Himself.

First of all, maybe we shouldn’t be looking for doctrinal purity according to our denomination. It would probably be a good exercise for the church to study the importance of the fundamentals as found in the Apostle’s Creed, the inspiration of the Bible and the dependence of the Christian on God’s Word. Maybe some of our divisions would drop away if we focused on the basics of the faith, and not our favorite theologian or pet doctrine. By avoiding minor issues, focus on what unites all Christian believers, no matter what the denomination. And perhaps the flourishing church wants to keep the new fish and send their older church members to other churches, so they won’t be building their own little kingdom. Maybe this way we could have Lutherans sharing fish with the Baptists, Presbyterians asking for help from the Anglicans, Roman Catholics sharing with other parishes or sacramental churches. Maybe we could have Methodists with a full boat calling over to the Missionary Baptists, or the street church with a well-established church.

In calling over to our partners in the other boats, we will need to become uncomfortable and challenged and open to change. The partner boat might look different from your boat. But can’t we have a mostly white church share the fish with a mostly black church? Can’t we have a bustling house church ask for help from a refugee church? Wouldn’t it be exciting if a fish from a suit and tie upper middle-class church could share with a partner in a jeans and t-shirt church? Might a believer discern what is truly important if a church believes in calling in help from a partner church?

As the revival becomes a national reality, and it will, Lord willing, and as the gospel net gathers in more fish and starts to swamp the boats, rather than building a bigger boat, how about if we call out to our partners in the other boats down the street or across town. Maybe the power of God, like in Luke 5, will fill up both boats, and those boats will have to call in even more boats. Perhaps the kingdom can spread wider and deeper this way, and the loving fellowship and connectedness of the boats will speed the revival along even faster.

[This article is in honor of an amazing pastor who guided a small Lutheran church in Detroit, Michigan, for many years. His name is Rev. Richard Bieber, and he passed away at the age of 92 in 2021. Pastor Bieber actually preached this very idea in his church, and he was known as someone who would refer new believers to other churches he trusted. His church grew full, yet he continued to call other partners in other boats to help disciple the new fish. So, it can be done. Why isn’t it done more?]