Is Your Small Group a House Boat or a Fishing Boat?

When [Jesus] had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Luke 5:4

I suppose you are familiar with this story. You may recall how Jesus got into Simon Peter’s boat and pushed back a short distance from the shore to teach the multitude of people who had gathered. Following the message, He turned to Simon, and asked him to take the boat into deeper water in order to catch some fish. Simon responded that they had already fished all night and were unable to catch anything. It is clear that Simon was tired (he had fished all night) and that he was frustrated (we toiled all night and caught nothing). Nonetheless, he deferred to his leader and headed into the deeper water. Do you recall the result of his obedience? The scripture says that, “they caught a great number of fish.” They caught so many fish that their nets began to break and they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help.

Despite his fatigue and frustration, Simon Peter launched his boat into the deep and went fishing. Here is a question that I want you to consider. Why did he do it? I am looking for the most elementary explanation. Here it is: He went fishing because his leader asked him to! I realize that there are a variety of possible answers, but this is the simplest interpretation. I believe this account is literal, but I also believe that it paints a picture of what the church is supposed to be doing. This story is illustrative of the Great Commission. Every church is a fishing boat that should be intentionally launching out into the deep (going) letting down their nets for a catch. Likewise, every Bible study group is a fishing boat. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men” [Mark 1:19].

One of the drawbacks to effectiveness in evangelism in churches today is that they have converted their fishing boats into houseboats. What do you do on a houseboat? You relax, fellowship, and enjoy those on the boat with you. You do have work to do, but it is centered on maintaining an environment of leisure. You, likewise, have work to do on a fishing boat, but the objective is different. A fishing boat exists to assist you in catching fish. A Bible study group exists to help you to grow personally as you partner together to reach out to the lost and unchurched. It is organized around affinity groups to assist in the endeavor. Middle school students reach out to middle school students, college-age young adults to college-age young adults, senior adults to senior adults, etc.

Why is it that some churches use their groups as tools for evangelism and others do not? It is because in some churches the leaders ask them to. Are you challenging your groups to be “fishing boats?” Are you equipping your groups to go fishing? Are you intentionally leading your groups to reach out to the lost and unchurched? I want to challenge you to make a commitment to convert your houseboats into fishing boats. The possibility: “For he (Simon Peter) and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken” [Luke 5:9]. I pray that this verse will reflect the testimony of your groups in the years to come. For in doing so you will have maximized your leadership.