Continuing the topic of church planting:
I immediately went through the Gospels looking at every
reference to fishing. There were several. Even though in Mongolia, I did not
have a concordance, it became apparent that several different methods of
fishing were described. Sometimes the disciples threw or cast their nets into
the water (e.g. Matthew 4:18), at other times they let down the nets from the
boat (Mark 5:4). Sometimes they fished from the shore; at other times they were
in deeper water.
Soon after this, we went to India. There we met with a
friend of ours, a church planter who works with fishing communities along the
coast of rural Andhra Pradesh. So we asked him about the fishing practices in
these primitive villages. He immediately told us about different fishing
techniques that these people use. He described a net that looks like a
butterfly net that they use to catch fish along the shore. He described a long
dragnet, or seine, a net several hundred yards long that two boats would let down
in a circle. This net would catch large numbers of fish at a time.
When I returned home and could access the Internet again, I
looked up fishing nets in a concordance. To my surprise, I found that different
words in the Greek were translated as "fishing net" in English. There
was a word that implied a net like a purse. Usually a generic word for fishing
net was used.
But perhaps the most interesting scripture occurs in Matthew
13:47-48 where it says, "Again, the Kingdom of
Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of
every kind. When the net was full, they dragged
it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw
the bad ones away.” The word used for fishing net here, is dragnet or seine.
It may have been the salty yak milk tea, but I had a vivid
dream one night when we were in Mongolia. In the dream, I was with a small
group of people. I handed them a book saying, "This is a book on how to be
a commercial fisherman."
The clue that this was a dream with some spiritual
significance as I woke up, was the overwhelming realization that Jesus has to
tell us where to fish.
The effective of this dream on me was extraordinary. For
weeks I could not stop thinking about it. One of the first things to strike me
was that the disciples he was speaking to were commercial fishermen. When Jesus
spoke to them on the beach as they were preparing their nets with their fishing
vessels anchored close by, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of
men," they would have understood this in the context of their working lives.
As commercial fishermen, they were not interested in catching individual fish
with a hook and line, but in pulling in nets teaming with fish. Because of
their profession, they would have instinctively known that they were to
influence many people.
Last week, I sent out a tweet asking people to vote on the next topic I will be covering in this blog. The votes are in! By a 2 to 1 majority, people would like to hear more about the subject of church planting. So over the next few weeks, I will be covering that topic.
I often hear the comment, "Jesus did not tell us to plant churches, he asked us to make disciples." This is indeed true. However, the phrase, "make disciples," only comes once in the Gospels, or indeed in the whole of the New Testament for that matter, and that is in the Great Commission in Matthew 28. But both disciple making and church planting are very clearly demonstrated throughout the book of Acts. The two are inseparable. When disciples were made, a church was the result. The job of the apostolic teams that were sent out was to preach the good news of the kingdom. The result? New disciples gathered into churches.
On another note, I am excited to see that the new book by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet is in the Amazon top 10! (http://amzn.to/9j6hqd) Congratulations to both!