December 3, 2006
[The opening of the message is a video of Ed on a dock on Andros Island. He is tying a fly for fishing while he is speaking]
As many of you know, I love to fish. One of my favorite things about fishing is tying flies. I’m a big fly fisherman. I love to saltwater fly-fish. That’s my favorite thing. A while back, a friend of mine invited me to his fishing lodge here on Andros Island. Andros Island is one of the most remote areas in the Western Hemisphere. It has some fantastic fishing. So, right now, I’m tying a fly that sort of matches what all these fish are eating. This fly is a good fly because the hook is pretty well disguised and I think the fish will be all over it.
Today, I want you to do a little fishing with me. This fishing trip, I think, is going to have some pretty powerful stuff in it. The fly is tied. I’ve got my gear and all my flies…let’s go fishing.
[The video ends and Ed begins to speak in person from the stage]
“Let’s go fishing” that’s what Jesus said to a bunch of first century fishermen. In Matthew 4:18 -19 Jesus was walking around the Sea of Galilee, a beautiful body of water. Picture about thirty villages around this lake, and Jesus looked at some guys and he said “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men. Follow me I’ll make you into something that you’re not. Follow me and I’ll make you into fishers of men.”
In other words, followers fish. If you’re following, you’re fishing. If you’re not fishing, you’re not truly following. I’m really thankful that someone fished for me, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be here if someone hadn’t fished. And the reason you’re here is because someone got out of their La-Z-Boy and they got out of their comfort zone and got uncomfortable for you. I’m glad that someone fished for me.
Jesus talked about this time and time again, if you look at the bookends of his ministry. Matthew 4 he said “Follow me I’ll make you fishers of men,” then in Matthew 28 he talks about going into all the world and making disciples of all people. So the bookends of his ministry were all about fishing for souls.
I think it’s interesting, too, that Jesus picked a bunch of fishermen when he was bringing together his inner circle. He could have chosen some attorneys or preachers or accountants or real-estate tycoons, but he didn’t. He picked a bunch of fishermen, and when Jesus said, “Follow me,” the fishermen just dropped everything and they began to follow Jesus. So followers fish. If you’re fishing, you’re following. If you’re not fishing, you’re not truly following. And the strategy that Jesus gave his followers what 2000 years ago is the same strategy he is using today.
Do you like to fish? I do, I enjoy fishing. It’s a biblical sport. Fishermen are interesting people. They’re always telling stories and they’re very passionate about their sport. I love to take someone fishing who’s never been fishing. They’re like “Wow! This is off the chain!”
The cork goes under the water, they feel the pull or they hear the drag and they’re hooked! Then they go out and they spend untold amounts of money on all this fishing gear and everything else. And they’re into fishing.
Fishermen are passionate people. They’re focused people. And I think you’re going to discover why Fellowship Church today is so passionate. We have a number of people here from different walks of life. Some of you are fishermen; you’re followers and you fish. And that’s why we have to do so many services and have all these satellites and this place now in South Florida. And that’s why we do all these mission trips and everything, because you people are freaky fishermen! I want to thank you for fishing. You’re getting uncomfortable, because fishing is an uncomfortable sport. There’s some discomfort in fishing.
Others here are followers of Christ, yet you maybe feel a little bit hesitant, a little bit uneasy about fishing. You say, “Well fishing, being a fisher of men, that’s the pastor’s job, or that’s this woman’s job who leads this Bible study. That’s not my deal.”
And some of you are maybe thinking that. Well, I want to challenge you and I want you to own the fact that fishing for men is one of the most joyful and rewarding and eternity altering things you can get involved in. Because so often we’re so focused on the here and now, on the temporal, that we forget about the eternal. Most of our prayers are about the temporal, aren’t they? “Lord bless me, protect me, Lord help me, and protect me and bless me, and bless me and help me and protect me, and me and protect me and help me and bless me.”
Well, that’s fine and dandy. But we’re eternal beings aren’t we? Do we ever pray eternity focused prayers? Because as a human being, I have the chance to bump up against people and change their forever. If I’m following Christ—because remember followers fish—if you’re not fishing, you’re not truly following.
