By Michelle Mihalakis
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“Simon Peter said unto them, I go a fishing” (John 21:3).
If we carefully read the above referenced story, we will realize that Peter didn’t catch anything that day. You’ve probably been fishing in the natural, but have you been fishing in the spiritual sense? There is a correlation between fishing in the natural to fishing in the Spirit.
The first rule of fishing in the Spirit is that you have to be able to spot the fish. How do we identify them? Gal. 5:19-21 says, “Nov the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murderers, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” So it is actually very easy to spot the fish of today. No, they’re not turtles or crawfish, but they are fish!
We often make the mistake of assuming that someone won’t be saved before we even witness to them. Sometimes we’re presumptuous by assuming someone won’t receive the gospel. Many times people miss out on the greatest “catches” simply because they don’t see through eyes of faith. The eyes of the flesh will try to discern or judge someone outwardly, but God looks on the heart.
Jesus spoke about the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:18-23. He told about the different types of hearts on which the seed of the gospel is sown. Some hearts are stony, which means they have shallow soil over their rocky hearts that receives the Word “with joy,” but when trials come, they’re offended and don’t continue living for God. Then there’s the person who is caught up in the riches of the world and “is choked by the word.” “Good ground” describes the heart that understands the Word when he hears it, and is obedient and fruitful as a result.
The determining factor in the parable of the sower of whether someone made it to heaven was the ground in which the seed was sown. The ground is representational of the heart of man. The heart is where understanding and emotion can be found, and it’s where faith can have its full effect.
The contents of the heart determine where we spend eternity. Jer. 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” He goes on to say in the next verse, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” We cannot judge what is going on in the heart or mind because we have no idea unless the person or God reveals to us a problem.
Soul winning is not a mind reading event or an inspection of goods. It is done by faith. John wrote in chapter 4, verse 23, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” The scripture explains that the Spirit of God moves over the earth seeking those who will worship Him. He is looking for a heart that desires him. He is searching the hearts of men and women to identify the worshipers.
Acts 16:14 tells us about Lydia, a worshiper. The Bible says that God opened her heart and, as a result, she “attended unto the things” Paul preached. When God finds a worshiper, He will send someone to tell that person the gospel. He then opens the worshiper’s through His Word. When they receive His Spirit they then can enter into true worship by worshiping in His Spirit!
When Jesus asked Peter several times if he loved Him, in essence the question Jesus was posing to him was, Peter, are you a worshiper? Peter’s response was that God knew he was a worshiper. Jesus’ answer was, If you’re a real worshiper, Peter, share My Word with the lost. When we worship God, a passion to win the lost should spring forth from our beings. I believe part of worshiping God in spirit and truth is winning the lost. The same voice that spoke to Peter is speaking to the church today saying, Church are you a worshiper? Then worship Me by sharing My truth.
One day a friend and I were driving down a lesser-known highway near our city. We spotted a woman walking two miniature pinschers so I drove over to where she was walking them. We got out and began to talk to her. Soon, she and I realized that we knew several of the same people in our town. But it was the dogs that caused us to connect in conversation because I happened to have a pair of them myself.
She began to convey a lot of hurt in her life: she had a serious illness, she had lost her son at the hands of a drunk driver, and as a result, she had bitterness in her heart toward God. At the opportune time, I asked if she was interested in a Bible study. She was, so we set up a time. Then my friend and I left.
Back on the road, my friend said that while listening to the conversation between the two of us, she thought for sure the woman wouldn’t take the Bible study and she expected her to refuse it when I offered.
I never allow words or someone’s actions or way of speaking distract me from offering them the gospel. I present it and leave the rest up to God. The worst thing they can say is no, and I can handle that. What I can’t handle is the thought of having bloodstained hands on Judgment Day because I didn’t witness to them.
One lesson I learned in selling is never pre-judge a sale. Never! When I sold insurance I was taught that the person with the broken down house and tattered clothes may be the person who has a bundle of cash stored upstairs and will purchase the biggest policy.
1 Cor. 9:22 says, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul held those he was trying to win in high regard. I believe when Paul was trying to win people to God he became whatever they were. Even though Paul was an educated man he never fooled himself to think that he was better than anyone else. In fact, he remained humbled to the point that he could witness to anyone regardless of their status in life.
We know that Jesus is the King of kings. The second rule in this business (fishing) is that the customer (fish) is king. We want to woo them with the bait and put on a banquet for them. If I am teaching someone a Bible study, they maintain a high priority in my life. Because of this, the souls I have won will show up at my door or call me on the phone. That’s all right because they are hungry and need to be nurtured. I make time for the lost because they are important.
What about the tackle and equipment it takes to fish in the spirit realm? ‘What do we need to get started? The first article everyone needs to become a successful fisher of men is they need a good pole. We, the church are God’s fishing pole. You can’t fish without a good fishing pole to cast the bait. And God needs us to cast forth His Word.
