Casting a Wide Net
He seems to be saying, "In the same manner that you go fishing for real fish in the sea, with blood, sweat and tears and all that you have, so will you go fishing for real people in the world."
I'm thankful that Jesus, in his wisdom, not only gave the promise, "I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19), but that he also gave word-pictures of what this endeavor would look like. In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus tells a parable of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. It's like a net being cast into the sea, gathering up fish of every kind. In essence, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven is like going fishing. And when you fish, Jesus says, you bring in all kinds of fish. Some are desirable and edible, some are not. At the end of the day, when the job's over, they'll be separated as needs be. Until then, they'll all stay in the boat together. There's no use in trying to separate the good from the bad while you're still out at sea fishing. As the Gambler himself said, "You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealing's done."
Enter college ministry... RUF exist to "reach students for Christ, and to equip students to serve." That's not an original idea on our part. It's a reflection of 2,000 years of Church history and tradition, and the very words of Jesus himself. That one simple statement–"to reach and equip"–is all about fishing for men and women on the college campus. Another way to phrase it, continuing with the fishing motif, is catching and cleaning. We hope to "catch" men and women with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, we want to see them saved. But, we also hope to see them "cleaned" (growing in grace, fellowship and service, evangelism and missions, and a biblical worldview) as a result of encountering Jesus and his Spirit during their time in RUF. The struggle for the campus minister in RUF–indeed, every minister of the gospel–is the way in which we hope to bring people into our various ministries. To catch as many as we can, we fish with nets, rather than poles; and we cast a wide net. We're not bashful at attempting to bring in the masses, no less so than the master of the feast was, who told his servant to "compel" the masses to come in, in order that his house might be filled (Luke 14:23). We like to say that RUF has a large front door for anyone and everyone to come through, convinced and unconvinced alike. We don't do this to highlight numbers, nor do we seek to grow our ministries through a compromised message. Our motivation is simple: "that by all means [we] might save some" (1 Cor. 9:22).
In the mean time, good fish and bad fish swim into our nets. That's the tension of having a ministry that consists of believers and unbelievers hanging out under the same roof. It's a messy job, to be sure. And there's no fool-proof technique to minister to Christians and non-Christians in equal portions, at the same time, all the time! It's "on the job" training. We are all apprentices of the Master, learning from him, as we work along-side of Him. But in spite of this messiness and the ministerial clutter that can come from loving and serving Christians and non-Christians alike, I wouldn't have it any other way. A college ministry made up of only Christians has lost its vision for the campus and "catching" more fish. A college ministry made up of only non-Christians and seekers has lost its vision for seeing the caught fish on campus, "cleaned." Neither one works as it should. So what do we hope for? A ministry that casts a wide net and learns more and more to be content with what the nets haul in. For someone who doesn't like fishing, that's an exciting thought, because Jesus himself has told us that the nets will hold.