…but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ...
- Ephesians 4.15
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
- Luke 5.4
The Lord chose him so that he might teach the barbarian
nations, so that he might fish with nets of doctrine;
so that he might draw believers out of the world to grace,
and they might follow the Lord to a heavenly seat.
- Sechnall, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 6th century
In explaining his astonishingly fruitful ministry among the pagan Irish, Patrick insisted that it was necessary for him to “fish well, and diligently.” Sechnall, a contemporary and the successor of Patrick, says that he did precisely that, “with nets of doctrine.”
The idea of “fishing” for those God has prepared for salvation goes all the way back to Jesus. He promised that those who follow Him would become fishers of men (Matt. 4.19). But we have to push out into the waters where the fish are if we’re going to realize “a catch.”
Your Personal Mission Field is your “deep” – where Jesus commands you to let down your nets for a catch. So how’s it going? Catchin’ anything? Maybe you need better bait?
Poor Patrick. He didn’t get the memo, in wide circulation among many Christians today, that doctrine is strictly out, no-no, impolitic, intolerant, and very un-postmodern. Doctrine, my friend, is the last thing people want to hear today. Tell us stories. Make us laugh. String some catchy tunes on your troll line. Pander to our felt needs. But by no means – none, nada – give us doctrine.
Sechnall sang of the essence of Patrick’s ministry: through the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine, Patrick brought salvation to the lost and sanctification to the saved. Now this is interesting. Unwashed, illiterate, pagan, immoral, Celts in Ireland repented of their sins and devoted themselves to follow Jesus upon hearing the doctrines of Christ, the Trinity, the Kingdom, salvation, and so forth.
Are people today more hard of heart and shallow of mind than those ancient Celts?
Maybe we need to bait our hooks with a little sound doctrine?
The current suspicion toward all things doctrinal on the part of many Christians has yet to prove its power, compared to the preaching of Patrick. We have avoided doctrine like the plague for at least a generation now, and the Church is more irrelevant to the times, and more studiously avoided by the lost, than ever in our lifetimes. Perhaps it’s time to give doctrine another try?
Don’t you love that metaphor: “fishing with nets of doctrine”? It is the truth of God, proclaimed in love, that reaches the hardened hearts of rebellious sinners and the revives the redeemed hearts of eager disciples. The longer we allow doctrine to languish, the shallower and more indistinct our faith and our churches will become.
Jesus said the truth will set us free (Jn. 8.32), and truth is communicated through doctrine. There was nothing un-doctrinal about the preaching of Celtic missionaries. They stood the early medieval world right-side up by fishing with nets of doctrine and gathering a catch that few eras of Church history have ever witnessed.
Christian doctrine is the truth about Jesus that sets us free from fear, doubt, hopelessness, anxiety, and aimlessness. We despise or neglect doctrine to our detriment, as well as to that of the lost men and women of our day.
The world is awash with lies and half-truths, and people are drowning in deceit. It’s time to get out the nets of doctrine, my friends, and to launch out into our Personal Mission Fields, our hooks baited with truth.
Psalm 51.10-13 (Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
Thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
Lord, do I know enough doctrine to lead someone to a saving knowledge of Jesus?
Sound doctrine for you and your friends
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As you pray…
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Carey, pp. 152, 153.