Others here maybe are not believers. You’re far away from God. You’re disconnected from God. And I want to say welcome to Fellowship Church. It’s a place to express your doubts, your questions; test the waters, seek, investigate. That’s what Christianity is all about. Continue to do that. But I think you’ll discover through this talk that this church is totally committed to being uncomfortable for you. Because in the Christian life, believers live with this tension. We’re comfortably uncomfortable. We’re comforted by God, but uncomfortable for God. And a biblically functioning church is the same.
For believers, this church is highly uncomfortable. We’re going to challenge you; we’re going to motivate you, because we open this book and teach and talk about what Jesus talked about. If you’re not a believer, this is a very comfortable place to hear a dangerous, life changing message.
So it’s time for all of us just to get off of our butts and put the butt in the boat. And it’s time to fish. Whenever you fish, I think you have to identify with the fish. You’ve got to think like a fish. Basically, you have got to go where the fish are. Do you do that? Do you go where the fish are? Well when I fish I will brave the salt and the spray, I will brave all the elements because I’ve got to go where the fish are.
[A video clip is played of Ed fishing on Andros Island. While fishing, Ed is speaking on the video.]
Ed: If we are going to truly go out into the world and reach people, we have to meet them where they are. Just like when you go fishing, we think like the fish. We have to think and know how people away from the Lord are going to feel, what they are going to say, and what they are going to react to and act to. A lot of people, though, when they go fishing, don’t want to really get dirty or wet or slimy. They go, “Man, I don’t want to be any part of that. It would be much easier for us to be kicking back at your house right now.” I believe Christians who really are fishers of men are not worried about getting a little slimy and even trying some different things. You know what I am saying to you. I’m talking about trying different flies, different lures, whatever to catch the fish. And Prescott [Ed is speaking to his fishing guide, Prescott Smith], every time you and I have fished and have not caught fish, you will say, “Ed, we will get them tomorrow.” I think that too, man. I always think the next cast, or the next flat, is going to have the big one.
Prescott: Eternal optimism. You got to have it.
Ed: Christians should be the most optimistic people in the world. If they are not, I have got to wonder if they truly know the Lord. I really do. Be optimistic.
[The video ends and Ed speaks live from the stage again]
People say “Ed, you must be a really patient person; you must love to just sit and to be patient because I am just not patient enough to be a fisherman.”
I’m the most impatient person you’ve ever met! I’m not patient. Some of you know me well; you know I’m impatient. So it’s not patience. What makes a fisherman a fisherman? When I say fisherman, I mean women too, of course. Women oftentimes are better fishermen then men because they listen to directions and instructions. We don’t. That’s a whole other subject.
I’m persistent. I think about a fish. I concentrate on a certain fish. And I’m into that fish. I have gone through certain phases of fish where I’m really obsessed with a certain fish. For a while I was obsessed with sharks. I loved sharks before Jaws ever came out. There’s just something about a shark. I love sharks. I was obsessed with shark fishing.
Of course, there’s the large mouth bass. You know I love large mouth bass.
Recently, I’ve been obsessed with this fish called the permit. The permit is one of the most brilliant fish out there. The permit has its Ph.D. in fishology.
We’ve got to be persistent, though. We’ve got to cast and cast and cast. We’ve got to get uncomfortable. We’ve got to live, yes, in a state of comfort; we’re comforted by Christ. But we’re uncomfortable for him. God has placed you and he’s placed me where we are for a specific reason. Now what’s that reason? That reason is for us to fish. I have gifts that you don’t have. I have abilities that you don’t have. You have personality traits that I don’t have.
Think just for a second—I’m talking to those of us who are followers of Jesus; think for a second. Think back to when you became a Christian. Now get specific. Think about the person that led you to that decision. You got that person? If could be a man, it could be a women, it could be someone who’s in your dorm, it could be a neighbor. Just think about that person for a second. You’re saying, “Well, okay. It was the message, it was the gospel.”
