From Shepherding to Fishing

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
    I will sing the praises of your name.”

Again, it says,

“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
    let all the peoples extol him.”

And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:7–13 (NIV)


Consider This

I believe the Old Testament could fairly be called a sheep herding expedition. The primary exemplar is a shepherd. So what about the New Testament? I would call the New Testament a massive fishing expedition. But why did God call fishermen instead of shepherds? It is quite a change. I have wondered about this for years. I think I finally understand.

It’s because in the shift from the Old Testament to the New Testament, God is not looking to add a lost sheep here and there. This shift from the old covenant to the new covenant means the hope of adding to the community every non-Jewish person in the world. Today’s text reveals yet again how God’s plan is global in scope. It always has been. It took sending his Son to fulfill the plan. God’s plan has always been to raise up a people—a community living in covenant relationship together with him, through whom he could reveal himself to the world and reconcile them in relationship.

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.

No, this is not adding a few stray sheep from the tribe of Judah. We are now talking about the whole world. Yes, this is a massive fishing expedition.

Growing up I had another misconception. When Jesus said his followers would be fishers of people, I immediately assumed he meant cane poles and rod and reels replete with live bait and artificial lures. Yes, I assumed he was talking about bait fishing. It turns out, New Testament fishing was all about net fishing. Now, here’s the kicker. In this massive, New Testament-fishing expedition, the people of God would become the net. Now, let me ask you, what is a net? It is quite simply a collection of knots. And yes, the knots are our relationships. The knots are not just any relationships though; as though Facebook friendship level would suffice. No, the knots are covenanted relationships. The knots are friendships in the tradition of the friends of Jesus. You knew I would get here. Yes, the knots are banded and bonded relationships; people learning to love one another with the very love of God.

It turns out this is how other people get caught up in the net. They become enfolded into our relationships and in time they become knotted in. I believe the greatest biblical symbol of the New Testament church, the covenant community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the symbol we have largely left behind: the net. When those first disciples responded to Jesus’s call to follow him and become fishers of people, it says they left their nets behind. Jesus would transform their lives and relationships into that net and then he would throw them out like a net into the deep waters of the world.

It’s time we pick the net up again as the sign and symbol both of the church and of our churches. The success of our churches will depend on the supernatural strength of our relationships therein. Are you seeing it? Our relationships are the mission. Awakening depends on the strength of the knots.

Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, those hundred or so Christians in the city of a million, to mend the net of their community. To re-band those disciples by retying the tattering knots.

The most important work ahead of us in the churches of our time is learning to tie New Testament knots again. If “church” does not exist at the micro-level, it does not exist at all. Truth be told, we have to re-learn to net fish all over again as we have spent the last hundred years or so perfecting the mistaken model of bait fishing. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Bait fishing is trying to attract people to our churches with all manner of shiny things. Net fishing is about banding together and going out where the fish are, in the shallows and deeps of the real world.

What if it turns out the most loving, mission-oriented thing you could do is start a band? Would you do it?

And I know, you are still waiting to hear about my band. And you shall. Stay tuned. I’ll tell you the story of how we tied the knot, and how we keep tying it.



Abba Father! Thank you for the way you sent your Son to catch fish, and how he started with fishermen and women, and how he tied them together in the knot of his relationship with you in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Teach us how to tie such New Testament knots in ways that become so unbreakable that others become caught up in the love we share. We pray for our churches to recover this net-fishing mindset. Start with me. Start with my band. Start with tying a knot between me and a couple of others, for the world. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.