Fishin’ with John Miller

Posted on October 11, 2011 by


Contact work is a primary distinctive in Young Life. It is difficult, uncomfortable, at times awkward, lonely, and fraught with potential embarrassment. GO anyway!! If there is no contact work, no going TO kids who don’t know the Savior in their world it is NOT Young Life. It is then just a “come to us” program…

An iconic staff person named John Miller, among the first Jim Rayburn hired in the 1940’s, who is now home with the Lord, was an avid fisherman. John used to wax eloquent about the art of fishing. Here is a rough paraphrase of conversations we had years ago. “You know I never had a fish swim out of the stream, crawl up on the shore, walk up to my door, ring the door bell and invite himself in to my home to be caught.”  In order to be a great fisherman you need to know the fish’s habits, when they feed, where they go, what time, what depth, the right bait, where to and not to cast your shadow and what to do when they hit the bait. Most of all you need to GO TO THEM – to the stream, the pond, the lake, the river – wherever they are. You need to be patient, trust your research and your strategy and master your equipment. After what could be hours of quiet and boredom when you get a hit you need to be able and ready to reel him in.

Contact work is the ongoing, painstaking work of going to lost kids, “Winning the right to be heard”, “Walking in wisdom among those who are without,” learning the times and seasons of their world and culture.  Being patient. Taking all the time that is necessary. Respecting them and their world. Listening, and listening some more. Not scaring them off. Learning and memorizing names, interests, involvements. Being genuinely interested. And as the relationship happens crossing bridges, deepening and ultimately sharing Jesus Christ. Jesus said he would make us “fishers of men” but unlike the fish who is caught, dies and becomes dinner, “fishers of men” rightly translated means to “bring them back alive”. We go there not to take their life but to give them their life. A seek-and-save mission.

John 1:14 says , “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. “Pitched his tent among us” and “Moved into the neighborhood” are good renderings of that verse. Think of it. The Son of God moved in, He showed up in this stinking broken world, didn’t wait for us to come to him, didn’t construct a building and invite people to His meeting in His building. He knew Zacheous’s name and wanted to know him personally, he knew lepers, prostitutes, cripples, tax collectors, ordinary people, all manner of unsavoury characters. Sounds like Young Life to me!  He went to them. He didn’t hold his nose;  I believe he enjoyed and liked them! And He even likes us!

We go to kids, and go back and go back and go back. Days, weeks, months, years. Again and again. Empowered by the Spirit of Christ, in the footsteps of Christ, following hard after Jesus, because we believe that if He incarnated today He would be there. And we know they aren’t lining up to get out of the water, climb up on the shore, knock on our doors and to come to us!

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever quit GOING TO the lost. That is where you will find Jesus.