FISHING WHERE THE FISH ARE
Mark Holland Sr.
Imagine this: You’re heading for the local fishing hole when you spy your neighbor sitting by the edge of the lake next to two barrels. You walk over to him and ask politely, “What are you doing!” “Fishing,” he replies. “I sit by the edge of the water and wait for the fish to jump into the barrels. ” Sound ridiculous! It is. But many of us use similar strategy when it comes to evangelism. We wait for the people to come to us, and then are surprised when nothing happens.
Jesus called us to become “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Every good fisherman knows it takes more than luck to catch fish. It takes a strategy. The same is true of evangelism. While there are a number of valid methods for evangelism, actively developing relationships with non-Christians continues to be the most effective way of communicating the gospel on a personal level. But relationships, like successful fishing, do not happen by accident. Consider these analogies between fishing and relational evangelism.
Go Where They Are
While some seekers may come to our churches unsolicited, most will not. So we have to go to where they are, not expect them to come to us. The only way we can do this is to actively seek out relationships with them. This means resisting the natural pull to only do things with our Christian friends or only volunteer time at church. Why not view your community involvement as part of your ministry? There are a number of things you can do in your community that will not only serve others, but open doors with them as well. Things like joining the local P.T.A., coaching a softball team or inviting a neighbor over for dinner. You may not present the gospel right away, but you will be building important relational bridges for later.
There are no shortcuts to catching fish. Sometimes you’ll have your line in the water for hours before you even get a bite. People who enjoy fishing are willing to wait patiently because they know there is more to fishing than actually catching the fish. They enjoy the entire process, from selecting the right bait to reeling in the line. The same principles are true of evangelism. There may be times when your efforts to reach out to those around you are consistently ignored or rejected. Don’t be discouraged. Remember, there is more to evangelism than just verbalizing the gospel. Although you should always pray for opportunities, you may not lead everyone to Christ. Instead, God may be using you to plant spiritual seeds in someone’s life, and use another person to actually reap the harvest. Our job is to be a faithful witness, and let God take care of the results.
Use the Right Bait
Every good fisherman knows the importance of using the right bait to attract and interest the fish, leading it from where it is to where he wants it to be. The same is true of evangelism. One of the best ways of attracting the interest of people is through the art of good conversation. You may never have thought about it, but there are many levels to conversations. Being aware of each level and developing an appropriate strategy can be a very helpful tool in sharing the gospel.
Level #1: General Conversation
Strategy: Ask and share on the basics: name, family, occupation, where they live, hobbies, etc.
Keys: Ask questions, listen
Goal: To establish common ground with the person
Pray: That God would open doors to personal conversation
Level #2: Personal Conversation
Strategy: Ask follow-up questions about their background and experience, and probe their interests, their family and their goals for the future
Keys: Practice healthy self-disclosure, listen
Goal: To establish trust and deepen the relationship
Pray: That God would open doors to spiritual conversation
Level #3: Spiritual Conversation
Strategy: Share elements of your own personal testimony. Ask questions about spiritual things, values or their religious background. Use current events or holidays as entrees to spiritual issues
Keys: Ask questions, listen, gently probe
Goal: To understand a person’s spiritual interests and beliefs
Pray: That God would open doors to explain the gospel
Level #4: Gospel Presentation
Strategy: Know some good transitional questions like, “If you were to die tonight and go to heaven and stand before God, and He were to say, `Why should I let you into heaven?’ how would you answer Him!” Look for opportunities to share the gospel
Keys: Know a clear gospel presentation and be ready to answer common objections. Listen and watch for signs that they are internalizing or personalizing the gospel – if otherwise, back off and pray for another opportunity at another time
Goal: To make the gospel clear and to give wise answers to key objections
Pray: That God would give them understanding and open a door for you to invite them to accept Christ
In addition to good conversation, acts of kindness go a long way towards developing relationships. You may not be able to articulate a defense of the Christian faith, but you probably can bake someone cookies or help your neighbor with their yard. There are literally hundreds of small acts of kindness which you could do. Find something you enjoy doing and use it to serve others, and you may be amazed at the results.
(The above material was published by COMMONGROUND, September 1993)
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