The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. At Jesus' command they let down their nets once more. ''And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake" (Luke 5:6). This narration of the miraculous catch is a symbol of the evangelistic productivity that is guaranteed when the church responds in willing obedience to Christ's divine commission.
The challenging mandate
Christ's challenging command to His disciples is "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets" for the catch (verse 4). Time's clock has struck the hour when the church must embark upon a new revolutionary Spirit-led soul-winning adventure of unprecedented magnitude. Christ's mandate to "launch out into the deep" is a call for the whole church to set bigger and more daring evangelistic objectives. It is a divine directive to mobilize and harness the entire membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for an all-out evangelistic advance. It is a call to set in motion a new tidal wave of soul-winning action that will engulf every town, village, city, and country in this world with the redeeming message of the everlasting gospel. Now is the time for God's people to launch out into the deep and let down the gospel net for an extraordinary catch of men and women for the kingdom of God. With Isaiah we are challenged to enlarge the place of our tents, lengthen our cords, and strengthen our stakes (Isa. 54:2).
The divine directive "Launch out into the deep" has a ring of immediacy and urgency. The church can no longer continue to expect dramatic Pentecostal results in evangelism while it is fishing in the shallow waters of spiritual complacency, lack of sacrificial commitments, and Laodicean lukewarmness. Remaining in the shallow waters of small soul-winning objectives is a tragic denial of our sublime mission! The Adventist Church began in a spirit of urgency, and it must also climax in urgency and a blaze of triumph! As the church swiftly approaches the hour of sunset, launching out into the deep must become the trademark of every Adventist congregation, institution, industry, and organization. We have a saving, redeeming judgment-hour message that must be given to all mankind with compelling passion. Sweeping religious, social, political, and economic changes are taking place all over the world with startling implications for the church in the accomplishment of its divine commission. A diabolical, materialistic political ideology now threatens the advance of the gospel in some areas of the world. We are not immune to these atheistic ideologies. While the doors remain ajar, the church in collective Holy Spirit-directed commitment must launch out and let down the gospel net so that hundreds of thousands may be brought into God's church.
Launching out into the deep is God's imperious summons to a new revival and awakening that gives priority to a total unrelenting evangelism. Launching out into the deep in this beginning stage of Harvest '90 gives unquestioning priority to evangelism in all forms and on all levels of the church organization. This involves public evangelism, personal evangelism, lay evangelism, youth evangelism, pastoral evangelism, health evangelism, mass media evangelism, et cetera. The dual mandate to "launch out . . . and let down" for the catch is a command, as well as a promise of bountiful success. All God's commands are promises.
The command to "launch out into the deep" is addressed to the laity as well as to all categories of denominational workers. It is high time to abandon our cozy harbors of complacency, self-satisfaction, and undisturbed religious contentment as we launch out into the deep of soul-winning action. Today, while countless millions continue to drift with the tide of moral laxity, materialism, and spiritual bankruptcy—today, when multitudes look desperately for a way of escape from escalating political unrest, ruthless bloodshed, economic chaos, injustice, and social oppression—God commands His modern disciples to "launch out into the deep" with the all-embracing, all-sufficient good news of deliverance and redemption through the everlasting gospel.
The word "deep" in this imperative is descriptive of the exploding population yet to be reached by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. Fishermen never go fishing in swimming pools. They launch out into the deep: in rivers, lakes, streams, and the mighty ocean. The deep encompasses the masses as well as the elite, the aristocracy, and the intelligentsia. It includes the capitalists as well as the socialists, the upper class and the middle class, and the lower class and the classless. It includes the haves and the have-nots. The Seventh-day Adventist Church by launching out into the deep is under orders from God to confront peoples of all races, persuasions, and status with the redemptive eschatological message entrusted to us in this sunset hour of human history. It is time to leave the shallow waters of formal, mediocre soul-winning methods and launch out into the deep of Spirit-filled evangelism. In the deep, millions of judgment-bound men and women are waiting only to be gathered into the gospel net.
