By Shawn Dean

A friend of mine was at Dick’s Sporting Goods the other day looking for some fishing gear. A man he didn’t know approached him and asked him if he was a bass fisherman. Yes was the answer, so the conversation led to rods and reels. The stranger wanted advice on what to buy. What he didn’t know was that my friend was a researcher and one of those guys that’s going to find out what’s best. If he’s into something, what’s best is what he’s going to have.

He gave him a few different options and discussed the specifics of an assortment of hardware, but ended the conversation with this. I’ll paraphrase. “You can spend the money and get the best, but,” he said, “the bass don’t care what kind of rod and reel you have. Find out where they are and find out how to catch them. If you know that, you can catch fish with this twenty dollar rig.”

To catch fish, you have to know how to find them and how to get them in the boat. Everybody agrees on that. But from there, things get complicated and philosophies go different directions. A myriad of questions need answering like: water temperature; weather conditions; water depth; type of structure; water clarity; are fish feeding or inactive; what are they feeding on; what are their habits; forage size; oxygen levels; current direction; what bait to use; where to throw; how to throw; how to work your bait; how to set the hook; how long to stay—and on and on it goes. The best bass fishermen consistently catch fish. They learned how. They know how. But how? How did they learn? From whom or what did they learn?

If a man wants to be the best at something, he needs to go find out who the best is and learn from him. So, when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” they did. For three years, the apostles walked side by side with the master fisherman, literally and figuratively. For, in John 21:6, He taught them saying, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” And, then again in Mathew 17:27, He summons a fish, “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Our teacher fished so well that in Mark 2:4, the fish were jumping in the boat. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. He could fish.

After following Jesus for a period of time, He sends His students out to catch some fish. His instructions were simple, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for you money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worth of his support.”

Mind if I step on a toe or two? There was no blow up jumpers, popcorn, candy, pizza night, cash donations, lavish scenery, upbeat music or wild game festivals—just Jesus. The authority He freely gave was all the bait they had and all the bait they needed to fill their boat with fish. He didn’t order them to go pray for the sick, dead, and demon-possessed; He said go do it. In the world of fishing for men, those that do that make the best fishermen.

No father who raises his son to catch fish would require him to do so with methods and means that were never taught and limit his capacity to imitate he from whom he learned. Notice also that those he sent out were all different rods and reels with one thing in common; they knew where and how to fish.

A great fisherman in his own right, Billy Graham, said this, “95% of the ministry that the early church did would have failed without the spirit of God upon them. 95% of what we attempt to do would succeed even if He didn’t show up.”

Shawn Dean is Regional Sales Manager for Airflo Sales, Inc., located in Ridgeland, MS. He and his wife, Laura Beth, have three children, Isabelle, Ann Mabry, and Mary Frances. They live in Madison.