Friday, February 12, 2021

The Great American Tale of the Fishless Fisherman

This tale was given to me by my friend Gerald Polmateer, who had someone else give it to him. The origin of the tale is unknown. It is a story about a group of fishless fishermen.

And lo, it was true that there was much fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole territory was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with an abundance of fish. And the fish were very hungry.

 Year after year these who called themselves fishermen met in meetings and talked about their divine call to fish, the abundance of fish, and how they might go about fishing. 

They surely appeared to be professional fishermen and were outfitted in the most up to date fashionable fishing dress. Continually they searched for new and better definitions of fishing. They often studied fishing guides taken from various translations and commentaries on fishing. Many searched the world for other books that might contain hidden meanings about fishing. They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing, promote fishing, and hear about all the ways of fishing. 

These fishermen built large and beautiful multi-million dollar buildings called "World Fishing Headquarters." Weekly thousands of fishermen gathered to hear the senior fishermen's passionate plea that everyone should be a fisherman and that every fisherman should fish. Sadly though the knowledge of fishing seemed to make everyone feel as though they were in fact fishermen already even though they did not fish. 

So they organized a committee to do more research on fishing. This committee recommended the formation of an oversight board to send out fishermen to other nations where there were many fish. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in faraway streams and lakes where other fish of different colors lived.

This board often spoke of a particular area of latitude and longitude that had never seen a fisherman and where the largest gathering of fish was. The board hired staffs and appointed other special committees who held many more meetings to define fishing, to defend fishing, and to decide what new streams should be thought about.

But, sadly again, the staff and committee members did not fish. 

Expensive, friendly, comfortable, and contemporary training centers were built to teach the next generation of fishermen about fishing. Many wrote and sang songs about fishing. Others wrote books and made tape series that could be played about the "Art of Fishing", "Positive Confessions of a Fishermen", "How to be a Prosperous Fishermen", "Debt Free Fishing", and "Faith for Fearless Fishing." Those who taught had doctorates in fishology, except, sadly again, the teachers themselves did not fish. They only taught fishing. 

Year after year graduates were sent to do full-time fishing, some to distant waters filled with fish. Most were only gone for a short while. Often returning back to the training center with stories of the difficulties of fishing in hard territories. Further, the fishermen built large printing houses to publish fishing guides. A speaker's bureau was also provided to schedule special speakers on the subject of fishing. Seminars and conferences were scheduled throughout the country with minimum entrance fees to encourage greater attendance on fishing. 

Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded, and were sent to fish. But like the fishermen back home they never fished. Others said they wanted to be part of a fishing party, but they felt called to furnish fishing equipment. They didn't really have the time to fish. Others felt their job was to relate to the fish in a good way so the fish would know the difference between good and bad fishermen. 

After one stirring meeting on "Fishing, The Great Commandment," a young fellow received a mighty breakthrough. He left the meeting and to everyone's surprise, actually went fishing. 

The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. News spread throughout the fishing network in minutes. Wow! All that training had paid off. The young man was honored for his excellent catch and quickly scheduled to visit all the big fishermen meetings throughout the country to tell how he did it. He was also invited to appear on many fishing television shows. He was so popular with the fishermen that he started his own television program called "To Catch A Fish" and invited others as his special guest to talk about fishing. He became so busy that he quit fishing in order to have more time to tell about his experience to the other fishermen.

Now it's true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of hardships and difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen's clubs and the fact that they claimed to be fishermen yet never fished. 

The committed fishermen wondered about those who felt it was of little use to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?" 

Imagine how hurt some were when one day a non-fisherman suggested that those who didn't catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. 

Yet what he said seemed to be correct: "Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish?" 


Rex Ray said...


When I first read your post, I thought it was useless information until I remembered Jesus saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19 KJ)

If all Christians do is go to church and listen to preaching without ‘fishing for the lost’ we’re just like your post.

The last line of the link above states: “In Pusan, Korea there existed a Wallace Memorial Baptist Hospital.”

That’s true because my uncle, Rex Ray, supervised the building of it.

When Communist forced him out of China, he went to Korea for 8 years. When he left, he brought Korean babies back to be adopted.

His son, Dan Ray, took up his father’s work for 39 years in Korea. When Dan was buried a mile from here, one of those babies attended with his two sons. They all three went down my slide on 12-10-11.

