The Casting of the Net   I will make you fishers of men. -- Jesus, Matthew4:19.
As the fishermen in Jesus' entourage well knew, to catch fish you have to use the right bait. You can't just throw a hook into the water and expect the fish to strike. The marketing of Christianity, aka, fishing with the right bait, is big business these days. It is the subject of hundreds of books, thousands of magazine articles, and scores of seminars. Some people call it evangelism, and evangelism is a good thing. But we should bear in mind that the fishermen Jesus knew fished with nets, not with hooks. With a hook and a minnow, you'll catch a fish one at a time, and that's good, but with a net, you'll catch thousands.

In the book of Acts we see Peter and the others not just reaching people one at a time (although they certainly did that also), we also see them converting thousands by their preaching and example. When three thousand were converted in Acts 2 and five thousand in Acts 3, it was in response to inspired teaching and the spoken word. In those days, as in ours, people hunger for the truth of God, spoken boldly and directly from the Scriptures. 

The trend toward attracting the favorable demographic in the marketing of religion might draw numbers, but it cannot be at the expense of solid teaching from the Word. The net must be cast wide without bait and hook, based on the universal truths that define the core of Christian theology. But beware, for the core of the Christian faith is a dangerous thing to proclaim. It requires its adherents to do something radical.

After Peter's sermon in Acts 2, the people who heard asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Both then and later, the answer was always the same: Repent! Change the way you live your life. Admit that the lifestyle you are living is wrong. Both then and now people don't want to hear that, and ironically, often it is the religious types who become offended at the allegation of sin in their lives. 

In fact, in the book of Acts and beyond, we often see powerful preaching and the casting of the net leading to persecution and imprisonment. The world resists the proclamation of the light because its own deeds are evil. A religion that is crammed only with liturgy and ritual is a threat to no one, but to rise and unmask the sins of the world is a threatening experience and often leads to unpleasant consequences for the preacher. 

But herein is another miracle in the casting of the net. Historically, persecution leads not to the weakening of the church, but a strengthening of it, both in spirit and in numbers. Under such circumstances, Christians can no longer have a form of godliness while denying its power. It is either all or none when the glory of God is revealed in our weakness.

Lenny C.

 Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, March 31, 2006 by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.