ARE WE "FISHERS OF MEN" OR JUST "CHUMMING" THE GOSPEL?

By: Pastor Chuck Morley


    In the fourth chapter of Matthewís Gospel as well as the first chapter in Markís, Jesus calls four men into ministry. "And he (Jesus) saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). All four by trade were fishermen, Peter and his brother Andrew and James along with his brother John.
    Itís interesting to notice what these men were doing and where their focus was at the time of their calling. It wasnít on the condition of the sea, the weather, the time of day or their boat. While all of these hold equal importance in the fishing business, there is one piece of equipment that fishermen must possess and continually maintain above all else; their net. Both Gospel writers record Peter and Andrew casting their net while James and John were mending theirs.
    Any fisherman can put his focus on being the proud owner of the finest, biggest and most expensive fishing vessel ever built. He can boast of his ship being equipped with the latest and most advanced "fish finding" and meteorological technology available. He may also be blessed with sufficient financial backing to employ the best trained and most experienced crew. But without a strong, well maintained net, the fish will continue swimming around him and never make it to the market place. The finest ship, the latest technology and the best trained crew does not catch the fish - the net does.
    Over the last several generations fishers of men (the Church) have failed miserably at maintaining their nets. Our net is the power of Godís Word, delivered under the convicting of the Holy Spirit to change lives and convert souls. Rather then keeping our nets in the condition required to catch and haul the lost into the Kingdom of God, our focus is now the ship (our big buildings), our technology (our entertainment, light shows etc.) and our trained and experienced (marketing) crew.
    Our nets are full of holes, they are full of empty spaces where netting material should be in order to keep the fish in. The politically correct church of today has opted to remove the power of the Gospel, those elements of His Holy Word that confine and catch fish.
    John MacArthur, in his book, Ashamed of the Gospel writes:
    "I recently read through a stack of newspapers and magazine articles about the user-friendly phenomenon, and a common thread began to emerge. Here are some quotations from clippings describing the preaching in user-friendly churches:

    "There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages."

    "Services at [the church featured in the article] have an informal feeling. You won't hear people threatened with hell or referred to as sinners. The goal is to make them feel welcome, not drive them away."

    "As with all clergymen [this pastor's] answer is God - but he slips Him in at the end, and even then doesn't get heavy. No ranting, no raving. No fire, no brimstone. He doesn't even use the H-word. Call it Light Gospel. It has the same salvation as Old Time Religion, but with a third less guilt."

    "The sermons are relevant, upbeat, and best of all, short. You won't hear a lot of preaching about sin and damnation and hell fire. Preaching here doesn't sound like preaching. It is sophisticated, urbane, and friendly talk. It breaks all the stereotypes."

    "[The pastor] is preaching a very upbeat message.... It's a salvationist message, but the idea is not so much being saved from the fires of hell. Rather, it's being saved from meaninglessness and aimlessness in this life. It's more of a soft-sell."

    "The idea, [the pastor] says, is to get people through the front doors, then disprove the stereotype of sweating, loosened necktied, Bible-thumping preacher who yells and screams about burning in hell for eternity." (John F. MacArthur Jr., Ashamed of the Gospel, Crossway Books 1993, 47 - 48)

    If we deliberately omit the points of the Gospel that have the supernatural power to bring men face to face with what separates us from God (our sin), what are we left with? Chum!
    Chumming is a popular and effective method for drawing and clustering fish into an area so they can be fished with a baited hook or lure, and to promote active feeding once they arrive. It entails placing various forms of food and other substances in the water to attract fish to a specific area and keep them there for extended periods. Because finding and enticing fish is a prerequisite to successful fishing, chumming is a method that has been used for more than 500 years and one that is still used widely today....common chum bait is a soup-like mixture composed of ground-up fish, crustaceans, mollusks and worms. However, non-fish items like bread, grains (especially corn), processed meats, spices, dog food, oil, blood and even alcohol have been utilized as chum. (Discover the Outdoors)
   
Like chumming, we may draw people to an area (our sanctuaries and auditoriums), but lack the supernatural power (hook/net) to get them out of the water (sin/the world).
    When I was a boy I once went fishing with my father off the coast of Rhode Island. This trip was my introduction to chumming. Although the trip was over forty years ago, two things still remain firmly imbedded in my memory. First, and foremost, chum stinks. As described above, it is a nasty concoction of some of the foulest smelling ingredients known to man.
    Secondly, within this soup of stench contains chopped and ground up pieces of sea life so small or mangled that you at times cannot determine from which animal they were once a part of or attached to.
    When the portions of the Gospel, relevant to biblical salvation, are replaced with small, mangled, unrecognizable pieces of the Word, we end up with sterile, flesh pleasing, man centered, ear tickling sermons with no spiritually redeeming value.
    There is no denying the fact that chumming will definitely draw a crowd, but it will NOT catch fish. Every fish that has ever been reeled into the Kingdom of God can be easily recognized by the hook in itís mouth, or the marks on itís body from rubbing against the net.

    Another interesting point is the fact that all net fishing is done without any type of "bait". The Gospel of Jesus Christ, in it's truest and purest form, needs no help from the carnal inventions of man to be proclaimed to any culture or sub-culture. No Starbucks, no popcorn, no light shows, stand-up comics, drama teams or rock bands - NO CHUM! "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32).

    "One of the fundamental issues of misunderstanding that leads to corrupt churchmanship in our generation is the failure to distinguish between a crowd and a church. The failure to distinguish between a crowd and a church is . . . to misunderstand everything about preaching, everything about ministry, everything about our task. If we think our business is to build a crowd, frankly any of us can do it. There's a way to bring and draw and attract a crowd. . . . Let us never mistake a crowd for a church
[or] think our business is to draw a crowd."
- Al Mohler


    "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." (2Timothy 4:1-5)

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