There are a lot of fishing references made in the New Testament. Jesus had called fishermen to follow Him and to be His disciples, and when calling to them, had called them in the language of fishermen. He would make them no longer fishers of fish, but fishers of men. One thing about fishermen that seems clear in scripture, is that a good day fishing meant that their nets would be full. Fishermen of any worth cast wide their nets with skill in the hope of catching many, many fish.
I recently encountered a man whose evangelical fishing technique would oppose that of the disciples. After finding out that I attend and serve in what he (and most everyone else) would consider a mega church, he bristled a bit. I knew he was about to lay down the argument that most like him do. It is the deep versus wide argument. It’s the watering down of the gospel argument. He’d rather see a church cast deep nets with a few fish, than wide nets that end up full to overflowing. He would rather take a few people deep into theology, and make little theologians out of them, than bring scores of people into the family of God. We were not going to agree.
That’s not what the Great Commission teaches. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 28: 19-20:
“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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It was the theologians of that day that Jesus opposed. Why did he when they were committed to prayer, scripture, fasting, worship, and living a life separate from the world? While there is nothing wrong with these pursuits, indeed, we should all seek these things, it was their hypocrisy, piety, and absence of love for others that Jesus opposed in them. To be accepted by a Pharisee, you had to be like them… DEEP.
Now, I do recognize the scripture that says,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.
That should not lead Christians into a small minded approach to evangelism where we take only the few, the proud, the ones willing to memorize the Torah to the exclusion of all others. We are to cast wide our nets. Of course, some fish will slide through. Not all caught in our nets will join us in God’s family and desire a significant, ever growing relationship with Jesus. Not all of them will be able to recite The Lord’s Prayer or know that the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings” is not biblically sound.
Not everyone who accepts Jesus will understand the meaning of terms like eschatology, hermeneutics, or apologetics. They will lack the knowledge to argue either the Augustinian or Pelagean view of salvation. I love all that stuff, and I can while away lots of time talking about it all, but when we shirk our responsibility of casting wide our nets in favor of taking the few and proud to the depths of theology, we miss the intent of the Great Commission, and we use it as an excuse to stay comfortable in our separatist churches that reach no one, ever, with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are to reach them first with the saving grace of Jesus. And THEN we are to teach them to be disciples… which doesn’t have to be so hard. It basically means having a correct view of God, of ourselves, and of others.
I married a man who currently has three theology degrees, including a doctorate. We have frequent deep theological discussions around our house, but we are happy to be a part of a church that casts nets as wide as we possibly can. We can water down a lot of things with regard to theology. It’s pretty darned impossible to water down the gospel.
We are dead in our sin, eternally separated from a relationship with God, our Creator. Jesus, God’s only Son and perfect sacrifice, gave up His life in order to pay our sin debt, a debt we could not pay ourselves. In conquering death, Jesus made a way for salvation. If we accept that gift by faith through grace, we receive salvation, restoration, and a relationship with our heavenly Father that can never again be breached.
It doesn’t get more watered down than that. So yes, sir, I will drive by your church every Sunday (and I do) in order to pull up to one whose parking lot is full to overflowing with people who need Jesus, desire Jesus, and are desperate for believers who will demonstrate His love for them. And we will make it as simple as we can for them to get what they need.
This hereby concludes Soapbox Tuesday.