Last month, I was praying with some dear brothers and sisters in Christ and we were asking the Lord to show us how to make sure that people who have responded to the gospel don’t fall through the cracks. The word I heard in a still small voice was “network”. It has become clear that without God’s people working together we cannot effectively bring in the harvest.
Since then, God has shown us practical examples as to how a net works! One example is a young woman we met facing poverty and asking for help. Through our conversations, she accepted the Lord! Based on her personal circumstances and location we connected her to a church community in her area where we felt she would be most cared for. The report back is that she and her family have been touched by Jesus and continue to fellowship with the church where we sent her. Another person came to us for help due to an abusive situation needing assistance in a variety of ways. We reached out to a number of connections and now there are people from four different local churches working together to help her. She was also able to attend church services for the first time in a while at one of these churches.
When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, John, and James, they were not individually fishing in the sea of Galilee with fishing poles, they were using nets and working together. Nets do not have one string where fish are caught, it is an intricate web where every part is as important as the next. The state of the nets and how they are used seem of particular note in the gospel accounts. When Jesus called Peter and Andrew into the deep, it was reported that the nets began to break because of the large catch of fish that Jesus brought. Not until James and John came to help did the integrity of the net remain and the fish were brought into the boats (Luke 5:6-7).
When Jesus called James and John it was said they were repairing their nets, tying up loose ends, removing debris, and ensuring there were no holes in them (Matt 4:21). This was the tedious and important work of fishermen to ensure that when the fish came, that the nets would be able to hold and keep them. At this time, Jesus called these two to join what would become a company of disciples who had to learn to work together to fulfill Jesus’ calling. There was striving and conflicts between these co-workers but Jesus taught them how to mend the nets by putting others first and seeing themselves as but humble servants (Mark 9:35).
In the last account of a fishing excursion with the disciples, a resurrected Jesus instructed the disciples on where to cast their nets and 153 large fish came into their nets. The four remaining in the boat were able to drag the net to shore eventually enjoying their catch in a special meal with Jesus Himself! John filled with the Holy Spirit adds this, “And although there were so many (fish), the net was not broken” (John 21:11). Perhaps the nets not breaking is a miraculous sign or maybe it has to do with the hard work of these fishermen working together and mending their nets. I would like to think it is both! We know that without Jesus and His Spirit living within us to bind us together, there would be no lasting connection (Ephesians 4:3). Yet, we must choose to live by the Spirit, step out in faith, and live in love as we are instructed (1 John 4:7).
Many in our region have been saying they have been out fishing all night and have brought few fish in the boat. Before we can expect Jesus to bring in a huge catch, we should take a look at our net works first. Perhaps God is waiting for us to mend the nets before He brings in the catch. This requires an investment of time and energy and an acknowledgment that we are no more important than the other parts of the net. Whatever separates us and our ministries whether it is busyness, pride, indifference, suspicion, skepticism, or offense needs to be mended and this can only be done through faithful prayer and sacrificial love. We have to realize that we have been assigned this region together and only together can we bring in the catch and ensure that none fall through the cracks. Jesus expects that we would learn to work together and see our diversity as a benefit (1 Corinthians 12:20-21). It is in our connection, that the whole net works. We see the vibrant growth in the early church and the historical movements of God through the centuries as they came together in prayer and acted as a network and there is no reason why it can’t happen here and now! What is encouraging is that if we are faithful to ensure the integrity and extend the reach of our nets into the deep, Jesus will supply the fish!
Below are two calls to actions
1) Look for ways to pray together, build loving relationships, and discuss ministry opportunities in our area across local churches and ministries.
2) Consider what type of net works Jesus might help us form as we come together in the bond of peace to deal preach the gospel and deal with some of the bigger issues like addiction, poverty, abortion, abuse, neglect, education, broken families, and worldly influences. What could we accomplish better together?
When we start moving in these ways led by the Holy Spirit, we will see networks forming and movement happening. Then when Jesus brings the fish we will be able to effectively catch them and help them grow into fishers as well!