But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
As I read this story, the boat is the place of teaching for the fisherman. They learn their trade there, and well Jesus made it a place where they could hear the gospel. The boat represents the church, a place where we go to hear and learn what we need to do to be effective fishers. The disciples represent the body of Christ, who are called to be fisher of men. The deep represents where the fish are, the world that is full of dying people. The nets represent what it takes to really bring in the fish.
It seems that we say we want to be fishers of men, but that our actions expect the fish to jump into the church without any effort on our part, and to swim with ease once there. We can not think that as fishers of men that we can fish from the inside of the church walls. That would be like a fisherman sitting in his boat and never casting his net into the water.
Or we wait for sinners to come into the church, to just walk in without an invitation. It is like a fisherman fishing with his bare hands from the boat. We might catch a few, but it is much more difficult than what God intended and it definitely slows down the process.
Other times we might cast a line from the boat and hope something will bite. This is when we set our eyes to hit the streets and "evangelize" we pull in more, because we tend to go out in larger numbers, but it is still fishing from the sideline. We are using lines instead of nets, so each line can only catch one sinner at a time.
God called the church to be fishers of men. He told the disciples to launch out into the deep and there is nothing indicating he stood on the shore line. They left the comfort of the shore, they carried Christ with them. They were tired, Peter said they had toiled all night. They were obedient though. As fishers of men and the body of Christ, this means leaving our comfort zone and going in to the world, and carrying Christ with us. We have to build relationships because those are our nets, and we have to cast them out into this lost and dying world. The world is swimming with lost and dying people, Jesus is telling us "Launch out into the world, and let your relationships bring in the harvest."
We have to make time. Relationships are not built in an hour and it is important that we realize that some of these relationships are not going to be God centered initially. Just because God interests us, does not mean that we need to shove him down someone else's throat. As relationships build, people are more willing to talk about anything and everything. These guys toiled all night long before they ever took Christ out. But the result was immediate when they cast down their nets. When we wait on the Holy Spirit to open the door, there will be such a harvest that we need our friends from other churches to help bring it in safely.