Summary: There is no acceptable excuse for a church to die.
“A Lesson In Fishing”
By: Rev. Ken Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Our Gospel Lesson for this morning takes place in Galilee, near the place where Jesus fed the five-thousand another meal of bread and fish.
Seven of the disciples were together—just kind of hanging out.
Jesus had been crucified, He had been Resurrected and He had already appeared to these men, but there was still some unfinished business.
And, basically Peter says to the other six men: “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going fishing.”
His friends say: “We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.”
They fish all night, but nothing is caught in their nets.
It is very interesting to note that in the Bible, the disciples, professional fishermen, never catch a single fish without Jesus.
Not a perch.
Not a minnow.
Not a guppy.
So they are fishing all night, without any success and a hint of light starts to sliver on the horizon.
Some guy on the beach has a fire going.
We know the guy.
“He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’”
“No,’ they answered.”
“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’”
“When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.”
And when they caught this incredible amount of fish—they knew that the Lord was with them—They knew that it was the Lord Who had advised them where to cast their net.
Because after having obeyed the Lord—they reaped a great harvest.
They had caught nothing on their own, and it was in this that they were to learn a much needed lesson: self-sufficiency is inadequate.
They must learn to depend on the Lord…if they are going to fulfill their purpose, their calling in this life.
And the same goes for us.
When I was serving a church in Macon, Georgia as the Associate pastor the Choir Director took the Youth on a mission trip to the city of Chicago.
They were there to help a small, new congregation with Vacation Bible School.
After they returned the Choir Director told me about a church they had visited.
She told me about the fantastic space that this church building had.
Everything was brand new!
They had a very expensive playground, an industrial size kitchen with a walk-in freezer, and all new furnishings.
The only problem was—they had no people.
Where were the people?
It’s as if they borrowed the idea from the movie A Field of Dreams—“build it and they will come!”
But this isn’t how it worked.
They had built it alright.
But for some reason no one was coming.
It’s almost parallel to the disciples, expert fishermen, fishing all night—depending only on their own skills and human wisdom—but catching nothing!
Until…until…the Word of God came to them and they obeyed!
A colleague of mine and I were having a discussion a month or so ago, during which I made the comment: “There is no excuse for a church—any church to die…though many are.”
As long as a congregation obeys (to the very best of their ability) the Gospel God will use His Word to save souls—to bring up new disciples, and continue the nourishing of those who have been Christians for many years.
God declares through the Prophet Isaiah: “…my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
And the purpose of God’s Word is to save souls, to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness, “so that the” person “of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So there is no excuse for a church to die unless, of course, the congregation is no longer listening to and obeying God’s Word.
Or maybe the preacher isn’t preaching God’s Word.
Jesus calls all Christians to fish for people, but if we are trying to do this without the power of God’s Word—we will fish all night and not catch a single one.
In John Chapter 15:5, Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
A living union with Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for our individual salvation, for maturing in the Christian faith, and for making disciples for Jesus Christ.
If we separate ourselves from the True Vine—that is Jesus—we will become dead, good for nothing—and as the Scripture says: “such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned.”