BALD KNOB – When Jesus told Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4:19 that He would make them “fishers of men,” He knew that 2,000 years later an Arkansas ministry would be named in the spirit of His words.
Twelve years ago Jamie McAnelly, a recent convert at the time, wanted to create an environment where brothers in Christ could come together to fellowship, fish and share meals.
During that first fishing trip on the Norfolk River in 2007, McAnelly set aside time for worship and preaching of the Word. By the end of the weekend, one of the men attending the trip gave his life to Christ, and McAnelly recognized that what began as a fun outing among friends had become something more – a memorable time of fellowship with the potential of being an incredible tool for outreach and spiritual growth.
While Fishers of Men had impacted many lives in its more than a decade of existence, the time and effort necessary to plan, lead and host the event each year began wearing on McAnelly and the numerous volunteers who helped make it possible each year.
McAnelly, who works full-time as a construction worksite superintendent in addition to serving as youth pastor at Central Baptist Church, Bald Knob, said that in 2018, due to various circumstances, including other existing ministry obligations, he and the organizers of the annual Fishers of Men trip had all but decided to make that year’s trip the last one.
“We went ahead and put the trip together,” said McAnelly. “We went, and there was such a presence of the Spirit of God there. … We (McAnelly and Dennis Pearrow, senior pastor of New Beginnings Community Church, Bald Knob) both realized, ‘Who are we to say that this is done? God is obviously still using it.’”
Pearrow is McAnelly’s ministry partner. Over the past few years, the two men bonded over Fishers of Men and became best friends while serving together with the ministry. After the success of the 2018 Fishers of Men event, instead of making it the last one, McAnelly and Pearrow decided to revamp the ministry, transforming it from a focus on the one fishing trip each August to a year-round, sustainable ministry.
One of the first new initiatives McAnelly and Pearrow introduced were podcasts in which they discussed biblical perspectives on important subjects, with topics ranging from the importance of men attending church and reading the Bible, to the analysis of issues such as abortion and homosexuality.
This year, McAnelly and Pearrow filed for non-profit status and Fishers of Men Ministries began receiving small donations from various supporters.
From its inception, Fishers of Men was always an ecumenical event. According to McAnelly, while all of those involved have strong biblical convictions, they come from various denominational backgrounds. Because of this, local leaders in Bald Knob requested that Fishers of Men Ministries help organize an event for their annual spring festival.
Fishers of Men Ministries, in partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, planned and hosted a fishing derby during the festival. It was the first event that Fishers of Men participated in after becoming a full-time ministry, and the weather did not cooperate. Instead of a sunny spring day, it poured rain.
“It was a miserable fishing day,” McAnelly said with a chuckle. “But we had over 75 kids come to fish in this fishing derby. … So our very first fishing derby was a huge success.
“The sun finally came out as we were fishing. There were tons of fish caught, and I have some pictures of some of these little ones that are holding these stringers of fish up. … They were wearing rain suits and holding these fish up with huge smiles,” said McAnelly.
As they stood watching the children fish with their parents, having a great time even amid the rain, McAnelly said that he and Pearrow stood, feeling the presence of God, thinking, ‘And we wanted to stop?’”
This year, the annual Fishers of Men fishing trip was moved to July. During the event, McAnelly and Pearrow shared their new vision for the ministry with those in attendance, and a love offering was taken to allow them to support the new work.
“It was the biggest love offering we had ever received on this trip to support the ministry,” said McAnelly.
God blesses ‘Fishers’
Two days after McAnelly got home from the event, he got a text from one of the men from the trip who offered to purchase a concession trailer for the ministry. After that, another supporter donated a 10-foot cargo trailer.
“It’s amazing to see how God has done all this,” said McAnelly. “There was so much that took place over the last year that was just unbelievable. God has been working within Fishers of Men Ministries to enable us to do the things that we are doing.”
McAnelly said the ambition of Fishers of Men Ministries is to develop a ministry similar to the Christian Waterfowler’s Association, a mobile ministry that hosts events both within and outside of their local community.
“We want to do more outside the church. We don’t want it to just be a church event. We want to go wherever we can go,” said McAnelly.
From its earliest iteration, McAnelly said Fishers of Men has aimed to encourage men to be the men that God has called them to be – leaders of their family, church and community.
“That’s always been our goal and ambition – to challenge men to be godly men,” said McAnelly. “You can see in our society that so many things have gone awry because of the lack of godly male leadership.”
Both McAnelly and Pearrow, while currently serving in vocational ministry, began as active laymen, and they encourage all men, whether they sense a call to vocational ministry or not, to be active in ministry. This emphasis on the role of every believer has been a cornerstone of Fishers of Men throughout the years, according to McAnelly.
Commenting on the most recent Fishers of Men fishing trip in July, Pearrow’s words embody the heart and soul of Fishers of Men Ministries, “This weekend has been about the transformation – it’s been about changing our world from who we were to who He wants us to be.”
For more information on Fishers of Men Ministries, visit arfishersofmen.com.
Contact Caleb Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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