Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fisherman who can't fish

After Jesus's death and resurrection we find an amazing story about fishermen who couldn't fish.
Simon Peter [and six other disciples] were together.  Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you."  They went out and got into the boat...  (John 21:2-3 ESV)
Peter and most of the others with him were fisherman by trade.  Up until three years earlier when they started following Jesus, fishing was how they made their living.  They were experts in fishing.  Their earliest memories were of fishing.  At their family meals and family devotions and family reunions, they probably talked about fishing.  So now that Jesus was gone (and they hadn't yet seen Him resurrected), they went back to doing what they knew so well: fishing!

Thus we should find the next statement to be truly striking:
...but that night they caught nothing.  (John 21:3 ESV)
Wait, what?  Our expert fisherman - seven of them - couldn't catch a single fish?  Isn't that a little... odd?  And more than odd!  It must have been enormously frustrating!

Think of something that you're really good at.  Perhaps it's soccer or cooking or writing or car repair.  Now imagine that you spend an entire day's (or night's) work on this task you're so good at.  But instead of succeeding in your venture, you find that you couldn't score a single goal or that you burned everything or that none of the words flowed or that nothing fit properly.  How would YOU be feeling?

For our fishermen friends, it gets worse.
Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?"  They answered him, "No." (John 21:5 ESV)
Now, usually Jesus showing up - let alone a resurrected Jesus - would be a good thing.  And it will be a few verses later.  But at this point they don't yet know that it's Jesus.  What they DO know is that someone is highlighting their failure.

Thus, these men are fishermen who couldn't fish who were being exposed as fishermen who couldn't fish.

And that's us.

Most of us received some good fundraising training.  Many of us studied Scripture about fundraising, read books on fundraising, prayed about fundraising, went to training sessions and conferences on fundraising, learned from other fundraisers about fundraising and even read a blog about fundraising.  We should be really good at fundraising, right?

But how many times have you said, "I am going fundraising," and then sat down at your desk or got in your car and diligently worked hard... but that night you "caught" nothing?  If you're anything like me, you've had more than a few.

Then a well-meaning friend asks you how fundraising is going.  Or you submit a required update to your sending organization.  Or your family is wondering how much longer you'll be living back at home.  Each of them is asking, "Child, do you have any new funds?"  And you answer them, "No."

Thus, you're a fundraiser who can't raise funds who's being exposed as a fundraiser who can't raise funds.

So what do you do about it?  Let's consider what happened to our failed fisherman friends...
[Jesus] said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish]." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (John 21:6 ESV)
Are we to think that, throughout the entire night, not one of the seven men had thought to cast the net on the right side of the boat?  Not at all.  It's not that the left side was devoid of fish while the right side had fish in abundance.  Rather, we're to recognize that this time Jesus had planned another outcome.  Why?  Because this time the seven fishermen were very aware of whom was actually bringing in the fish.

Fellow fundraisers, we can learn from this!  Our hearts are prone, when our failure is exposed, to numb the pain in any number of ways.  We overwork to try to cover our failure.  We underwork to try to forget about it.  We read a new book so as to learn a better technique.  We grow bitter toward contacts who don't give.  Or we lose hope and quit altogether.

But the real solution is much simpler and more satisfying than all that: acknowledge your obvious inability, listen to Jesus and then "toss the nets" once more.  No, there's nothing magic about it.  But in doing so you'll discover a heart full of dependence, faith and expectation.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast."  Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?"  They knew it was the Lord.  (John 21:12 ESV)
And so will you.