We can’t catch fish without a line to reel them in either. Our faith in God is the fishing line. Once we make sure we have a good line, we have to know where we want to cast the line. While fishermen use depth finders and all types of sonar equipment to let them know where they can find fish, we have the Spirit of God to direct us.
The third rule of fishing is that we must always have a purpose or goal we want to reach in a conversation. We need to realize what we are after in a conversation when we begin. If we have a goal, we will be aware of it in every conversation we have. I cannot aimlessly engage in a conversation, having no intent of where I am going, and expect to be successful. Maybe you feel more comfortable inviting people to church. Maybe the method you like to use to win souls is through home Bible studies or home friendship groups. But make sure you have a goal in mind, or you are merely engaged in idle talk.
My personal favorite is a home Bible study because the Word of God never goes out void and it is what changes lives. If I just invite folks to church, they may come once, never to come again. But if I can teach them a home Bible study, the Word of God will begin to deal with them when I’m not around. Jesus can sell them on the truth while I’m asleep at night. He can talk to them when they’re driving to work. He is an asset that keeps working at all times. He is always drawing interest on His and my behalf for the furtherance of the gospel.
An individual’s chances of being saved in a church service are heightened after they’ve been taught a Bible study. The study gives them some understanding of the gospel, and it makes a way for God to work with them before they attend a church service. By teaching them a home Bible study, we are winning them to ourselves and to the church before they even enter the doors.
Rule #4 of fishing in the Spirit is to always cast your line forward. Your conversation must move forward. Everything connected to the kingdom of God is proactive and progressive. We don’t want to get someone to the point in a conversation where we have them practically accepting a Bible study only to let them turn it backwards. We must always try to direct the conversation, but we have to operate in the wisdom of the Spirit.
Through color an artist controls the movement of our eyes across the canvas. Through text and design an editor causes your eyes to peruse the pages of a book. And we control the conversation through our words. That should not be difficult when we have a goal of promoting the gospel.
The reason Babe Ruth was a good hitter was he always kept his eye on the ball. Michael Jordan was a good shooter because he kept his eye on the goal. We have to always be mindful and stay focused on our goal.
The Bible tells us in Matt. 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Wise in that scripture, according to Thayer’s Lexicon, means prudent, mindful of one’s interests.
The serpent was mindful of his own interests while he demonically witnessed to Eve. Jesus was always focused on the interests of the Father, and we must do the same to continue the message He preached.
I used to be a professional photographer. When I would go to a camera store, I always had a purpose. I had two things in mind: information about cameras and purchasing a camera.
When I witness the gospel, my purpose is threefold:
- I want to derive information from the individual I’m witnessing to;
- I want to get them to take a home Bible study; and
- eventually, I want them to come to church.
We want to leave with what we came for, and that is to have advanced the kingdom of God. It is not enough that I came, but I must leave with my goal reached. I must accomplish my mission. Until that person becomes saved and is fruitful in the kingdom of God, I have not completed the assignment.
What is the bait we use to catch souls? The bait is our words. We bait our hooks with words. Our language becomes the bait. According to Don Gabor, author of How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends, the English language has over two million words in it, but we only use about five thousand. God spoke everything but man into existence. We speak the bride of Christ into existence by prayer and teaching the Word of God. Words are so powerful.
In fishing, you have to use different kinds of bait on different fish. I cannot catch all fish on worms, corn, stink bait, or shiners. Certain fish bite only on certain kinds of bait. Just as we use different kinds of bait in fishing, we need to approach people as unique individuals with different appetites and viewpoints.
The Bible reminds us in Heb. 13:16 to do good and don’t fail to communicate. To communicate, according to Strong’s Dictionary, means fellowship with, a communion, or distribution. The only way we can fellowship with one another is to communicate. We form a union of sorts with our words. No one can truly know us until they hear our conversation. Words create images and they are very persuasive. Words tell what is in the heart and what is on the mind.
Words make our world flow in commerce, law, and government. In just about every area, communication propels our actions. Words themselves are to be progressive just like the kingdom of God, and they should always move forward. Words are powerful because that is the mode of expression the Creator used; and we were made in His image. So words are a big part of our lives. Try living and not talking or communicating in some way. Your life would be very lonely. Words connect us to each other. How words are placed, emphasized, and spoken places a large bearing on getting what we want. Without words, there would be limited expression. The better we become at communicating, the greater our chances become of advancing the kingdom of God.
During the agrarian age, the people existed mainly through the staples of the farm. Then, as man increased in knowledge an: wisdom, our world became industrialized. People left their farms and went to work at factories. The work week was created and our world began producing saleable goods for market, which made money. In the modern age we now live in, we have just crossed the corridor from the age of industrialization to the information age. Each time a major advancement has been made in history, people’s income increased.
