to fish or not to fish

I didn't write the following story. I don't know who did. I received the following story in email at some point in the past few years and it moved me enough to save it. After listening to the missionaries from Southeast Asia speak this morning at HRBC, I pulled it up and reviewed it. I am putting it here so that you might read it and think about it.

There's a Catch to It

Now it came to pass that a certain group called themselves "Fishermen." And, lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with hungry fish.

Week after week and month after month, these fishermen met to talk about their call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. They carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared fishing to be a primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new methods of fishing. Further they said, "The fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning." They loved slogans such as "Fishing is the task of every fisherman," and "Every fisherman is a fisher." They sponsored special meetings called "Fishermen's Campaigns" and "The Month for Fishermen to Fish." They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss and promote fishing as well as hear about all the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and bait.

These fishermen also built large, beautiful buildings called "Fishing Headquarters." They organized a board of men who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote catching fish of different colors in far-away streams.

The board also hired staffs and appointed committees to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be considered.

Large, elaborate and expensive training centers were erected to teach fishermen how to fish. Over the years courses were offered on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, where to find fish, the psychological reactions of fish, and how to approach and feed fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. After tedious training, many were graduated, given fishing licenses, and sent to do full-time fishing—some to distant waters.

Many spent much study and travel to learn the history of fishing and see faraway places where the Founding Fathers had great catches in centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years before.

Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. Presses were kept busy day and night, producing materials solely devoted to fishing methods, equipment, and programs for meetings to talk about fishing. Offices were set up to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing.

Many who felt called to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. But, like the fishermen back home, they engaged in all kinds of other occupations. They built power plants to pump water for fish and tractors to plow new waterways. They traveled here and there to look at fish hatcheries, fish slaughter houses, and fishing boats. Some said they wanted to be part of the fishing party, but felt called to furnish fishing equipment.

Others felt their job was to relate to the fish, so they would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. Others felt that simply letting the fish know they were nice, land-loving neighbors was enough. A few felt that swimming lessons for the fish and better fish food would help. Some spoke of purifying the water, moving fish to other waters, or getting rid of their natural enemies.

After one stirring meeting on "The Necessity for Fishing," a young fellow left to go fishing. The next day he reported catching two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled in big meetings to tell how he did it. So, to have time for sharing his experience with other fishermen, he quit fishing. He was also placed on the Fishermen's General Board as a person with considerable experience.

Almost no one on the Board ever fished. So those they sent out to fish did exactly as those who sent them. They formed groups and held meetings to talk about the great need for fishing. They prayed much that many fish might be caught. They analyzed the fish and discussed what is necessary to catch them. They waxed eloquent on how others fished wrongly and bemoaned the fact that fish were not processed properly when they were caught. But one thing they did not do. They did not fish.

However, they were still called fishermen by those who sent them. They wrote glowing letters back to the board and home fishing clubs about all the fishing potential. A little criticism came sometimes that no fish were caught. But because those who criticized didn't catch fish either, the criticism was not taken too seriously.

Now it's true many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they never fished. They wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not obeying the Master who said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men?"

Imagine how hurt some were when it was suggested that those who don't catch fish are really not fishermen. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish? Is one following if he isn't fishing?


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