The word gospel means “good news.” It is the good news. I’m talking about good news today. We share good news with others. It’s the message, yeah, I understand that. But also, it’s the messenger. You see, there was something about the person that you connected with; there was something about the person that you intersected with that drew you to him or her. Something about the way they walked, they way the talked, the way they handled their money, their language, their joy; maybe just the way they carried themselves, their vibe. And you were attracted to the messenger and then they cast and shared with you the message. That’s why we can’t sit there and say…
[Ed sits down next to a couple on the front row.]
Excuse me one minute; let me sit here for a second. How are you guys doing? It’s good to have you here. Where are you from? California?! Where in California? Redding? Speaking of fishing, one of my favorite places is in Redding, California. I go to buy some equipment there at a place called The Fly Shop. A guy named Mike Michellack owns it. Anyway…
A lot of us sit here and we say, “That’s Ed’s job. That’s the preacher’s job. That’s the hired gun’s job. I’m just going to live the Christian life—God help me, God bless me, God protect me. And I’m just going to sit here. You know, you guys go for it; you guys go fish for men.”
Well see, when I do that…
How are you doing? What’s your name?
Ed: What’s up Stephanie? And …
Ed: Hi Shane?
Ed: Shay, I like that name, too…
When we do, that here’s what happens. We are totally slapping God in the face. God’s a creative genius. We are made in the unique image of God. We’re one of a kind. And when we say “Oh you do it, it’s not for me,” we are taking away our uniqueness. Because God has you where you are—in your life, in your city, on your block, in your complex, in your job—to intersect and to bump up again other people who are far away from God. God wants all of us to fish. People will be attracted to you that will no be attracted to me. They’ll be attracted to a messenger like you and they’re not going to be attracted to me. We all have the message; we are unique messengers. That’s why together we can join hands and reach this community and this world for Jesus Christ.
So it’s not just my deal. Yeah, I’m the preacher. I understand that. I’m the leader of the church and all that, and that’s cool and that’s fine. But the bottom line is, it is a responsibility of a follower of Christ to own this and to realize, “I can connect with people that no one else can connect with! That’s why I’m on planet earth!”
That’s why you’re here. That’s why we’re taking up space. That’s why we’re sucking air right now. It is to do that. And that’s thrilling, that’s exciting. So, it takes my life and you’re life. It’s above just the temporal and just the mundane and we can go to the next level because we get our butts out of the chair and onto the boat. We’re passionate about it, we’re persistent about it, and we fish.
I have a bunch of fish stories I love to tell people about. You ask me about fishing and I’ll say, “Oh, let me tell you this fish story! Yeah I was fishing over here… or over there…”
And let me say this too; I am not a great fisherman. I fish in great spots with great guides, but I’m not a great fisherman. I hope you didn’t miss what I said earlier. That’s what Jesus has told us. He’s taken the responsibility off of us. He never said, “Hey, follow me and you’ll be a catcher of men.” Now that would be some serious pressure. I can’t catch men. You can’t either. I know some single women who are trying to, but you can’t.
Jesus said, “Here’s the deal. You fish; I’ll catch. You cast; I’ll catch. You get your butt out of the chair and into the boat and cast; I’ll do the catching.”
Any fisherman, any man or woman who likes to fish, will have fish stories. All the time, they’ll tell you fish stories. As a believer, as a follower of Christ, we should all have fish stories. If we don’t have any good fish stories, we might be spending too much time around the marina.
[Another video clip of Ed on his fishing trip is played on the side screens]
Ed: I think about fishermen who have caught all these great fish. They love to tell people stories. I think if someone is truly a follower of Christ, and they are a fisher of men, they will also have fishing stories and tell stories about how God used them to reach people for the kingdom. If I don’t have very many fish stories, any recent fish stories, then I’m not fishing. You know what great fishermen do? Great fishermen just keep on casting, keep on working and keep on casting because you are not going to catch every soul. You are not going to catch every person. At Fellowship Church, we have many people that show up, Prescott, and they might connect a little bit, but they never take it. That’s between them and God. But most people do. Just because I lost some fish doesn’t mean that I stop fishing. ‘Cause you have seen me lose fish before.