I’ve noticed that people who earn the most amount of money are employed in the communication/information industries. People like Bill Gates and others have become some of the richest people in the world because they figured out a new way to process information. Information and communication are the apex of where the big money is when it comes to most vocations. And communication is at the higher end of the monetary ladder because it is connected with persuading people. If you can persuade people, you can influence them to give you what you want.
Actors, sales people, singers, attorneys, etc., are involved in vocations that involve speaking or using their voices. Communication has been the most powerful form of expression since the beginning of time. It is of paramount importance that we learn to do it and do it well. Today Christianity is faced with the greatest challenge it has ever known because the ability to communicate is so highly esteemed by the world. For us to compete in the arena of promoting the gospel, we must become master communicators.
There has never been such a deluge of information thrown at people as we see in our day. But I must ask, how much of it is needed information? How much of this flood of words actually promotes the kingdom of God? The fight to promote the gospel is a fierce competition staged against the backdrop of the information of this world. That is why the church needs to understand its know exactly how to communicate Christ and Him crucified.
My Greek grandfather came to America from the island of There were many proverbs he shared with my father. One pointed adage was about people. He told my dad, “Louie, people are doors. You better be good to them. If you offend them you will hag-: one less door to open. Pretty soon, if your behavior continues, you won’t have any more doors to open. Louie, people are doors of opportunity.
An open door is one where someone comes to you and asks you something that easily relates to the gospel. For instance, if you drive the church van and you come in contact with an unsaved acquaintance who asks where you’re going, you can easily respond with, “Well, I’m going to church. Would you like to come along?”
A closed door is more difficult because it’s one in which your surroundings or conversation are not initially gospel-oriented. For example, you may be in line at the grocery store, and the lady ahead of you is very serious and focused on purchasing her groceries. But you have a Sunday school contest you want to invite her to. This is a closed door because you have to initiate the conversation. To open a closed door you need to have keys or be a great lock picker! Remember Jesus said He would come like a thief in the night. When you own everything, you don’t have to steal because it’s already yours. He can open any door for us because all things are possible with God and they are His! Jesus stated in the book of Revelation that He has put an open door for the church to step through that no man can shut.
Communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world is so important. We either help “create” life like God by sharing the Word, or we cause destruction by not sharing it. Everything we do sends some type of message. We should be the most message-sensitive catalysts on the face of the earth. We can influence the world to be saved, or we help send them to hell by not sharing the Truth. Our words should be guarded so that when we speak we convince the lost of the goodness of God. Prov. 17:27 tells us, “A man of knowledge uses words of restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.”
How do we get the fish to even look at or nibble on our line? When we meet someone, whether it’s in church or on the street, we must find a way to connect with them. Sometimes we must settle for simply sowing seeds of friendliness so the next time we can water it and advance the kingdom of God. But connecting with them is our first goal. We cannot advance past the initial stage of conversation with an individual until we have connected with them. This effort takes discernment.
One Sunday morning an Asian woman attended our church. She arrived a few minutes early so after she was seated I went to talk to her. I asked her if it was the first time she had attended Faith Temple; she stated that it was. I began to converse with her and invited her to our home friendship group. She kindly refused the invitation.
When I walked away I was disturbed, not because I hadn’t been successful in getting her to come to our group, but because I hadn’t connected with her. I couldn’t seem to break through her defenses. I couldn’t seem to get beyond the small talk. The next time she came to church I shook her hand, called her by name, and told her I was glad to see her. This continued for several Sundays. Then one Sunday I sat next to her before service. I tried to dig a little deeper to find a point of connection with her. The conversation flowed much better as she allowed the walls to come down. I mentioned a home friendship group that was held in the mornings. She gave me her phone number, then I sat down. I knew when I went to my seat that I had connected, not because of the results, but actually by the flow of the conversation. We had a nice exchange of information that resulted in “connectedness.” I felt like I had initiated a possible friendship.
The phases of initial conversation should move toward connecting so that two people can strive toward a friendship that ultimately develops into a relationship. I’ve learned there are four keys to connecting with a person in conversation:
- a balanced exchange of information; and
- the verbal exchange needs to flow.
Whatever environment we find ourselves in we should always be looking for clues with which we can connect with an individual. For example, years ago a gentleman walked into the place where I worked and sat down. I noticed that he wore a cross around his neck. I saw the necklace as a key to witness to him. I said, “I notice a cross around your neck. What church do you attend?” He responded by telling me he was of a particular faith. After that day, I taught him a home Bible study and he ended up embracing the fullness of the gospel.