RB Kuter said...

Wade, point well taken. I am going to go fishing more!

But the last statement intrigued me: "Is a person a fisherman if year after year he never catches a fish?"

My answer on that one is, "Yes, if he is actually fishing."

When serving in Zambia, I had the blessing of being involved in hundreds of fish being caught. The fish were hungry and many took the bait of The Gospel message.

After transferring to fish in the Buddhist land in Southeast Asia and continuing to fish with the same Gospel bait, I went months, even years, without catching a fish. Well, maybe one or two, but certainly my catches would not qualify me as fishing.

I concluded that I would be held accountable for "fishing", not the number that I caught.

Paul D said...

that is a great story and certainly deserves some introspection. Thanks for sharing.

I saw this fisherman tale while waiting in a Jimmy John's sandwich shop:

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?”

The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions?” asked the fisherman, “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos!”

(Author Unknown)


RB Kuter said...

HA! What a tale, Paul! Makes me grateful for what I've got.

Christiane said...


" “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing. Nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net.”"

that is what faith is, what we see in those words in the Holy Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 5

we forget those words of Simon who in the Church came to be known in tradition as 'the Big Fisherman'

it was Simon who said those words 'but at Thy Command'
and the rest is history

I think those words still have meaning today. And as much power, when said in faith.
By the end of that night, Simon knew he had no power to raise the fish from the sea, but when Our Lord spoke to him, Simon trusted Him and that made all the difference.

All the pride and hubris in the world doesn't match one act of humility before the Lord. It took a humbled man to say 'At Your command, I will let down the nets'.

Humility is much under-rated these days.

Later in His time with the Disciples, they would see Him calm the storms and waves with a Word. And I have no doubt that in the Lord's good time, He will give the Word, and AT HIS WORD, the sea will give up its dead as is foretold in the Book of Revelation.

Faith. and trust. And so last week my husband's cremains were buried at sea under our country's flag as was his wish. I will see him again in the world to come only by the power of the Word of the Lord.

Peace of the Lord be with you all. May you drink deeply from the well of the Holy Spirit.

Christiane said...

1 Corinthians 3:6: "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."

The way the Body of Christ works, humility offers all a change to participate in the Kingdom of Our Lord in the ways in which their gifts from God permit, so there is no room for 'pride', only for thankfulness and humility before the Lord

so for those who would be 'fishers of men' in the Kingdom of Our Lord, something to think about, this:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.”
(O. Romero)

Christiane said...


This, I love: "When Communist forced him out of China, he went to Korea for 8 years. When he left, he brought Korean babies back to be adopted.

His son, Dan Ray, took up his father’s work for 39 years in Korea. When Dan was buried a mile from here, one of those babies attended with his two sons. They all three went down my slide on 12-10-11. "

REX RAY, that man was a saint. They don't come any better.

Rex Ray said...


People usually think of a saint as a quite peaceful person, but my uncle Rex, was anything but that. When his father died from blood-poison on a thousand-acre ranch in Oklahoma, he was 15; the oldest of his 5 brothers and two sisters. (His mother was the saint.)

Just before his father died, he told his wife, “Now you can make the boys preachers.”

I never was around uncle Rex very much, but he performed the marriage of Belle and me, and his daughter, Mary Dee, when we were teaching at King Cove, Alaska.

I relate to two events in my uncle’s life.

Rex thought he was pulling a prairie dog from its hole with a stick. He was on his knees when a skunk got him in the face.

One night, our dog was barking at an animal in a tall bush. While looking up, I told my brother, “I think it’s a possum”, but it was a skunk. He sprayed my eye. It hurt so bad, I didn’t smell anything, but our mother wouldn’t let me in the house until she worked me over.


At the age of 10, I doubted Jesus had saved me because I didn’t yell like my father had when he was saved.

Rex put off ‘getting saved’ until he was 20. These are words from his manuscript’ at the last day of a revival:

“I knew my mother at home was praying for me to be saved. It seemed Jesus was pleading with me to surrender. I had planned to give the preacher my hand, get on Mourner’s Bench, weep over my sins, ask Jesus to forgive them and to save my soul. Then I planned to be so happy, I’d shout out loud all over the place.