Prescott: Ed, he’s always hiding … that fish. He tried to eat it [the bait] twice but just missed it. [Prescott is talking to Ed about a fish that he was trying to catch, but the fish would not take the bait]
Ed: What was I doing wrong, man?
Prescott: You didn’t do anything wrong. You just missed it.
Ed: It’s also great accountability to have yourself mic’d up when you miss a fish. But you know what? When you think about it, God is always listening. Every word. Every single word we say.
[The video ends and Ed speaks live from the stage again]
We’re in the boat fishing. And that’s the great thing about this awesome church. We know it’s not time to work on our spiritual tan. We know that. We know we’re here to fish. Fishermen, I’m telling you, we have these fish stories. And if you fish in great places, guess what? You’re going to catch great fish, especially if you fish with great guides. Prescott is a close friend of mine and he’s one of the best fly-fishing guides around. Google him today—Prescott Smith—and just see what comes up. The guy is unbelievable. He’s pretty much like “Ed, cast here,” “Ed, strip the fly now,” “Ed, reel in now,” and I’ve had some really, really good luck with him.
I want to get personal for a second. You don’t mind. I want to show you a quick slide show of my family’s fishing career, would you mind? This is kind of personal, though. Here’s the first picture:
That’s me. I’m 12 years old and I pulled that fish out of a freezer and made my mom take that.
Okay there’s Lisa. She caught that snook in Florida a couple of years ago. It’s a great catch.
That’s a bull shark! Look at those short shorts; those are nice aren’t they! That was in the late 80’s, thank you very much.
There are twins with a little Perch. Isn’t that cute? Ooooh and ahh. Oay.
My daughter. It’s a world record alligator gar. We did not have a certified scale, though. We caught that in the Trinity River. Can you believe that?
And there’s a tarpon. Just keep going…
And we’re releasing the tarpon. And that’s my son and I with another tarpon.
Jimmy Houston! We went out with Jimmy a couple of months ago, and that’s my son with him. He’s a great, great guy.
That’s an alligator gar again, out of the Trinity River. Watch out! The Trinity River is awesome. Don’t be jamming the Trinity River.
Oh, there are the kids battling a big fish several years ago.
I could tell you all these stories about all these fish, from the freezer fish to the alligator gar. And I could bore you with the details. Now some of the fishermen would be like, “Ah, now that interesting; that’s cool.”
But what am I saying? Fishermen have stories. Followers fish. If you don’t fish, you’re not following. I’m not a great fisherman. I fish, though, in great places and I fish with great guides. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!
All I do is fish. And you’re talking about the ultimate guide! Who’s our guide? God’s our guide. The Bible says the Holy Spirit himself leads us and he tells us to cast or reel in and that’s what happens. And as a believer, I should have these stories about how I cast to fish and how God’s love reeled them in and how they’re now a part of God’s family. God’s our guide.
How about the church? We might join hands here. We partner with the church we have this incredible connectivity with the local church. The local church is the hope of the world. The local church is the place to fish. The local church should be a place that’s comfortably uncomfortable. I unashamedly partner with Fellowship Church, and I know many of you do, too. And if you don’t, I pray that you do. Pray those high risk prayers. Say, “God, I want to fish. God, you’ve put me in a specific body of water.”
You know we’re not to be keepers of the aquarium; we’re to be fishers of men, right? How stupid would it look to have an aquarium on the banks of the pacific ocean, and I’m all concerned about is the aquarium and I’ve got my back turned to the entire ocean and I’m missing squillions of fish out there. But I’m worried about the aquarium. No, no, no. That’s not why I’m here. That’s not why you’re here. We have unique bodies of water that God wants us to fish. God says, “I’ll partner with you, connect with the local church; you cast, you fish, and I’ll catch.”