When my dad first started in the scrap business, my uncle took him along to see if my father could buy scrap from the farmers in the area. They would arrive at a farm, and my uncle would let my dad do all the talking. The technique my father used to talk to the farmer about scrap was everything but scrap. Even when the farmer would tell my father that he didn’t have any scrap to sell, my dad would talk to him about his corn and hogs. What my father was doing was connecting with the individual and building a friendship so he could establish a business relationship with the farmer. After my dad bought the scrap off of the farmer, my uncle retorted, “I told you to buy the junk, not steal it!” If someone likes you, it is amazing how they will work with you toward your cause.
The greatest soul winner who ever lived was Jesus. And I think that the finest example in scripture of how Jesus won a soul was the incident with the woman at the well. The dialogue between Jesus and the woman can be used as a key for learning how to win souls.
In John 4:6-7 the Bible tells us, “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.”
Jesus could’ve taken a drink of water from the well Himself, so why did He ask her to give Him a drink? He asked for water because He knew He could use it as a starting point for conversation. Why would the Bread of life, the Word of God, the Messiah whose whole being was wrapped up in the redemption of man, want a drink of water right then and there from a particular Samaritan woman when He could have easily gotten it Himself? He used water to connect with her. She had no idea where Jesus wanted the conversation to go, but He did! He knew He would use water and carefully directed the conversation in the manner He wanted it to go. The Samaritan woman was even surprised that a Jew would ask someone of her ethnic background and class for a drink. But Jesus had a purpose in mind for this woman.
When we meet people, we usually exchange names, etc. This is so we can establish identity. Remembering names is important because it carries weight with the individual you are trying to win. They are used to responding to their name. A name is personal. It shows that you care enough to remember who they are. This is one of the techniques that made Dale Carnegie so successful and renown.
Next we may ask them about their occupation or about their family. Then it can progress to finding out information about their opinions, feelings, or viewpoints. We are delving into a deeper level when we uncover emotions and feelings because that person trusts you enough to show you his or her heart. When you reach the heart level, most barriers come down. The depth of intimacy conversation should grow the more we talk with someone.
Jesus didn’t waste any time with the woman at the well once He asked her for a drink. Jesus told her, “If thou knewest the gift of God. and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” Christ took something in the natural and advanced her to the spiritual level. When we are witnessing to people, we must be sensitive and strive to take them from the natural to the spiritual. It is like a cultural change. Until God opens their eyes, this is somewhat difficult for them to understand. Just as the “Word” bridged the gap from reality to the faith dimension of the supernatural in Jesus’ day, God is still doing it today through His Word and the church.
What is the hook in the spirit realm? Hooks are questions that our conversation hinges upon. Ever notice that a fishing hook resembles an upside down question mark?
When we become Christians and have a desire to be soul winners, we need to be just a little nosey. What do I mean by that? We become “private eyes” once we begin a conversation with someone. We must search for clues that will ultimately give us knowledge about them so we can lead them to the gospel. As “private eyes” we learn more about an individual through the garbage or trash of their lives. We know how to spot their traits, but even in their sin we can learn a great deal about them. For instance, if someone has an alcohol problem, it could be because their parents were also alcoholics. We need to find what is missing in their lives that causes them to turn to vices such as drinking. We need to continually mull around in our minds the thought why, why do they do what they do, why? Many times God will impart understanding through this searching of the mind.
Rudyard Kipling said that what, why, how, where, and who taught him everything he knew. We can use this same approach in attempting to witness to people. Most of what we know we gain by questioning. Once we meet someone, our questions should funnel down from being broad to very specific in nature.
One question I often ask is, “What church do you attend?” I ask this because it enables me to learn about their beliefs. Their faith becomes a starting point as to how I am going to direct them to the truth of Christ.
There are literally thousands of religious beliefs in the world and it is very difficult to know what each one teaches. But we should know what the churches in our local area are promoting. Then we can study the Word of God and know how to lead those people to truth.
We are in a spiritual war. We are soldiers in the army of God. Can you imagine any army worth its salt not being knowledgeable of its enemy? Can you imagine the United States not having any surveillance equipment to gather information about our enemies? In every war the two opposing sides want to know facts about their foe. That’s why they have spies. So why shouldn’t we know our enemy? We have to know what we are up against. We have to know how someone has deviated from the truth and also what parts of truth they possess so we can lead them to the fullness of truth.
In Acts 19, Paul asked certain disciples two pointed questions. In verse two he asked, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” And in verse three he asked them, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” Paul didn’t waste any time; he got right to the point by asking two simple questions.
John 16:24 states, “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” James 4:2 says, “…ye have not because ye ask not.”
Jesus indicated that questions are pretty important in Matt.7:7-8 when he said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” There is such insight in these two scriptures. Let’s examine them.
From a soul winning standpoint, those who don’t have anything, don’t have anything because they never asked. You cannot get a Bible study unless you ask for one. The biggest obstacle is asking for what you want. The ability to grasp some type of commitment from the sinner seems to elude some Christians because they simply don’t have the courage to ask. “Well, Mrs. Jones, doesn’t that seem like something you could use?” “Well, Tom, you just expressed that you think you would enjoy learning more about the Bible. How about we set up a study for 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday?”) When we ask questions, we are seeking for clues to give us information about them so we can lead them to Christ. Once we get enough clues about them, then the door will open and they can be saved. Once we discover facts about them, we can find a common ground to link them to the church.
