“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 (NIV)
Jesus statement reflects one analogy of sharing our faith. We can view the work of spreading the gospel like a fisherman catching fish.
Obviously, the analogy is not perfect, and we can push the meaning too far. This does not mean we are going to fillet people and have them for a Sunday lunch. The emphasis is not on the fate of the fish as it is the work of the fisherman. Trying to lead someone to Jesus is much like trying to catch a fish. For anyone who has ever tried to be evangelistic in their life, the analogy makes sense. I found this especially true a couple of weeks ago while I was on vacation. I spent almost five full days fishing at a nearby lake on a public fishing dock.
During the days I spent fishing I was able to catch my limit almost every day. This enabled me to have three family fish dinners, plus give my mom and my sister some fish for the freezer. It also gave me a chance to observe people and their methods of fishing.
1. Know the Basics. I was amazed at the number of individuals who came to the docks with big lures or big round red and white bobbers. If you are a fisherman, you know exactly the type of people of which I speak. Some people have little knowledge and have never taken the time to learn. The result is that they cast and wait for an hour with little success. They frequently blame the fish that day and go home empty-handed. The hard truth was they did not know enough to be successful.
Honestly, you do not have to know a lot of profound truth to share your faith. You do need to know the basics. Who was Jesus? What did he do for you? How has it changed your life? Sharing Jesus requires a basic knowledge of the Bible and its meaning.
2. Pay attention to details. Once you know the basic, you need to be willing to step up your game. One day I was fishing and catching two or three times as many fish as everyone else on the dock. Everyone claimed I was in the “lucky spot.” The truth was that I was fishing at a very precise depth with only very lively minnows hooked near the tail for more wiggle. They were using big minnows near the bottom hooked in the head. Doesn’t sound like much of a difference but it affected the results in a big way.
This truth also applies to being evangelistic. The difference between having a positive experience and a negative one can be very subtle. Your basic approach to the situation, your attitude toward the people, the questions you ask and the way you listen can determine your success as much as what you say. Pay attention to details.
3. Persistence Pays Off. One day my mom, my son and I stayed on the dock fishing longer than most people. Everyone started leaving around noon and heading home. We only had seven fish but decided to stay. Then it came alive, and we ended up catching our limit of 45 in the next couple hours. Fishing is unpredictable, but patience is required.
I have spent years sharing my faith with not one single result. Then one day it happens. Someone trusts Jesus. Then another. No one may respond to my words today, but that does not mean no one will respond.
I enjoy fishing, and I enjoy sharing what I believe. I hope you at least are trying to do the latter of those two. I know there are lots of comparisons I see between the two practices and I hope maybe these three observations will help you.
I want to see those I know and care about respond to Jesus and his invitation, but frequently it takes the work of a skilled gospel fisherman to bring it to completion.