And I have got to tell you something; you’ll have incredible catches. The reason I’ve had incredible catches, again, is because I fish with great guides and go to great places.
How about you? Who has God put in your life? Who has God put in your path? Are you fishing? Are you following? Because if you’re following, you should fish.
As I told you, several years ago I got obsessed with a fish called a permit. A permit is a fish that swims in the deep water and now and then it comes on the shallow water. And several years ago my son and I were with my friend Prescott fishing and we were out in the middle of nowhere, maybe thirty miles from civilization, and we spotted a permit. I was all freaked out; all nervous.
[The video of the catch is played on the side screens.]
I’m trying to cast to him now…
Prescott: Now, and one cast.. now!!
… and the permit ate the fly.
Prescott: One time, one cast… now!
I’m going to hook him right here… watch this…
Ed: Is he on it?
Prescott: Yeah go ahead…
Boom! Okay, so this permit is beginning to take off and the line is shooting off the deck of the boat.
Ed: Come on baby!!
And the line inadvertently gets caught around the reel and I want you to see what Prescott does.
Prescott: Jump in the water!
Ed: I got it! I got it! I got it!
He helped me untangle the line and give the fish some slack. So I fought this fish for like an hour. So we’re now going to serve popcorn and watch this entire fight. Settle in. No, we’ve edited it. But there was a giant storm coming in. This is the fish of a life time! Many people fish for decades and never even hook a permit. Again, I was fishing with an outstanding guide.
The fish is finally near the boat. There’s the big permit, and I’m thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is the fish of a lifetime! I’ve got the permit!”
And Prescott is going to grab this powerful fish by the tail. He gets away and I’m thinking, “I need you to come back again.” I think, “Okay, I’ve got him!”
Well, I didn’t realize that the line gets caught on Prescott’s shirt and pop goes the line! I still get teary eyed over that. That hurt.
Well, I choked, but it was fun. I’ve lost fish. Would I put my fly rod down and stop fishing? Are you kidding me?! Do I park my butt in the lazy boy and just watch fishing shows? No! What do I do? I still fish; I get in the bow of the boat and I fish. Because remember, fishermen fish. And when we fish, we go with great guides to great places, and we catch great fish. It’s not that we’re skilled. We just go to great places with great guides.
So what’s our goal? What does it mean to put the ball through the net? What does that mean? The goal is not, I’ll say it again, to be catchers, but to be fishers.
[Another video clip of Ed’s fishing trip on Andros Island is played. Ed is speaking on the video]
Ed: Jesus never told us to be catchers of men. He says, “Just fish.” You fish. You cast. You throw the Gospel out there. He will do the catching. That’s really the way a guide works, because you, in essence, do the catching. I couldn’t do this by myself. I couldn’t come out here and find these fish like this.
Prescott: The same thing with me. I can’t do it by myself. That’s what a team is for. But everything in life is like when you throw that fly out there. You have no control whether that fish is going to eat it or not. It’s the same thing as you say, putting God’s word out there. Some of the seeds are going to take root, some aren’t. The fish shows us that. We may catch ten bone fish but we are never going to catch every fish we cast out.
Ed: There is one thing I have learned over the years as I have fished with Prescott. As I said, Prescott is an outstanding guide. I always do better when I do exactly what he says in this fishing game. The same is true, Prescott, with life. We do what the ultimate guide says, our heavenly Father, then our life is always going to go better, isn’t it? But we have that tendency to try to do our own thing, to make our own cast.
Prescott: That’s a natural urge we are fighting against all the time.
Ed: Right. So often, I think, Prescott, the Lord shows us people to talk to, people to help, he puts them on our heart and sometimes we respond to it, and other times, sadly, we miss it because we are thinking about other things We may be trying to do this deal, or make this amount of money, or chase this fun fix, as opposed to really being sensitive and listening to what the Lord says.
Prescott: Think about a guide. A guide who loves doing for you just as your heavenly Father loves you. As bad as you want that fish, I want that ten times more.
Ed: Fish on.
