By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, April 7, 2016

I have seen those signs for years in gifts shops or the lobby at Cracker Barrel. They are fun, decorative and kitschy, expressing some variation of "I'd rather be fishing." Until recently, every time I saw those signs I thought, “Not me.”

After all, I've been fishing before in my life. I remember standing on the bank of a small pond casting my line for the first time and pulling in a smallish bass. I remember boarding a boat as a teenager traveling out into the deep sea with all of the men of my church. The waves were so choppy that even the crew turned green at the gills. I've watched the care with which fly fishermen tied their jigs. I have often thought it looked like a beautiful way to spend the day. Well, at least a beautiful way for someone else to spend their day.

That is until I went fishing with a real fisherman. Randy Candler is a real fisherman. You could tell that Randy found joy in every part of the fishing experience: selecting the live bait, landing the boat in the water, hunting for schools, and eventually our landing the big one. (A fish that gets bigger every time I tell the story)

When you fish with Randy, you catch more than just fish; you catch some of his joy. He shares with you the way in which he delights in the experience. In seeing the lake through his eyes, I saw a beautiful and holy place. I began to understand just why Jesus called fishermen to be the first disciples. The act of fishing was one of the first metaphors for the sharing of the good news: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’”

The act fishing has never been a more apt metaphor for ministry for me. It made me think about what passes for evangelism in too many communities. It often sounds like standing on the shore and yelling at the fish to join you on the land. Lesson one from Randy: you have to go to the fish. We must leave the church and its pews and the shore and its safety to once again become fishers of men and women and families for Jesus where they are and as they are. We have to pay attention to our community. It means going where people are and presenting an example of real and abundant life.

I can’t say that I have suddenly filled my study with “Gone Fishin’” signs, but I have been checking my calendar for another trip to the lake, because the virtues of fishing learned over a lifetime on the water are some of the same virtues that make for good discipleship. It is time we go fishing together again.