I said in my heart, ‘If only someone would come and give me an invitation to start to Jesus, I’ll go.’ An old grandmother near the front came. I answered her questions and admitted that I was lost and really wanted to be saved, but not tonight.
“Well, young man, if you’re afraid to go to the altar by yourself, I’ll go with you.”

That finished me. I went to the front. All around me there were people weeping, praying, and shouting. But I couldn’t join them. All I felt was peace. The pastor came by and I told him my problem. He said, “The Lord has saved you His way; not your way.”

I was born of the flesh on November 11, 1885, and born again on July 5, 1905.

Rex Ray said...

New York Gov. Cuomo accused of undercounting nursing home deaths in wake of report (

"New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in order to have more room in hospitals, moved Covid-19 patients to nursing homes that raised the state's toll of nursing home-linked deaths from about 8,700 to more than 12,500."

What do you think his ‘punishment’ should be? Maybe pay grieving relatives money from HIS pockets?

The good news is Trump can run for President again if he wants to. I wish Trump’s lawyers had brought out it was ‘BAD’ people who attacked the Capitol and NOT Trump supporters.

Rex Ray said...

“Hey, old feller, how come you never married?”

“I was looking for the perfect woman.”

“Couldn’t find her, huh?”

“Oh, I found her alright, but she was looking for the perfect man.”

Gerry Milligan said...

Wade, now compare this blog with "The Parable of the Apple Pickers" which is often repeated to IMB personnel.

Rex Ray said...

Gerry Milligan,

I copied your Orchard parable. It was good.

Christiane said...

seeking the lost . . .

sometimes it's the humble ones who reach those who most need to show love in this world and that is when we see 'how it's done' :)

Christiane said...

words from my favorite prophet Isaiah and 'The Peaceful Kingdom' :)

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them."

we could learn a lot from the humble of the Earth about how 'The Peaceful Kingdom' is possible when for so long we have failed to reach out to the 'others' by pointing to Christ Who is the Lord of the Living

Christiane said...

Pointing to Christ

"The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live."

(excerpt is from 'The Convert'
by G. K. Chesterton"

Rex Ray said...

“…will be thrown into outer darkness…” (Matthew 8:12 NLT)

Last night, I got a taste of that. In the middle of the night the electricity went off. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face as I tried to go through our house.

We are in the area that is having a ‘rolling-blackout’ mandated by our governor. Every 15 minutes the electricity goes off in an effort to conserve electricity in Texas. The ground is covered in snow and now it’s 6 degrees.

I guess Biden has succeeded in his goal to stopped Global Warming. 😊

Christiane said...
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Christiane said...

“The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

(Margery Williams Bianco)

Ron said...

Wade, A very thoughtful parable. I am old enough to remember the days before internet and convenient travel when we missionaries were forced to make decisions on the field concerning church planting and evangelism strategies. Then with the internet we had instant communication with our leaders in the US and almost constant meetings and conferences on CPM and other activities. Before I go further, I do believe CPMs happen and are worthy goals. But I noticed that few testimonies were from people actually starting churches that made up the CPM. Local missionaries and local national believers were less and less involved in planning for church planting or CPMs. We don't hear as much about CPMs today as we used to for some reason.

Ron said...

Rex, I spent some time with your cousin Dan Ray. Once he took me on a ride through the country side of South Korea to visit some churches. I thought taxi drivers in Taiwan were wild drivers but they held nothing to Dan Ray. During the 88 Olympics, me and some other visiting missionaries on loan spent a month living in the basement of a church in Seoul with Dan and Frances. They were our chaperones to make sure we didn't get in trouble. Not sure who was supposed to be watching them.

Rex Ray said...


It’s a joy to hear from someone who knew my cousin, Dan Ray. When my twin and I was growing up, he was our hero. He was tall and strong; on the football team in high school, and a lifeguard at the Bonham State park.

One night in Korea, he grabbed a thief that had broken into their house. The thief was half his size. The police asked the thief why he cut Dan on his arm: “I thought he would kill me!”

He might have learned how to drive from our father, Dave Ray. A few months after World War II ended, he got a German doctor released that had been in prison 3 years. He was driving him to be with his family. He slowed down when the doctor said, “I don’t think God rescued me from prison to died in a jeep wreck.”

nobody001 said...
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