[On the video, Ed has caught a fish and is reeling him in]
Ed: What it is, I listened to Prescott, saw the fish, presented the fly, and bang, he’s on.
[The video ends and Ed speaks from the stage again]
1 Corinthians 3:8 “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”
Fishing is hard work. Doing what I talked about is hard work. That is why we are committed to being uncomfortable. It’s not easy, but I’m going to tell you something—it is rewarding. The Bible says in John 3:16…I think you know that verse, don’t you? It’s like whenever they kick an extra point they put up John 3:16. Have you seen that? “For God so loved the…” What? “…world.”
Yeah, you said it. For God so loved the world. The gospel is what? The good news. The gospel is not about God and me. The gospel is about God and the world.
And here is one of the thing that separates Christianity from all the other world religions. Jesus tells me when I get outside of myself, when I get my butt out of the lazy boy and onto the boat, when I think about the needs of others, when I’m casting to others, when I’m fishing—that’s when I meet my deepest needs. It’s while I’m serving others. And that’s awesome.
You might be saying, “Well Ed, how do you do this? I mean, how do you do this? What do you do?”
Well, you pray. You fish.
“Well, how do you fish?”
Get ready to share your story. You should be able to share your story if you are a follower of Christ in several minutes. How do you share your story? You say, “Here’s the way my life was before I met Christ. Here’s how I met Christ. And here is what Jesus has done in my life since.”
Just like that. I have a friend of mine who lives in Highland Park. He is a very, very wealthy guy. He’s worth several hundred million dollars and he met Christ several years ago. And here is what he says, “You know, I was just a bored rich guy. But once I bowed the knee to Christ, my life moved from success to true significance, from just floundering around to a real purpose.”
His goal now is to give away all of his money before he dies. Now that will rock you. He is witnessing, he’s telling the truth about his condition, about what he knows to be true. Sometimes you get a chance to do that; sometimes you don’t. Other times you can give someone a resource.
A friend of mine who is very far away from God, I’ve known this guy for several years, just had a death in his family. It just rocked his world. I called him and talked to him briefly, and I just felt a leading from the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit told me, not in an audible voice, but I just knew it was time to do it. He said “Ed, give the guy a resource, give him a book.” So I bought a book for him about suffering. And this is just an awesome book, so I just sent it to him.
So I’m casting as I am sending resources to people; I’m casting as I’m sharing my story; I’m casting as I’m just living my life; I’m casting while I’m inviting people to church.
Just think about it, we’re going to have like 1800 services here during Christmas—something like that. People give God a shot during the holiday season. What an opportunity we have to fish for people! And we fish because of love. It’s all about relationships. It’s because people matter to God.
You know that fish that broke my heart, the permit, the one where I cried? I didn’t stop fishing. Because, you know, I’m optimistic and I’m pretty persistent when it comes to fishing. And a year later in the same spot I went fishing with Prescott and look what happened. I caught him.
[A video clip of the fishing trip is played. On this trip, Ed caught the permit. The video shows him in the water holding the fish, ready to release it back into the wild]
Prescott: There we go.
I practice catch and release. I release pretty much every fish I catch, showing the love there. So, I know when we released this fish—watch him swim off—he’s going to get bigger, he’s going to reproduce. And think about the fish that have been caught here at Fellowship Church by the love and the grace of God. We release them. We catch them and release them into ministry. We grow, we reproduce and discover what God wants for our lives. And there’s nothing like it.
I ran across this sign: “Gone Fishin’.” [Ed places the “Gone Fishin’” sign on the La-Z-Boy chair]
Followers fish. If you’re not fishing, you’re not following. So,… let’s fish.
Ed (on video): Do you know what? Jesus tells us to be fishers of men. Jesus will do the catching. All we do is fish. That is all we are to do. We are to cast and cast and cast. We are to cast by showing the love we have for them that comes from Christ, by serving them, by helping them, by sharing with them, and by telling them how we were caught by the hook of the Gospel. That’s how we fish. So, Prescott, it’s all about casting, man.