God's strategy for explosive growth
Launching out into the deep is Christ's exclusive strategy for prolific church growth. It is God's recipe for a growing, progressive church. Notice that Christ commands us to "let down" for the catch. It is catching time! The catch is contingent on launching out and letting down the nets. Without living faith and dynamic action there is no production. The master key to genuine evangelistic explosion in the Adventist Church is clearly expressed in Peter's unhesitating response to Christ's order to "launch out into the deep." Observe the faith factor in Peter's reply. " 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets' " (Luke 5:5, N.I.V.). Note well the confident expectancy in the phrase " 'I will let down the nets.' " This is a faith that expects results. It is the word of faith coupled with submissive action. Peter was a superb craftsman at the profession of fishing. He knew how, when, and where to fish.
This is a classic example of the efficacy of faith and works in proper combination. Peter, the professional fisherman, had employed all the techniques and expertise of his fishing trade. By his own admission he had worked all night and had caught nothing. This is typical of the futility of human efforts without divine unction. "Night was the only favorable time for fishing with nets in the clear waters of the lake. After toiling all night without success, it seemed hopeless to cast the net by day; but Jesus had given the command, and love for their Master moved the disciples to obey."—The Desire of Ages, p. 246.
Peter did not for a single moment question his Master's directive to "launch out into the deep, and let down" for the catch. To demonstrate his obedience to the Master Fisherman, he unhesitatingly let down the net and in faith awaited the results. Peter knew from personal experience that Christ's techniques carry a full guarantee of success. He had come to know and trust the efficacy of God's unfailing methods. It is the same thought that Zechariah expressed in his famous passage "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord" (Zech. 4:6).
Like Peter we have fished too long in the unproductive shallow waters of human efforts. Man-made evangelistic plans, impressive programs, clever techniques, incentives, and a highly programmed approach are sometimes in direct conflict with the leadership of the Holy Spirit. 'Like Peter, the total laity and leadership of God's church are challenged to embark on a new evangelistic faith adventure. "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets" for the catch is the ringing challenge of Christ to the church today. Evangelism, in order to produce extraordinary quantitative results, must follow Christ's directive. Launching out into the deep does not depend on human wisdom, cleverness, sophisticated programming, ever larger budgets, complicated facilities, and complex techniques, but on faith-prompted obedience. When the whole church in united evangelistic action moves out into the deep by faith in God's authoritative mandate, Pentecost will return with astonishing splendor!
The most awesome challenge of all to God's people in this crisis hour is how to arouse, recruit, train, and mobilize the total laity in a systematic plan of evangelizing the exploding population of this world. In the language of Peter the church must confess, " 'Because you say so,'" we will launch out into the deep through faith and obedience, will trans form our hundreds into thousands and our thousands into hundreds of thousands. When we launch out into the deep, past and present evangelistic results will appear unimpressive in com parison with what a united, obedient, expectant church will accomplish under the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.
The astonishing results
The overwhelming result of Peter's prompt response to Christ's command to "launch out into the deep" is vividly depicted in Luke 5:6, 7, N.I.V. The passage clearly indicates that when the disciples had let down the nets into the deep as Christ had instructed, "they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink." These two verses are brimful of vital truths for the church in its evangelistic mission. God guarantees the results when the church and its leadership in obedience and faith accept and implement Christ's evangelistic strategy. When we follow Him He takes full responsibility in making us fishers of men (Matt. 4:19). Yes, all God needs is obedient, available lives, and He will arrange the details and fill the gospel net as we cast it into the deep by faith. The moving message of these two verses has a special relevancy for the church in the implementation of its evangelistic mission.
First is the impressive catch. The disciples caught such an impressive number of fish that their nets began to break (Luke 5:6, N.I.V.). What a dramatic change! They had fished all night and had caught nothing. Now, in response to Christ's command, they are overwhelmed by the massive catch that breaks their nets. This is precisely what God is expecting to do for His church during Harvest '90. In these end-times Christ is calling His modern disciples to "launch out into the deep, and let down" for the catch. When this is done we may watch in breathtaking wonder as hundreds of sinners saved by God's trans forming grace enter the fellowship of the church. Under the power of the latter rain, every congregation is to explode with the influx of new believers who accept God's saving message.
