July 2, 1992 was a dark day for Newfoundland fishermen. On that date, the Minister of Fisheries announced a moratorium on fishing for northern cod in the waters surrounding the province. The once abundant cod stocks had been depleted and the fishery was abruptly halted. With one public statement, the future of thousands of fisherman was drastically changed. It wasn’t a matter that they didn’t want to fish. For the first time in almost 500 years, they couldn’t!
The Lord’s call for fishers of men has met with its own crisis. But this one is not a problem with fishing stocks. They are as great as ever with over 6.5 billion people on the earth. The 4 decades from 1959-1999 saw world population double from 3 billion to 6 billion. World need is overwhelming, but the present crisis concerns a lack of fishermen.
Fishing is difficult work these days, especially in North America. The growing spiritual darkness in society as a whole is mirrored by the lack of moral absolutes, shameless perversion, and rank agnosticism. Materialism has encouraged people to live independently of God. The absolute truths of the Scriptures are considered by most to be old-fashioned and irrelevant.
But a look at our response to the “fishery” is equally as disturbing. If we are honest, we would have to admit that “our burden for souls” is low. Often we are convinced that there is little we can do to make a difference. If that sounds somewhat drastic, consider the following factors: as I look at my neighborhood, what do I see – mere residents or contacts to be made for the Savior? Am I actively working and interacting with those that the Lord brings along my pathway, or have I lost my effectiveness as a witness? Would people be attracted by my testimony, or would they be repulsed by my “joyless Christianity”? Is it only during a gospel series that I “put out the net,” or am I actively fishing every day? For whom am I praying? Am I truly committed to the harvesting of souls?
Thankfully, the harvest is coming in. Our Lord as the Victor has declared, “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). His Word will accomplish its intended purpose (Is 55:11), and we are assured that our “labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor 15:58).
Yet in a very definite way, the fishery for souls has been put into our hands. In calling disciples, the Lord Jesus stated, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19). The fish are out there. Where are the fishermen?