Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered April 1, 2006 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Why Not Shepherds?

(RealAudio Version avaiable)

I have a question for you. 'Why did Jesus call fishermen to follow Him?' To me it would be much more logical to call shepherds because we are all sheep. Jesus Himself was a shepherd. Over and over the Bible adjures Christian pastors to feed the sheep. Three times in John 21:15- 17 Jesus instructs Simon Peter, "Feed My sheep....Take care of My sheep....Feed My Sheep." It was to the shepherds on the hillsides that the Heavenly Angels first appeared in glory to announce the birth of Jesus. God hand picked David the son of Jesse, a lowly shepherd boy, to be the leader of His people. That's the kind of leaders God wants. Obviously shepherds make great leaders. During Jesus' ministry here on earth He was a shepherd: John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Again Jesus said in verse 14, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and My sheep know me.". So, Jesus was a Shepherd.

Jesus didn't refer to Himself as the good fisherman but as the Good Shepherd! So why didn't He choose shepherds as the future leaders of His church just like God did in the Old Testament? Why not?

Many of the great leaders of God's church in the old testament were shepherds. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses; were all good shepherds. All of these individuals and more were entrusted with leading the church of God before Jesus came. The eastern shepherd was the epitome of courageousness and dedication. They fearlessly cared for the flock of God that was entrusted into their care and keeping. Flocks of sheep became numerous and healthy under the tutelage of many a faithful hardworking shepherd. They cared for the new lambs and protected the growing flock from danger from predators.

How curious then for Jesus not to entrust His New Testament Church with shepherds. Not even one of the 12 disciples, that I know of, had ever been a shepherd. Were shepherds scarce in Jesus day? Actually there were plenty of shepherds in that area of Palestine. Jesus intentionally avoided choosing shepherds to lead the Christian church. Jesus called fishermen to follow Him. WHY?


Jeremiah 16:16 "But now I will send for many fishermen," declares the LORD, "and they will catch them."

Again in Ezekiel 47:10 Fishermen will stand along the shore;....The fish will be of many kinds like the sand of the Great Sea.


The new church wanted and needed to grow fast. A shepherd is usually given an existing flock and maintains that flock in good fashion. A fisherman starts every morning with an empty boat. A fisherman, by nature, is more aggressive than a shepherd. He must go out to catch new fish every day. The new church must grow and grow fast. Fishermen could best perform that job description. Peter, James and John were all fishermen and they were the closest to Jesus of the 12. Fishermen must work in all kinds of weather or they will starve. The fisherman who avoids rainy days or stays at home when the forecast is borderline will soon be bankrupt. This enterprising nature of the fisherman was needed to accelerate the growth of the Christian Church.


I think Jesus chose fishermen because God needs many fishers and few shepherds. In the Christian church every member, like the disciples, is called to be a fisherman. Matthew 4:18, 19.

As Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and his brother, Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishers. "Come and follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men.

Every Christian, you see, is to be an evangelist. This applies to us. We are to be fishers of men, a missionary fishing for unsaved men and women, unsaved boys and girls. Jesus wants us to be involved. Not everyone can be a shepherd but everybody can be a fisherman. Peter was a fisherman first and only later did Jesus tell him he could be a shepherd. We should never cease to be a fisherman. Paul Harvey said, "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium." Our job is not to be an aquarium keeper, but to go and fish for men. Our church must never forget its mission. Our mission is fishing for men. It is not a special activity for special people at special occasions but the normal activity of every Christian every day.


Shepherds often live in isolation. Crowds do not often congregate around a shepherd when he comes into town. But everybody wants to see what the catch of the day was. Fishermen are not hermits. They are social people and mingle with people. It takes a team of spirited strong men to catch fish with large nets. If he does not learn to work with others he will not be successful. The successful fisherman must deal with boatmen, he must compete with many others in the fish market. He is not a loner. Jesus never upheld before us the life of the monasticism. We are not called to be secluded from the world but to go into the world.

Look at Matthew 28:19, 20, our scripture reading. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age." He'll go with you. You'll not be alone.

Fellowship is Jesus' way. That former Monk Martin Luther said: "More and greater sins are committed when men are alone than when they keep themselves in fellowship." Only when Adam and Eve were alone, away from God, could Satan deceive her. Only when King David was alone and idle did he fall into adultery.


Now, whether your occupation is sitting at a desk, or driving a truck, or doing surgery, or whatever it is, the same call that Jesus called Andrew with is also meant for you. You are not called to sit idly by but to roll up your sleeves and be involved in outreach. You are called to be a missionary, to go in Global Evangelism, to work in building up the cause of Jesus. A Christian who does not evangelize will fossilize. We've got to be out doing something for Jesus, not just squabbling over ourselves, but you should lead somebody to Jesus this year.

Unfortunately most Christians are sterile. By that I mean to say: they never reproduce themselves, when God has clearly commanded us to make disciples not just decisions. Consider this: The total offspring of a single pair of flies, if they survived to the end of summer, would create a mound big enough to cover Germany to a depth of 46 feet. Next time you swat a housefly, remember the importance of spiritual reproduction. I'm not exaggerating.

