Sunday, January 26, 2020 “To Get the Best Fishing You Have to Have the Right Guide”

Sunday, January 26, 2020 "To Get the Best Fishing You Have to Have the Right Guide"

The message for Sunday, January 26, 2020 “To Get the Best Fishing You Have to Have the Right Guide” by Pastor Erik Goehner, heard during the 10:00 Worship service. 


“To Get the Best Fishing, You have to have the Right Guide”       

Matthew 4:12-23    January 26, 2020


I noticed something this week about the Gospel story that I am sure I knew, but I had not really thought about before.  According to the book of Matthew, four of the first disciples that Jesus calls to follow him are fishermen. (First slide) That means one-third of his inner-most circle of followers had fishing as their occupation. Why are they the first ones to be called?  Why does Jesus choose so many fishermen to be a part of his group of students who will one day lead the early church?  Is it because to be a good fisherman you need to be patient?  Is it because he knows that fishermen have good endurance?  Is it because fishermen are not afraid to go out into deep waters and Jesus knows his followers might have to go into some scary situations?  (Blank slide)


Maybe it has to do with the fact fishermen know that in order to catch fish you cannot just sit on the shore.  You have to throw out your line or throw out your net, and if you really want to get a lot of fish, you probably need to get into the boat and go out into the water where the fish are.  Jesus wanted disciples who would go with him to where the people were.  He wanted disciples who would not just sit back, but who would reach out and invite others to join him in his movement for the kingdom of God.


The best day of fishing I ever had was on the Big Horn River in Montana, and it happened because someone reached out and invited me to join him.  His name was Hugh Huntley.  He was a Baptist pastor who was a friend of my dad.  Hugh knew I was in town doing my Clinical Pastoral Education at a hospital in Billings, and before I left to go back to seminary, he invited me to go fishing.  The invitation came kind of out of the blue, and I wasn’t sure about it at first.  You see, even though I had grown up in Montana, I wasn’t much of a fisherman and had never really caught many fish.  But I decided I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity, especially when he said he could take me in his boat down the river.  This meant we wouldn’t just be sitting on the shore dropping a line in.  It meant riding with the current and maybe even hitting a few rapids and that sounded like fun.  A classmate of mine said he was interested in going as well and Hugh Huntley invited him too.


A few days later we were all headed down to the Big Horn River.

 (next slide)   Once we were there, Hugh didn’t just point us in a direction and wish us good luck.  No, he took us out in the boat with him, rowing it himself so that he could guide it into all the places where the good fishing holes were.  Thus began an amazing day out on the water, with beautiful scenery, wildlife along the shore, and lots of catching fish.  We saw fish swimming past our boat. (next slide) We wrestled with them on our lines and we saw them jumping out of the water, flashing in the sunlight as they tried to break free.   It almost seemed unreal, like we were on one of those fishing shows I’d seen on TV.  We rode on the current all day only stopping for lunch. (blank slide)  At the end of the day I realized that to experience the best fishing, you needed the right invitation from the right kind of guide.


When I think about why the disciples would have left everything behind to follow Jesus, I think that perhaps it had to do with recognizing the right invitation from the right kind of guide.  This seems especially clear in Luke’s version of the story.  In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus encounters Simon Peter he and the other fishermen have just come in after a long night on the lake where they have caught nothing.  Jesus tells them to let down the net one more time. (next slide) They don’t want to at first because they are tired, but they eventually relent and when they do let down the net it is so full they can barely bring it into the boat.  It is one of their best days fishing ever.  Peter and the others realize they could not have done this on their own.  It was Jesus who guided them.  So when Jesus extends his invitation to come and fish for people, you can understand why those first disciples decided to follow him.  (blank slide) After what they had just experienced, it seemed like Jesus was a guide they could trust who might show them things they hadn’t imagined were possible.


Sure enough, in verse twenty three of the text that we heard today it says that Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. The Scripture goes on to say his fame spread throughout all of Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics and he cured them. And great crowds followed him.   Jesus fame was like a net cast out to gather all those in need of healing.  He was demonstrating how to fish for people just like he had told those first disciples.  Later on, when Jesus has called all twelve disciples he will send them to cast out the message of the good news of God’s love like a net to bring healing to others just like he did.


Throughout the centuries Jesus has sent followers out to fish for people, but it always begins with someone responding to his invitation.  For a young man named Billy, that invitation first came at a revival meeting through a preacher named Dr. Mordecai Ham.  Dr. Ham relates, “Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way; so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn’t point my finger at them. They didn’t pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me.”  Dr. Ham continues, “Then one night a man spoke to them during the altar-call invitation and said, ‘Come on; let’s go up front.’  Billy and his friend Grady listened the man’s invitation and both went to the altar. Billy was saved, and Grady dedicated his life to Christian service.”


(next slide)  That young man was Billy Graham and as he grew older he realized he had a gift for preaching and evangelism.  He would come to preach the Gospel in large stadiums to huge crowds in countries all over the world.  Just as he had received an invitation that would change his life, he would also extend invitations to millions of people to answer the call of Jesus. (next slide) You might say that as Billy Graham fished for people, he used the method the disciples were familiar with.  He cast out a broad net hoping to pull in as many people as possible with the message of forgiveness and redemption. (blank slide)


There are other methods of fishing for people, however, that may not cast as broad a net, but can still be very effective.  Most of us when we think of fishing today, don’t think about casting out a net from a boat, we think of casting out a line from a fishing pole.  This kind of fishing is a more one-on-one situation between the person with the pole and the fish in the water.  Not all of us can be a Billy Graham preaching to thousands of people, but all of us can give a witness to our faith in a one-on-one situation with a friend or family member.


These one-on-one invitations are crucial for reaching out and growing the church.  Study after study has shown over the years that personal invitations to church are the most effective growth mechanism.  When asked if he had found specific reasons that visitors come to church, one church growth expert said the most important one is the friendship factor.  He then went on to quote a survey they had done with more than 50,000 people over a ten year period who they had asked why they had come to church.  Between 75 and 90 percent said they began attending because someone invited them. (next slide) Another writer, Dr. Thom Rainer, has quoted research showing that 82% of unchurched people would be at least somewhat likely to attend a church if only they were invited by someone. (blank slide)

Peter, Andrew, James and John would have never experienced the miraculous healings and new life of faith that they did, if they had not received the invitation from Jesus.   Billy Graham would not have reached out to millions of people if he had not received the invitation from Jesus through a preacher and a person who asked Billy to join him at the altar.   We who have been on the walk of faith know what a difference it can make to answer God’s invitation.  We know that if someone wants to have one of their best days fishing they need to have a good guide, but if they want to live their best life then they need to have Jesus as their guide. For Jesus is the kind of guide who invites us into the boat with him, bringing us to the places we need to go, even bringing us over the river of sin and death to the new life on that eternal shore.  So, why not invite others to join us?


-Pastor Erik Goehner