THE CHURCH IS NOT THE NET
Mark 1:16-17 “Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
I find it interesting that the first folks that Jesus recruited were a couple of fisherman. He didn’t go after teachers, or rabbis, or musicians, or others more greatly gifted. No, Jesus went after those who were familiar with nets.
What is a net? Although we think of a net being a series of ropes, knots and holes woven together to catch prey it is actually much more than that. It is “anything serving to catch or ensnare.”
When Jesus invited Andrew and Simon to join Him and catch human "fish," He certainly didn’t mean for them to throw a net over the heads of people and drag them into the boat. As men who had spent their lives “ensnaring” fish, they were fascinated with the idea of turning to bigger game. They knew that catching men would require a different means of fishing.
I used to go fishing with my dad, and he never went unprepared. As Dad always said, “You never know what the fish might be biting on today.” It was fascinating to watch him. He usually began with night-crawlers, but it was not unusual for him to switch to mill-worms, crawdads, home-made dough-balls, or a myriad of artificial lures. You had to use the bait that the fish were biting on. He only used a net when we were catching minnows. Minnows (young people) can be caught in nets. The grown fish require more advanced techniques.
What is the bait that the Church uses today to “lure” men into the net? As Resurrection Day approaches, many of our churches will use programs as bait to reach out to the lost. We have no shortage of baits to use in drawing people into the net, so the problem is not with the bait. The problem is with the net.
We think the Church building is the net. No wonder we are having so much trouble hooking fish.
Let’s take a moment and examine the net. Remember now, when Jesus “hooked” Andrew and Simon it was after He had noticed that they were good at “casting a net.” He knew that there was more to this fishing thing than they realized, but He could tell that they were trained to “fish.” Today, most Christians have no idea how to hook men.
You see, the Church is not the net. It is only a place where the already caught "fish" are cleaned. We are using “bait” to draw men into the church and then are surprised when they jump out of the net. A surrendered life to Jesus Christ is the net. Catch a man in that net and you will never have to worry about him flopping out of the boat.
Despite what we believe, the church is not the net and Jesus speaks to us several times about it.
In Matthew 4:21 we see the disciples MENDING the net. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
Thinking that the church building is the net, Christians today spend a lot of time and resources improving the building. We hope that the fish will come to the church because our building is attractive. They may, but the church is not the net. Most of what we catch are sure to flop out.
In Habakkuk 1 we are cautioned against “worshipping the net” “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.” Convinced that the building is the net, many of us brag to our friends about what a great "net” we attend. Much of our Christian time, energy and resources are directed towards the worshiping of “our church, our choir, our pastor, our children’s ministry, our school, our worship” and we attempt to lure "fish" into our building where our pastor can hook them. We worship our net, but our church building is not the net.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus taught the disciples to fish one-on-one outside the building? In fact, when they followed Him they “left their nets” and their old ways of fishing. Jesus did His fishing where the fish were.
But the saddest of all are those who are “caught in the nets.” Those Christians who resemble something out of a Three Stooges movie, as they attempt to hook "fish" inside the church, they find themselves all entangled in the rope. When my dad took us fishing as kids he spent most of his time keeping his four boys’ lines untangled. Luckily, he had the patience to train us. Today, his sons can all catch fish.
Jesus told us to GO. Today we beg the "fish" to COME, hoping the human "fish" will just hop into the boat. The boat is not the net. The church building is not the net.
What am I driving at? We need to teach Christians how to fish. It is not enough to hand them a pole. We have to teach them how to “work the bait,” that is what my dad always called it. We have to help them see that their testimony is their bait and that a life with Christ is the net!
The Holy Spirit is the line, your testimony is the bait, and the True Gospel is the hook. The world is the fishing hole, people are the "fish", and individual Christians are supposed to do the fishing. Instead, we sit trapped inside our churches, praying for church growth, praying some fish jump in the net and join us.
What was it about the first two disciples, Simon and Andrew that caught Jesus’ eye? They knew how to cast the net. And they were fishers. They understood the basics. Jesus would show them the rest.
Our churches need to train more fishers, but until we can do that we have to first make them familiar with their equipment.
When we come to Jesus His promise is that He will teach us how to fish. The days of casting huge nets are over. He has given us a line, a hook, and a pole that we might catch and clean them one-by-one. We are called to individual discipleship, not sheep-herding. Most churches today are nothing more than fish-keeps.
Want to catch some fish? Here is what my Dad taught me.
Another Resurrection Morning is about to come and go. It is always the day when the most fish show up to church (your net). Next week most will have flopped out of the boat.
Before another year rolls around I think it is time for us to once again begin to teach people how to fish. One-on-one, man to man, eyeball to eyeball, that’s how you catch the big fish.
the church building is not the net. We have to go where the fish swim.
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© 2007 Dave Daubenmire
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Coach Dave Daubenmire, founder and President of Pass The Salt Ministries www.ptsalt.com and Minutemen United www.minutemenunited.org, is host of the high octane Pass The Salt radio show heard in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1999 Coach Daubenmire was sued by the ACLU for praying with his teams while coaching high school in Ohio. He now spends his energy fighting for Christian principles in the public domain.
When we come to Jesus His promise is that He will teach us how to fish. The days of casting huge nets are over. He has given us a line, a hook, and a pole that we might catch and clean them one-by-one.