These things are true. The 12 disciples had to act quickly and with great zeal. Again time is short. The end of the world is looming upon us. It seems to be only a matter of time before several scallywag type nations acquire the atomic bomb and we're going to see some bombs go off. Only a few more years of affordable oil remain for our use until modern life as we know is grinds down into anarchy. Only when God's people rise up and follow their ultimate job description, to be a fisherman, will they be doing the full will of God. Your ultimate task is not to warm a pew although the disciples did often sit at Jesus' feet. There is nothing wrong in sitting at Jesus' feet. Your job is to become a fisher of men. Shepherds care for the sheep. Fishermen are hunters. That's why Jesus called fishermen.

So, what was God's first plan? Actually, evangelism is God's third choice, it's not the first choice. The great gospel commission of going and telling is number three. God's second choice was for interested people to desire to come and see. God hoped that His chosen people (Israel) would be so blessed because of their relationship with Him that people would beat a path to their door. Then they could observe what can happen when a people live life according to God's will. But alas His people, Israel, did not follow God very well. They chose Idols and lived much like the heathen around them. It didn't work.

What was God's first choice? For one hundred percent of human beings to have an unbroken relationship with Him so that no one would have to seek the lost. But Adam and Eve spoiled God's highest hope. Now the church is operating under the mode of evangelism. It is wonderful. But it is God's third choice.

The mission of every church is to uplift Jesus to the world. Your street is part of that world. So is India. So is your son or your daughter's bedroom. They are part of the world. One of the most successful companies in the fast food industry is Domino's Pizza. It is no surprise that the founder of the company has a clearly defined statement of mission. In Monaghan's own words, "Domino's has a single goal. Its mission: to deliver a high-quality pizza, hot, within 30 minutes at a fair price." That's clearly stated, isn't it. What a mission statement! It's centered on pizza. "Hot, on time, at a good price." Everything they do at Domino's is centered on that goal. What about our Church? Everything ought to be centered on the great commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19-20.

Look at John 17. Here is part of Jesus' prayer. John 17:18 says: "As you sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world." That's His disciples, that's us. Our job description is to go to the world, just as Jesus went to the world, and tell the world about Jesus. We are living in the last days. We must be faithful to our task. Did you know that Christianity is just one generation away from extinction? Each generation must tell the next. If we would stop telling the world about Jesus, stop preaching Jesus, burn all the Bibles Christianity would be over.

As we go out to evangelize the world we are really after peoples hearts. In the year, 218 BC, the Carthaginian King, Hannibal wanted to conquer the world. He stood above a high pass in the Alps and looked down upon the mighty Roman Empire. And he said, "Come, let's take it." They came down through the Alps, through the passes and they came into one narrow pass and there was a huge boulder wedged in the pass. They could not get their chariots, their horses and elephants through this pass. The soldiers tried hammers and pickaxes. The rock had to be broken. Nothing would phase it. It was blocking their path to success. Hannibal Down the mountainside he went. But an enormous obstacle blocked his path to victory....a huge rock prevented his chariots and wagons from entering the pass. His soldiers tried hammers and picks. The rock must be broken up. Nothing worked.

Desperate and impatient, Hannibal cried out: "Burn It". Everybody thought he couldn't be serious. Nevertheless, trees were cut and piled around the boulder. The fire was lit and soon a flaming inferno raged. Suddenly the rock yielded with a deafening "CRACK" which was heard throughout the valley. The impenetrable rock had split. The path was cleared and the army descended upon Rome and the course of world history was changed forever.

Now, you may think it is impossible to be involved in global evangelism. "I can't get a passport and go over to India, or some other place. I can't do that." Well. Don't you let anything block your path in doing God's will. Whatever God's will is, you need to be involved in some way in evangelism. Never dismiss the mighty power of God to change the human heart. God will clear the obstacles and make a way for you to reach your wayward son, or your neighbor. You may have to light a fire under him to crack his hard heart but God will bless. God will enable you to participate in Global Evangelism. Get your passport and sign up for a series of meetings in Zanzibar or Honduras or India. God will bless you. Step out in faith and God will clear the way before you. The gospel commission says "Go into all the world!"

Do you think the gospel will go to all the world? In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said: "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

There are numerous unsaved people everywhere. Did you know, "The United States is third among nations with the most unsaved people. Only China and India have more."1

Matthew 13:47 says, "The kingdom of heaven is like a (fishing) net." We are the fishermen. A lot of people are not good fishermen. I have noticed that around the Tennessee River, and some of these creeks. That doesn't stop them from fishing. They enjoy it. The same ought to hold true for our spiritual fishing trips as well. Go out humbly and prayerfully and God will give you a good catch.

One day a rich man went fishing. He had all the latest and finest equipment. Hours later he had caught nothing. He walked on up the river and came upon a small boy with a stick and a bent hook. The boy had a fine string of trout over his shoulder and he was about to go home. The man questioned the lad, "How did you get so many fish and I got nothing and we both use the same bait?" The lad said, "You've got to keep yourself out of sight." To be a successful fisher of men; preach Jesus, and get Him into sight and get yourself our of sight. Send the people away talking about Jesus instead of praising you for all your numerous accomplishments. Don't impress them with your fancy house but with Jesus.

Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." So, go. Go somewhere.

Do you know one of the greatest impediments of successful fishing is, today by Christians? It is the poverty of our personal relationships with Jesus. That's why we don't catch fish. We don't know the Fisherman. So, know Jesus and show Jesus, and you'll be successful.

1. Missions USA, Nov./Dec. 1993, p. 54.

 Hymn of Praise: #25,  Praise the Lord, His Glories show
Scripture:  Matthew 28:18-20
Hymn of Response: #373,  Seeking the Lost
Shepherds, or Fishermen?  

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