James C. Guy
When Jesus called His Apostles, He
told them He would make them "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). They may not have
known much about men, but they did know about fishing. The "following Him" and
the "fishing for men" went together just as it should today. Telling others
about Jesus is not just something reserved for preachers, evangelists, and
missionaries. It is a privilege God has given to all Christians (Acts 8:1-4;
Matthew 28:19-20). What can we learn from fishing methods that will help us be
better "fishers of men" for God? Here are a few suggestions:
Go where the fish are
When someone goes fishing and is not
catching any in one spot, it just makes sense to try another one. No sensible
person would pick a favorite spot stay there until the fish came to bite. Fish
do not often come to the fisherman, and neither do people.
One thing that can be seen
constantly in both Jesus' and the Apostles' ministry is that they were among the
people in need of a savior. They did not spend their time in their own church
buildings waiting for people to come in to them. Rather they were going into
the Jewish synagogues Acts 9:20; 13:5; 13:14; 14:1; 17:1-2), into the
marketplace (Acts 17:17), and into various cities and areas where sinners were
gathered (Acts 8:5; 14:13-16; 17:22). Jesus was ridiculed for eating with the
tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-12), but His response was that it was
the sinners that needed the savior so He was right there among them. He also
taught His disciples if someone in one place would not listen, "shake the dust
from your feet" and go somewhere else (Matthew 10:14). He told the disciples
who had fished all night and caught nothing to cast their nets in a different
spot – where the fish were (Luke 5:3-6). It worked!
Where are you going? What are you
doing? Who are you reaching with the gospel? Everyday you see people in your
"marketplace," in stores, at work, your neighbors, community and sports events
who need the gospel. Are you telling them? There are many more you may find in
places you do not normally go. Are you going where the "fish" are, or do you
selfishly expect them to somehow find you?
Use bait that actually catches
I recently went fishing all morning
and caught not one fish. I tried my trusty Devil's Horse, a variety of worm
colors and other baits for bass. Finally, I even tried some preserved shad for
catfish. Nothing was working. My wife had asked before leaving, "Do I need to
get something out for supper, or are you bringing home some fish?" Of course I
said "fish," but after catching not a one, I was now in doubt. My son and his
friend, who were with me and had fished this lake before, suggested getting some
chicken livers and try for catfish since they were certain this would work. We
went and bought the livers, and we had fish for supper that night with plenty
Jesus and the Apostles also looked
for ways they could attract people to the gospel. The multitudes tended to
flock to Jesus because of who He was. Still He fed them and showed them
miracles (Matthew 14:14-19). The Apostles had to work harder at getting
people's attention. In addition to going into the synagogues, marketplaces, and
meeting people on their level and their turf, they also performed miracles or
did other things to attract an audience to the gospel (Acts 3:1-12). Paul
quoted from secular sources (Acts 17:28) and even complimented people's
devotion to idols to lead people to the true God (Acts 17:22-23). Of course, he
was not complimenting their worship of idols, but used their devotion to teach
the truth of God. He spoke their language and taught rather than condemned.
Many methods of attracting "fish" were used in the Bible, even though the
message was the same.
Often people tend to think sinners
must become like US before they can become like CHRIST. They must speak our
religious language, appreciate our religious methods, adopt our traditional
manners, and come to Jesus on our terms. How sad! How wrong! (II Corinthians
4:5; Galatians 1:6-7; 6:12).
Many are too concerned with "right
and wrong" methods of evangelism. Some say "just preach the gospel" while
others suggest the need to "attract" sinners to the gospel. These need not be
opposites. Of course you should "just preach the gospel" since it is the "power
of God to salvation" (Romans 1:16). But, you are not preaching the gospel if no
one is listening. You are just talking to yourself. Stewardship requires you
to use what God has given effectively. Do not waste time and opportunities that
you could otherwise have to share the gospel because you are not comfortable
with the means you have to share it. That does not mean you should give them
what they want, but you must alter the bait needed to attract them to what they
Are you willing to do something
different, even something you are not comfortable with, in order to reach the
lost? Certainly you should not use methods that are opposed to God, but God did
not largely regulate methods. Rather He regulated the message. Just because
you change the method to attract the fish does not mean you have changed the
message. If you refuse to change the method, you often essentially refuse to
preach the message. The goal is not your comfort, but to catch fish for Jesus.
If someone were to talk about
fishing, their methods, their bait, how much they enjoyed fishing, and so on,
but they never fished, you would think they were crazy. You would really think
they were crazy if they bought a boat, tackle, fish finders, attended seminars
and read books on fishing but never went fishing.
Some thought Jesus, the Apostles,
and the early church were crazy for preaching the message they preached, but it
worked. They were never called crazy for sitting around doing nothing but
talking about "fishing." Notice:
"…and immediately they
left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
( Matthew 4:22)
"…And daily in the temple, and
in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."
"…Therefore those who were
scattered went everywhere preaching the word." (Acts 8:4)
No matter how many fish are in the
lake, how many boats, baits and methods you have, or how skilled you are at
fishing, if you do not go fishing – SO WHAT? What a waste! Often Christians
expect preachers, evangelists, and certain others to do the "fishing for men"
for them. They should do it WITH them, but never FOR them. Neither should
preachers neglect to do it with the rest of the church. We should all do it
Jesus, the Apostles, and the early
church went where the fish were, used methods and language that attracted and
caught fish, and they fished. DO YOU?
are dying. LET'S GO FISHING!!!
*Copyright (January, 2005); James C. Guy – all rights reserved.
-Permission granted to copy, use, and distribute for not-for-profit purposes (please include copyright).
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