Every church is to launch out into communities, preaching the everlasting gospel, winning new converts, organizing new church groups, and confirming new believers in this precious message. The breaking net is a vivid symbol of a progressive, dynamic, growing church. God is ready to break our nets with Pentecostal soul-winning results. To enjoy this exhilarating experience, the whole church in collective action must launch out into the deep—city to city until the last city, house to house until the last house, person to person until the last person.
The second exciting result of launching out into the deep is its unifying impact on the church. Totally incapable of coping alone with the colossal catch of fish, the disciples "signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink" (verse 7, N.I.V.). This means the total church participating in the common blessing of collective soul winning. This has the notion of fellowship and partnership. It is no longer an empty boat, but rather two boats loaded with fish to the point of sinking. God's blessings are always an extravagance! I have a dream that during this time of Harvest '90, God's church will emerge into a new spectacular era of unprecedented evangelism and church growth similar to the fishing exploits of the disciples. What a dramatic change! After a whole night of monotonous fishing with no results comes a new exciting action-packed day of over whelming productivity! God is anxiously waiting to bring about a similar experience for His church today. A working church is always a united church, and a united church is always a growing church (read Acts 2:42, 47, N.I.V., for a gripping confirmation of this assertion).
The third result of launching out into the deep is that extraordinary productivity produces extraordinary challenges. The breaking nets and the sinking boats are some of the challenges of deep-water evangelism. An exploding membership will surely impose tremendous demands on the spiritual and material resources of the church and its leadership: the demands for additional funding for more and more church buildings to accommodate the growing congregations, the pressure for schools and other facilities to meet the spiraling need of an exploding youth membership, as well as adequate pastoral staffing to administer mushrooming congregations. The Biblical secret to addressing these challenges is in the words "They signaled their partners ... to come and help them." This is the chain reaction of unified, collective soul winning. "They signaled their partners." The Lay Activities, Youth, Sabbath School, Health, Education, Steward ship, and Publishing departments, together with pastoral and administrative leadership—all uniting in joint collective action.
As in the case of the disciples, the time has come for the whole church to unite and coordinate all its spiritual and material resources in a united campaign to evangelize the world for Christ. Total evangelism requires launching out into the deep through administrative initiative, support, and participation. It requires the full cooperation and involvement of every department and service of the church. Joining hands and hearts together in prayer, consecration, fellowship, doctrinal harmony, and evangelistic activities, we are to unite for the enlargement and qualitative consolidation of the church. Together we are to share in the excitement of breaking nets and sinking boats as we launch out into the deep.
Catching men alive
At the exciting climax of this superlative catch of fish, assured that the lesson was eloquently driven home to the disciples, Christ concluded the episode with this moving assurance: "Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men' " (verse 10, N.I.V.). In Mark 1:17 Christ graciously invites us, " 'Come, follow me, . . . and I will make you fishers of men' " (N.I.V.). In Luke 5:10 Jesus used the Greek word zogreo, meaning "to take alive." It means to catch fish in such a way that they are still alive when brought to shore for sale. Peter learned the techniques perfectly. On the day of Pentecost Christ's prophecy came true when three thousand were caught alive for Christ.
Launching out into the deep emphasizes the need to train fishers of men to win men and women alive to Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the church. Under the unction of the Holy Spirit, working through revival, unity, and laity mobilization, we shall achieve exploits for God during Harvest '90. Let us launch out into the deep and let down the evangelistic nets for an unprecedented catch of souls for the kingdom of God. Let us catch them alive and keep them alive in the dynamic fellowship of the church. Let us always remember that the basic priority of the church is aggressive evangelism. We exist to deploy fishers of men to take men alive for the kingdom of God. In this sunset hour of human history let us unitedly launch out and let down the gospel net to catch men for His kingdom.