4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7 (NIV)
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7 (NKJV)
At an Exponential (Church Multiplying) Event last week, I heard a speaker say something to the effect that Jesus told Peter to let down his nets, but Peter only let down one net and the catch was so big it split the net. The speaker’s point was that often Jesus is telling us to fish with the nets (plural) and we reluctantly fish with just one net. God wants to bless us with a mess of fish that won’t fit in our boats, and we are fishing with something resembling a butterfly net.
This perked up my preacher ears. I had never read Luke 5 that way before and certainly never preached it that way. Admittedly it sent me to my Greek-English Lexicon and my Commentaries. I found that the NRSV and the NIV read ‘nets’ plural, yet other translations read ‘net’ singular. While modern scholars believe it should be plural as in the NIV and the NRSV translations, early Greek texts from the 4th and 5th centuries are written in the singular form. I wrestled with whether Peter had his expectations too low by just putting in one net as a way to appease Jesus, or did Peter reluctantly go ahead and drop all the nets they had.
Not finding the clear answer I wanted in print, I realized I was missing the point. At the very best time of the night, Peter and his friends had been fishing. Professionals who knew what they were doing. Suddenly a Carpenter comes along and says, “Hey, throw your nets on the other side of the boat.” If I were Peter, I can only imagine what I would be thinking. Peter reluctantly lets down either one net or all their nets on the other side of the boat. The catch is enormous; they have to bring partners in other boats over to help bring in all the fish. Jesus blessed these fishermen with more fish than they could have ever imagined. Peter’s obedience, albeit reluctant obedience, led to a tremendous catch.
Evangelism is about casting our nets and being a fisher of people. It is about faithful obedience to share our faith, be invitational, and welcome the stranger. God knows we have “tried that ministry before, and it didn’t work.” God knows we are tired and weary from work we have done so far to build the kingdom; “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” God knows our hearts are sometimes reluctantly obedient. And yet, God says, “cast your nets” anyway.
As a leadership team, ask yourselves:
- What have we stopped doing that perhaps, God is calling us to try again… perhaps differently?
- What is the size of our nets? Are we using a butterfly net? Or are we using a large net and casting it deep and wide?
- How is our reluctance to try again keeping us from being fully obedient to God?
- Where do we as a church need to cast our nets purposely?
Jesus Christ is asking us, as his body, to cast the nets deep. In this pandemic transition, our faith communities must become beacons of the Good News filled with hope, inviting, discipling, and leading. No matter how many times we have tried, may we try once more.
Lead with Love and Grace, casting with a wide net,
Dr. Leah S. Hidde-Gregory, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth
Storm the Gates!