As we walked along the beach on our spiritual retreat in South Asia, we began to pray and reflect on the past season of ministry and the coming one. There, as we experienced the waves and the sand between our toes, we had our first experience seeing fishermen use nets to bring in a catch from the shore.
In the past, as I thought about being a fisher of men, I pictured someone with a fishing rod, baiting the hook to attract a fish and casting his line to wait patiently for a nibble. That’s a more common image I have of fishing. Yet the fishermen Jesus spoke to in His time on Earth cast nets, pulling them back out of the water with an abundance of fish (at least sometimes). In Matthew 4:19 and again in Mark 1:17 Jesus said, “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Though it may seem obvious, the contrast between line fishing and net fishing is dramatic. With line fishing you cast and wait, often alone, catching one at a time. But net fishing is a different activity altogether, offering the possibility of a much bigger catch. It even changes the fishermen’s expectations as they approach the water. Net fishermen cast in groups and bring in a net full of fish together, relying upon one another for strength to draw it back in.
The distinction is valuable as we consider our ministry with Pioneers. We desire to cast the gospel net wide and see numbers believe in Jesus simultaneously in order to build a church and allow the people to support one another in grace and love. Line fishing is a solitary art, and while it is always appropriate to cast a line out with the Good News, at Pioneers we deliberately choose to work in teams so that we may help one another draw new believers into God’s fold. There is a promise in Jesus’ words to His disciples—a promise multiplication (in contrast to addition) as new believers learn to cast their own nets and draw others into the Body of Christ.