Setting the Hook in New Converts

Setting the Hook in New Converts
“Use the Natural Approach”
By Allen Ratta

This article is all about Jesus’ command and promise, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt 4.19 & Mk. 1.17 NASB)

We call this the ABCs of Discipleship due to the basics of what it means to be an effective fisherman.

A = Attract (bait)
B = Bond (hook)
C = Catch (land)

In this article we come to the subject of actually hooking fish by looking at what I call the “Natural Approach.”

Moving from A to B

If the Kingdom is to expand according to the purposes of Christ, the local church is going to have to become proficient at actually hooking fish. I see a great many churches that are overly focused on events and programs which are designed to attract a crowd. Yet history proves that they lack much capacity to close the sale. Ironically, their lack of results, measured in terms of church growth, does not appear to slow down the expensive visitor attracting frenzy in which many of these churches are engaged.


I often share the point in pastoral seminars that, “left to itself, there is zero connection between children jumping in a jumpy house in the parking lot of the church for a special event and the parents feeling a felt need to attend the church.” I do not know if you have figured this out yet but the world will happily take everything that the church will give them and then leave. They come to our Christmas and Easter productions, Harvest Festivals and Mega Easter Egg Hunts and then leave with a smile. The church that would be effective at hooking fish for Christ must begin to think and act differently if it is to garner different results.

Anecdotes from Fishing – The Artificial Approach

One of the most frustrating fishing experiences I ever had, happened 20 years ago while trout fishing on the Jocko River in Western Montana. I had discovered a long and deep stretch of water that was full of big fish. You could actually see them sitting in the clear water. I trembled with excitement as I carefully worked my way to the downstream end of the classic fishing hole. After finding the perfect place to cast, I began plying the water with my favorite Rooster Tail lure. Much to my amazement three or four large trout followed my lure right to the edge of the water. Certain of my success, I quickly recast my lure only to observe the s e tantalizing pattern. They followed the lure right to my feet but refused to bite. I spent the better part of an hour trying to get just one fish to bite using every lure I had, yet enjoyed no success. I see very real parallels with churches that are trying to fish for Christ. God numbers of people come up close for a look but are not convinced enough to bite. The church, like fisherman everywhere, just keeps on casting and hoping that things will somehow change. Yet the bait is too artificial to relate to the day to day real-world experiences of the fish. It does not feel real.

5 Signs of Artificiality That Scare Off Wild Trout

1. Cultural Disconnects

If your greeters look strange or act strange, you have a good likelihood of spooking your visitors. Home-made clothes probably won’t work either, unless you are trying to reach an Amish enclave. Look at your visitors. If large numbers of them are dressed more casual, then select greeters that are not dressed so formal.

2. Too Close for Comfort

Never step inside a person’s personal privacy bubble. This is usually defined by the length of your outstretched arm. This kind of intrusion is certainly exacerbated if they have bad breath or poor hygiene. There is no quicker way to get wild trout to scatter than an in-your-face greeter!

3. Over-Eager for a Sale

If your lobby hosts have the plastered on smile and persistence of a used car salesman you will put off most people. Friendly is one thing. Pushy is quite another. Train greeters to read body language and back off the moment they sense the visitor might be getting uncomfortable.

4. Aloof to Outsiders

No one would invite someone to their home and not make them feel welcome at the door. That would just be weird. Understand that all of your, paid and word of mouth, advertising is an invitation to strangers to visit your church house. Demonstrate culturally acceptable standards of kindness and genuine interest.

5. The Guided Tour Trap

Recently my wife and I decided to go to the top of the Empire State Building. The lines appeared to be short where we bought our tickets but when we rounded the corner they were massive. When we finally boarded the elevator we got off on a floor with even longer lines that meandered between hecklers promoting opportunities to buy tourist items. Utilize a balance between demonstrations of genuine support and care with a self-guided tour in your church.

Anecdotes from Fishing – The Natural Approach

When I think about the natural approach to fishing, it brings to mind lessons I learned many years ago with native trout in the high elevation streams of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Catching these wild fish requires a much different approach than catching farm raised trout that are planted into streams. Planted fish are accustomed to humans tossing food pellets from the sides of their growing ponds from infancy. Wild trout are keenly aware of every artificial intrusion into their environment. With wild trout you only have one chance to catch them and once spooked, they will refuse to bite. Hooking them requires a good deal of skill and the natural bait must be presented in a way that nature would afford it to them. In this regard, it is hard to beat a live grasshopper tossed into the upper end of a pond where the rapids naturally bring the food to them. You have a good probability of experiencing the excitement of the hard tug of a wild trout that has been attracted to the bait and firmly hooked!

Final Thoughts

Nothing beats the thrill of catching fish for Christ that, without your intentional efforts, would likely never be caught. It is addictive! Let’s remember that Jesus has promised to make us effective fishers of men. We have a mentor who knows how to reach every heart. Happy Fishing!

This article Setting the Hook in New Converts by Allen Ratta is from January 2006

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.