A man in my church was on his job and happened to run into a minister of another denomination. The minister was extremely interested in converting his congregation from traditional music to contemporary. Many people in his church were elderly and resisted the change. My friend also found out that this man dealt with tremendous depression. He invited the man to church, but the man did not accept.
What else could my friend have done to get the minister to attend our church? He could have beefed up the fact that our church loves “contemporary” music and spontaneous worship. He could have told the minister that if he was looking for any new music material, he could glean a lot at our church that would help facilitate the efforts in his own congregation. He might have told the pastor that he might learn something new by watching how we conduct our services. My friend had gathered enough facts to effectively witness to the minister, but he failed to use them to link this man to our church. We always have to be questioning ourselves, “How can I get this person to church?” and we need to be good listeners for conveyed facts.
The worst thing that can happen to us is that they reject our offer. People usually won’t spit in your face or call you a bunch of nasty names; they will just simply say, NO!
More people don’t become sales people or soul winners because of fear. They’re afraid of asking for whatever it is they are trying to obtain because they think they’ll be rejected. And people tend to shy away from rejection. Fear is what stops many from asking for Bible studies or inviting someone to church. If we walk in fear, we are not walking in faith. Fear is not of God. God has given us power, love, and a sound mind.
Apparently, even the apostles were afraid to speak the Word at times, but they were encouraged to do so by Paul: “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:14).
When God called Adam, He invited Adam to commune with Him. When we preach or share the gospel, we, too, are inviting someone to commune with God. We extend to them an invitation to the greatest calling in life.
Every day we get the information we are after by asking questions. We ask questions like, “What will the item cost?” or “What kind of guarantee does it have?” We don’t have any problem asking for things we want from a store or for the correct change if a clerk short-changes us. But we have problems asking questions of someone who doesn’t know the fullness of truth.
If you are good at asking probing questions, you can become a great soul winner. Questions become progressive as we take people on a journey by deriving information as we talk with them. Questions are the key in directing and getting what you want in conversation. I will never get what I want if I can’t ask for it.
Asking turns a conversation in the direction you want it to go. We can lead or direct the conversation by asking pointed questions that seek for information. An extended question spawned from the previous one will probe a little deeper every time until we uncover what we are searching for.
I compare this type of questioning to a maze. In a maze you keep going forward until you hit a barrier; then you move in a different direction, rather than stopping. Questions operate the same way. If we hit a barrier, we simply ask another question that will send us toward a different direction yet allow us to continue.
When we pose questions to individuals, we are doing what God did to Adam in the garden. If Adam would have recognized his position, the outcome would have been different. If we can get people to admit they have a problem and get them to speak it out loud, then they are buying into the gospel themselves. They are beginning to consider “ownership” of the gospel because they are closer to realizing it is their solution. But that didn’t happen with Adam. As a matter of fact, the opposite occurred. Adam hid from God and blamed his wife. God couldn’t get Adam to be honest and open with Him. When people will not accept truth, it is often because they aren’t being honest with themselves. Remember, the heart is deceitful . . .
A friend of mine was witnessing to a woman on her job who was a seminary student. The woman was able to quote many scriptures, but did so out of context. My friend had had many conversations with her about the Word of God. On this particular day, they were discussing salvation. This woman wanted the Holy Ghost, but thought that confessing God and abstaining from sin was sufficient. The Lord anointed my friend in au awesome way, and for every argument the woman gave, my friend was able to give her scripture for what we believe concerning salvation. After a moment of silence at the end of the conversation the woman said, “The problem I have with this is that it makes me feel undone.” Sadly, my friend was never able to witness to her again, or really even talk to her. Many people will not receive the gospel because they don’t like to think they’ve been wrong about their beliefs or they don’t like the feeling that being wrong carries with it.
Not only do we need to ask questions, but we must have wisdom and patience in how we present the gospel. In Matt. 10:16 Jesus said. “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
The Strong s Dictionary defines the word wise in that scripture as prudent, using practical wisdom in relationships with others. According to Encarta World English. Dictionary, prudent means having good sense in dealing with practical matters.
In Gen. 3:1 the Bible says, Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” The word subtle means cunning, crafty, sly, and prudent. The Encarta World English Dictionary defines subtle as cleverly indirect and ingenious.
