Great Stuff — Fish Don’t Want to be Caught

Found on Higher Things; something to remind ourselves in any church.

 

Fish Don’t Want to be Caught
by Rev. Philip Young

It happens quite frequently when people find out that I do college ministry. They comment with words similar to this: “That’s awesome! What a tremendous opportunity!” I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. But then comes the question, “How large is your group?” I tell them: “Three so far.” (We’ve been up to five and down to two.) The response? An uncomfortable “Oh.”

For some reason, many people think that college ministry should be easy. They have in their minds our Lord’s words to Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), and they believe that the college campus is the ideal setting to fish for men. It actually is, but that doesn’t mean that the fish jump into the boat any more than they do in any other setting in the world.

I’ve watched fellow pastors analyze LCMS campus ministry opportunities by looking at the size of the school. For example, the thinking is that since there are over 5,000 students at a particular school, surely we should be able to get our share of converts and have at least 50 (1 percent) in a college group. It doesn’t always work that way. In fact, not even all the LCMS students come to Lutheran student groups or attend church.

Regarding Christ’s words about fishing for men, a wise pastor once taught me that fish don’t want to be caught. Peter and Andrew were fishermen, and they knew this truth. That’s why they cast a net. The fish that they sought on a daily basis were happy to swim away, but the net brought them in.

Now what is it about colleges, especially public and private secular institutions, that would make students want to be caught by the Holy Spirit and renounce their Old Adam? I could make the case that colleges are the hardest places to fish with their deep, dark depths of evolutionary theory, atheism, sexual perversion, false religions and communism. But too much of that talk could make you think that fishing for Christ is dependent on the fishermen.

So often the “so-called” campus ministry experts say that you have to entice and lure students with free food and dynamic music and sports programs and exotic spring break destinations. Fish are smart! I’ve had the worm stripped clean from my hook tons of times. I’m happy to give out free pizza (as long as there is slice of pepperoni left for me), but pizza will not be the means for bringing in the catch for Christ.

The net that God gives his Church is the Means of Grace—the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Word and Sacrament. Recall what Jesus told his disciples after the resurrection: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). Our Lutheran Confessions say, “To obtain such faith [justifying, saving faith] God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (Augsburg Confession V 1-3). Therefore, sound teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the Divine Service are to remain foremost in pastoral campus ministry efforts.

From one semester to the next, I don’t know what kind of catch God will bring in. From the Word, though, I do know the character of fish, whether in schools or out. There is nothing that the Holy Spirit will use to gather them other than His appointed means.

To all our campus ministry pastors, sponsor congregations, and students: Rejoice when even one is unwillingly caught in God’s net and hauled aboard!

 

Rev. Philip Young is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and he serves as the pastoral advisor to the Lutheran Student Fellowship group at Vanderbilt University.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Fish Don’t Want to be Caught — 4 Comments

  1. Difficult, yes, but….we do, as did our Lord:

    “When he saw the crowds [college students], he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

  2. God Bless you and your mission. I’m glad to see you are using the net of salvation instead of bait in your fishing.

  3. @Matt Jamison #1

    A registered student organization would qualify to receive money from the university as well as use university facilities for free. The university cannot control an organization that is not registered. Such an organization or club could conduct activities for interested students off-campus, and the university would be powerless to stop it.

    The fight would be over funding and the use of university facilities.

    By the way, there is no guarantee that the University of Minnesota would not be hostile to the homeless ULC if it were to attempt to use university facilities.

    You might be shocked (or maybe not) to learn that most university employees are either hostile to Christianity or are liberal Christians at best. It would be interesting to see if attitudes toward more conservative Christian denominations will begin to change as the wildly idealistic, hippy, dippy professors who were in college in the 1970s begin to retire.

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