Knowing nothing about how people fished 2,000 years ago, I went to my Atlas of the Bible to find out more about it. The Sea of Galilee, also known as the Lake of Gennesaret, is almost 700 feet below sea level and is about 14 miles long and 6 miles wide. Great storms can arise suddenly and put the lives of fishermen at risk. The fishing nets would be circular and could be cast either from a boat or while standing in shallow water.
Luke 5 gives us a more detailed account of events. Jesus asked Simon (Peter) to row him out a little from the shore so he could put a bit of distance between him and the crowds, and then he taught them from the boat. Jesus then told Simon to put out into deep water and cast his net. Simon was sceptical because he had failed to catch a single fish during the previous night, but he obeyed Jesus, whom he called ‘Master.’ The catch of fish was astonishing, so much so that James and John had to help Simon. When they got to shore and Jesus said “from now on you will catch men”, they left everything and followed him.
A fisherman catches fish. It requires the right equipment, the right conditions, patience and skill. Even then, the fishing expedition can be a failure. But when Christ Jesus directs operations, miracles happen. An evangelist catches men by proclaiming the good news, the gospel message of Christ.
In the Bible, the word “evangelist” appears three times:
Ephesians 4:11–13 states, “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” In Acts 21:8 Philip is named as an evangelist, and in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul exhorts Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. These are the only three uses of the word evangelist in the entire Bible. Other people could be considered “evangelists” in that they preached the good news, including Jesus Himself (Luke 20:1) and Paul (Romans 1:15), but Philip is the one person specifically called an evangelist in Scripture.
Timothy was told to do the pre-salvation preaching that is the “work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). This same preaching of the good news is the general call to the disciples in the Great Commission and to all of us to the end of the age (Matthew 28:16–20). In Jude 1:3, all saints are to contend earnestly for the faith delivered to them, and, in verse 23 we are to “save others by snatching them from the fire.” https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-an-evangelist.html
Jesus called Simon (Peter) and Andrew and asked them to follow him and to become “fishers of men”. To become a “fisher of men” means to evangelise. An evangelist follows Christ and preaches the gospel message “because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction... But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
It’s more than just catching fish – or men – it’s a long process that involves nurturing, teaching and discipling. However, Christ Jesus has enabled his followers with all sorts of gifts. Not everyone can stand up in a public place and preach. Not everyone can teach. But with our Master in charge of operations, He will show us where to cast our spiritual nets and will bless our efforts as we are led by the Spirit to play our part in spreading the good news of the gospel throughout the inhabited earth.
P.S. The character named Evangelist appears at the very start of John Bunyan's allegory 'The Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come, delivered under the similitude of a dream' (published 18 February 1678). Evangelist directs people through the narrow gate and into the Way.