What can we learn from the devil? What wisdom did he possess when speaking with Adam? I believe he worked on Eve for quite awhile before she finally gave in to his suggestions. If the devil would have just started bashing God, I think Adam and Eve would have seen through him. But because he was very suggestive in his approach, he tricked them. Suggestion is powerful. Satan was cleverly indirect. The devil had wisdom for destruction. He was very patient with the newly formed couple. How many times have sinners been scared away because someone had so much zeal that they blasted them with the gospel, instead of gently and patiently leading them to truth through a door God opened for them?
Jesus used a method that I call “If-the-shoe-fits-wear-it Method” He spoke in parables because it helped people understand what He was trying to say, and so He could present the Word and leave it up to them. Parables were nonthreatening stories unless they fit. Many times Jesus just told them what they needed to do to find eternal life; He didn’t judge them even though He had the right to do so. He let the Word do it. His method was indirect, but hit the bull’s eye every time. There were people in Jesus’ day offended by Him. After Jesus spoke about the stone that the builders rejected in Matt. 21:42-44, the Bible tells us that the chief priests and Pharisees perceived that He was talking about them. Those He did rebuke were hypocrites. He simply gave individuals the facts, then left it up to them. If the shoe fit, then they needed to wear it. They either followed Him or went their own way.
I attended a high school graduation party where I started talking to a man who was also a guest. I soon realized that I knew his relatives. Then the man’s wife came and sat down with us. It dawned on me that I had been acquainted with this man’s wife in the years before I knew God, although I hadn’t known that they were married. Her husband introduced me and we all continued talking. After awhile the woman just came out and asked me, “So when did you get saved?” I told her the date I accepted Jesus by repenting of my sins, being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ by full immersion, and receiving the Holy Ghost by the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Then I asked her which church she attended. She told me she was Baptist. Although I knew what her particular church taught, I still asked her. She basically said that one only needed to believe and that baptism is not essential to salvation. Then she changed the subject by criticizing the religion she had been raised in because she felt it didn’t obey the Bible. We briefly discussed those beliefs; then I zeroed in on the biblical mode of salvation that was spoken by the apostles. I told her that Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and that by his mouth the Gentiles would hear the Word of salvation and believe. I continued to expound on the message Peter preached. I then guided her through the Word and explained that the epistles were written to established churches that had already obeyed Peter’s message. I told her about the Holy Ghost, but I didn’t do it in a manner that outwardly confronted her. I did not use the words “you-or “your church.” I simply expounded on the Scripture in a non-threatening way. We did not argue, nor were we confrontational. Truth should flow from us when we are in the Spirit, and it should draw people to us through revelation.
The hostess then came to ask us to eat, so our conversation came to an end. We received our food and sat down. I thought she had plenty to think about and I really didn’t know how she would handle all I had said. But as soon as we sat down, she came and sat down next to us. She asked me if I knew of any good books she could read. I offered several authors’ names and titles of the books they wrote. I gave her names of authors I felt conveyed truth. We also exchanged phone numbers.
The next step is that I will get her a catalog to order books, but I will also try to meet with her again over lunch or invite her to my home to look at some of my books. My prayer is that God will open another door of opportunity with her.
We need to be sensitive when God opens a door. We need to realize that God is doing the work; therefore, we should take our time with them. Once I have caused a door to close by being too hasty, I usually cannot go there again or for quite awhile. But I strive to offer truth with wisdom.
Years ago after just getting out of high school, I was looking for a job and found an ad in the newspaper. It was listed under “Sales” in the classified ads of the newspaper. It appealed to me because I had wanted to take a sales training course and learn more about selling. A local cemetery had placed this ad, stating that they were looking for a memorial counselor. I had not the slightest idea what a memorial counselor was, but it didn’t sound too difficult. I called the woman and she set up an interview. I was excited because I got an appointment, although I still didn’t understand what the job entailed. I went to the interview and found out it was selling cemetery property!
What a prestigious name for selling someone a hole in the ground! Regardless, I was excited about the prospect of enrolling in a sales course. I went through the training, and did I have an awakening experience on my first day out. I did exactly what my boss told me to do in my first sales presentation. As a matter of fact, she taught us to sell just like she did. The method she used crescendoed at the end of the presentation when she would simply say, “You can sign right here, Mrs. Jones,” as she handed the client her pen. I did it exactly like she did it, but with upsetting results. First of all, the woman looked at me like I was some kind of ghoul. And secondly, I was pressuring people into buying what I was selling. People hate pressure. They feel like you think they’re stupid. And you better do a good job selling them the first time because chances are they will resent the sale after you are gone, and never buy anything from you again. They may even cancel the sale.
The next day I pulled all the pages from my presentation book that suggested death, and I learned to present the real estate package in a manner that wasn’t offensive. I emphasized what a great deal I thought the 4 x 9 piece of property was, and never used the word death. I realized that to many the subject of death would be upsetting. The same people still had to subconsciously acknowledge that they would someday be needing what I was selling, so I beefed up all the major selling points. Not what its intended use was. In fact, I didn’t even imply that they were ever going to use this small expensive piece of land because deep down they knew the property’s purpose. I’d say, “Mr. Smith, this area I am selling is some of the most prime property here and it over looks the river.” If you do a good job presenting a product or service, things are understood and do not have to be spoken.
The Bible says in Prov. 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We have to do the same thing when we are promoting the gospel. We have to use whatever works to get them saved, being sensitive and having wisdom in the process.
When Jesus stated that we should be harmless as doves, He meant innocent, merely a messenger like the dove that Noah sent out. When Noah sent out the dove, which is symbolic of the Spirit of God, he was merely looking for dry land which typifies a lost soul.
God is searching for someone who recognizes his need for a savior. God will keep searching and reaching until He finds someone that will want Him. We are carriers of the gospel. All we have to do is present Jesus, ask them, and whatever they decide to do is not our problem after that. We can and should pray for them, but it is up to each individual to want God. And if they do want Him, God will open their hearts to receive His Word.
Jesus never begged anybody to follow Him. All He did was ask them to follow Him or give specific instruction as to what they needed to do, but He didn’t beg them or fret when they did not accept Him. Jesus never spent all of his time with one person either. The people He spent the majority of His time with were the apostles because he wanted to teach them how to win others.
We are presenters of the gospel. We need to keep searching for those who want God because there are plenty of people who are looking for truth. This world tells them a lot of lies so the truth becomes obvious amid the false information of this world.
If we are more suggestive and good at asking questions, we will be less offensive and more persuasive. Satan, in Gen. 3:1, asked Eve a very indirect question that was effective for him. He said, “Yea, bath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” He insinuated or implied that God was very demanding by telling her what she could and couldn’t eat. He was also fishing for information to see if she had listened and understood the seriousness of what God required of her and Adam. He quizzed her so he could find out her spiritual position with God in her relationship with the Creator. He could have asked her many questions, but he asked the one that worked.
When Matthew wrote that we’re to be harmless as doves, he meant that we need to have wisdom and discretion in our relationships with others. We can be effective by asking indirect questions because we know we are leading them to God for their own good.
Sometime ago I was invited to a Tupperware party where very few people showed up. The main focus was really on the lady who was the sales representative. I found the woman interesting and thought that I would like to learn more about her and where she was at spiritually. She was a very devoted mother and was driven to provide for her family. I began asking her questions that pertained to her work.
Next, the conversation graduated to her children. Every mother likes to talk about her kids, although she was somewhat guarded. Finally I asked her, “So Mary, what does your husband do for a living?” That question opened a can of worms. I found out she and her husband had recently divorced and that she had a host of problems. All that from one question! We were able to minister to her and sow a seed of the gospel.
If one question doesn’t seem to hit a core issue of a person’s life, try another because eventually you will find one that will cause the person to let down their guard and bear their heart to you.
Another technique that is closely associated with a question is a statement that is so profound in thought that it stops someone in their tracks and causes them to ask a question first. Jesus used this technique when He spoke to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Verily, verily, say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Jesus could have expounded everything He knew, but He didn’t. Nicodemus obviously had a need, and that was of a savior. Although he was a religious leader, he was a hungry and open-minded one. Jesus fed him a little at a time, peaking his interest.
In order to be effective with this technique, we need to be in a conversation regarding God or the person has to have a problem so you can direct a profound spiritual statement to them, causing them to wonder. This method will work on those who are interested and hungry. Sometimes people may appear for years to not be interested in the gospel. If we wait for them to share a problem or concern with us, then we can apply spiritual principles unlike anything they’ve heard anywhere and build credibility for the gospel. Spiritual wisdom far outweighs natural wisdom.
Of course it is always better if we can get the lost to ask us questions. Obviously when they ask questions the largest part of the task is finished. We have to feed people as much as they can comfortably handle at a time. Patience and discernment are so important. If we overload and try to choke the sinner, we can do damage that is irreparable. We may lose them in the course of stuffing them with our zeal or we can turn them off totally from wanting what we have in God.
I experienced God in a unique way in a discussion with one of my first converts. I was a neophyte of the gospel and had tremendous zeal. I was witnessing in the living room of a woman I was trying to win, and a baby was crying at the same time. The conversation seemed to escalate. Right at the peak of the of the conversation, the baby knocked a glass over and it brought a very temporary yet obvious silence. God spoke to me,” You’ve said enough.” After that I ended the conversation and politely excused myself. The woman accepted the fullness of the gospel a short time later, but I wonder what would have happened if I would’ve continued in the conversation, wanting to tell her everything I knew at the time? I am glad I listened to God and learned from the experience.
Isaiah wrote in chapter 28, verses 9-11, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” God made truth clear a little at a time. If the Bible would have taken us from the Law straight to Acts without the transition of the gospels, I don’t know how many people would have accepted it. The life of Jesus was a transition from Law to grace. God gives a little at a time as people are ready for it. If anybody knows everything, God does; yet He never divulges everything He knows. He gives as someone can understand, and we need to do the same.
There are few things in life that are really free. When we see an advertisement that reads FREE, we usually think that the item must not have any value, that the ad is misleading, or you better go get one while you can!
When we fish in the spirit realm we have access to “free bait.” What’s free bait? Every time you go fishing by asking questions, you’ll receive answers from people, that you can convert to another question to further your position. This is free bait that you can use to bait your hook again and again. This is one way you can direct the conversation.
As you direct the conversation there is an imaginary bridge. From the beginning of the bridge to the other side, it is very different in nature. Before the person steps foot on the bridge of transition, the world is familiar with hopelessness, cursing, lying, adultery, etc. The pathway of Jesus is holiness, godliness, peace, joy, etc. How can we help lead someone who doesn’t know God, from the way of the world to God’s way? Through conversation. When we witness to someone there is a point in the conversation that we take them from the natural to the spiritual over the bridge of conversation. We build bridges for Jesus with our words that we offer to the sinner.
One day I and a friend were walking in my neighborhood and noticed a building for sale. I walked into the backyard because I wanted to see the back of the building. One of the tenants just happened to be looking out his door. I apologized and told him that I had seen the sale sign and wanted to see how the back of the house looked. He invited us in to see his apartment. As I walked from room to room talking with this individual, I asked him questions about his life, such as where he worked, what he did in the company, etc. I used the upcoming Easter holiday as a subject to walk him over the bridge of conversation into the faith dimension when I finally said, “Well, tomorrow is Easter. Are you attending services anywhere?” He had made prior plans so I asked him about attending our home friendship meetings or if he would like to take a Bible study. As is customary for me, I put a lot of emphasis on a Bible study and told him he would know more about the Bible when he was done than 99% of the people in our city. I also told him that it would change his life. Of all the things I offered, the Bible study was the most attractive to him. In essence, I walked him over an imaginary bridge and I used Easter as my bridge. We went from the place of his employment to the Easter holiday to take him from the natural to the spiritual.
You can turn any conversation around to ultimately talk about God. It doesn’t matter if I run into somebody at the checkout counter in Kmart or if I am in the waiting room of a hospital. I can turn conversations around even if I see somebody walk down the street. I can connect with them and eventually walk them over the bridge into the Jesus dimension.
What are the lures in the spirit realm? What are some of the connection points you can use to catch their attention and bridge a gap in their lives to find Jesus?
- I can always invite someone to a regular or special church service.
- My favorite connecting point is a Bible study because it is planting the Word of God in their hearts, which never returns void.
- Every church has its own variety of ministries. These are great avenues to bridge someone to the church. For example, our church has a strong youth ministry where teenagers’ lives are being changed. Because of this, we are seeing parents come in. We also have men’s and women’s ministries, among many others. Always be aware of the programs or possibilities your church can offer someone. It’s important that we are resourceful and have ways to meet the needs of people.
- A very powerful way to bridge someone to the church is through your testimony. Next to the Word of God, nothing is as powerful as your testimony and how God has made a difference in your life. The testimony of the woman at the well helped convert a city. Seeing and hearing someone personally expound on how God changed their life is a very compelling tool to promote the gospel.
- The personal testimony of someone you know well in the church is also powerful. Many times when I talk to alcoholics or those on the verge of divorce, I give the testimony of our youth pastor and his wife. I tell people that they need to come to church and meet this couple so they can see what God did for them. Once I get them to church, I know our youth pastor and his wife will gladly tell what God did for them! Hearing and giving a testimony builds faith in our minds and the minds of the lost.
- Another tool I use is my pastor’s counseling. I tell people that my pastor is an excellent counselor. I explain to them that he is an anointed man of God who is called to our city and has a God-given ability to counsel people. People need to realize that when a man has the Holy Ghost, he has special discernment and sensitivity given by God to help people. Otherwise, they will think his counseling is like anyone else’s.
- Depending on the circumstance, I will take spiritual concepts and teach people in the natural. Supernatural wisdom supercedes anything this world has to offer. Many times the subject may be problems in someone’s life in which I can apply biblical teaching and be very effective. The person I’m talking to can learn the solutions to their problems by hearing the Word of God. This method will cause them to have a greater interest in the Bible, therefore increasing their chances of coming to church.
- A home friendship group (a.k.a. cells or small group ministry) is a great lure for someone to grow closer to God. It gives them an opportunity to get to know a few people in the church before they attend a service. It’s a time when they can be ministered to while still in a home environment.
Found any good fishing holes yet?
The above article, “Have You Been Fishing Lately?” is written by Michelle Mihalakis. The article was excerpted from the fifth chapter of Mihalakis’ book, The Hows & Whys of Witnessing the Gospel.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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