WHAT MAKES A GOOD FISHERMAN?
LESSON TEXT: Matthew 24:14; II Timothy 2:15; Ecclesiastes 11:4; II Corinthians 12:15; I Corinthians 9:22; Hebrews 10:36; Luke 21:19; Jude 20.
“…Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (Luke 4:10).
LESSON AIM : To study the characteristics of a soul-winner in relationship to a fisherman.
Teaching Material: Display an old straw hat, rod, reel, tackle box, fishing map and have ready Magni-Vu words: “Study,” “Time,” “Money,” “New Methods,” “Patience,” and “Keeps Records.” Place each of these words on the metal board as indicated in lesson.
FISHERS OF MEN
For too long we Pentecostals have been fearful. We’re afraid someone might laugh at our feeble efforts to convince them of their need of salvation; afraid someone might reject us or make fun of our religion; afraid of persecution because of our peculiarities. Parents have taught their children that we are hated of all men. Nobody likes you. No one wants your kind of salvation. The boys and girls at school will not be friendly with you because you are separate and apart from their ways of living.
As a result, we have drawn into our little shells and developed inferiority complexes and soothed our wounded spirits into believing we are suffering for the Name of Jesus. In reality, no one even knows what we are or what we believe!
Fear has haunted our childhood. What if someone finds out that we believe in shouting and dancing in the Spirit? Don’t let anyone know. Someone might laugh if they know we don’t have a television in our home and that we believe God can heal all manner of disease.
Perhaps you were not plagued in this manner by unthinking parents who were trying to implant in your heart that you are despised and rejected of all men. How sad that we have not seen the true picture of what Jesus intended us to be!
It is true that Jesus Christ was rejected by his family at times and that even His disciples fled in the face of danger. But look at the
ministry of Jesus. Crowds thronged Him-hoping to hear one more anointed word from His lips. Never a man spake like this man! Though He was hated by the religious hypocrites, yet He was adored and worshipped by the common “man on the street.”
Jesus gave His disciples a promise that applies to our generation. “Thou shalt catch MEN!” Me? A soul-winner? Is there anything attractive about our message of salvation that will lure men into following Christ? And how!
This course of study is prayerfully intended to develop ordinary, timid, persecuted, backward folks into fearless, bold, wise fishers of men. The reason for our timidity has been the sly suggestions of Satan to bind our hands and stop our mouths. Our last series exposed our enemy for what he really is. The devil has been at the root of our problem. We have listened to his reasoning, and because it agreed with our own carnal desires, we thought sure it must be the right thing. We actually thought we were being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and therefore meekly obeyed his advice that we not let anyone know what we believe.
Now that we have caught him in the act, what are we going to do about it? Can this fear that has hounded our steps be overcome? Can we become the kind of powerful soul-winners we so longingly admire in others? We most certainly can!
If the Church of the living God ever intends to invade the regions on the other side of the “gates of hell,” that means we must forcefully attack the strongholds of Satan and rescue the perishing that are bound by the devil. If we have been nonchalantly waiting for the world to beat a path to our doors so that we can witness of Jesus’ saving power in the privacy of our own little homes, we may as well forget it.
There is a thought that continually torments me that I want to share with you. This gospel SHALL be preached in all the world for a witness (Matthew 24:14), but who is going to do that witnessing? Can we be assured that the existing Oneness, Jesus’ Name, tongue-talking people will do the job? Don’t we realize that God can raise up a people who will joyfully perform this last commission? It will be our privilege to fulfill this command-not our chore. This means that if we want to be a part of the last day revival, I must do something about it; YOU must do something about it!
Perhaps we won’t be miraculously changed overnight into some kind of dynamic personality that is as fearless as a lion and wise as a serpent. But we can begin developing courage by a systematic program. At the close of each lesson there will be an assignment for that week. We will begin with small things and gradually work up to more difficult assignments. Why don’t we do this together? I’m sure every saint of God has longed to have more boldness and wisdom in witnessing. This could be the solution to your problem. We all want to do more for the Lord, but we don’t know how to go about it. Perhaps this is what you have been waiting for!
CHARACTERISTICS OF A FISHERMAN
Since Jesus compared soul-winning with catching fish, we would like to use the terminology of a fisherman throughout this course. It is amazing how alike they are. Many men studying these lessons have already learned to be an expert fisherman. It will be just as easy to learn how to be an expert soul-winner.
1. Study. Should a man ever know the thrill of catching a big fish, he may become “hooked” for life, himself. It almost seems like there is some kind of addiction to this business of fishing. If he is really in earnest about learning the right techniques of casting and where to go to find the big fish and all the details of becoming a good fisherman, he will study. I dare say there is hardly a fisherman who doesn’t subscribe to some sort of fishing magazine. (Pick up fishing map).
He wants to know where to go on this lake or in this bay to fish. If the habits of fish are not mastered, you are wasting your time to sit out there in your boat and throw in your line. It just doesn’t come naturally to know how to fill your stringer with five or ten pound fish. You must study.
2. Time. The art of fishing is learned only by experience. You will never be considered a real fisherman if you go out only once or twice a year. The real pro’s fish all year long. Much of their time is spent fishing. They know that the largest fish are caught in the wintertime. So what do they do? They buy battery powered heaters to put in their boat to warm their frost-bitten feet and hands. They even buy insulated socks to keep their feet warm and insulated clothing.
Will rain stop them? No sir. A drizzling rain only increases their hope of making a big haul.
We might add that this spirit of “hunting” and “fishing” has captured the heart of many of God’s children and has meant their downfall. While we mention the fact that a dedicated fisherman spends much time in the water, this does not mean it is permissible for Christians to miss church to go fishing or to be intemperate in the amount of time they spend for leisure.
3. Money. If a man gets the notion he needs certain fishing gear to enable him to catch more fish, he will manage somehow to scrape up the money. And he never considers it a sacrifice to spend hard-earned money in this manner. He is glad to do so because he knows it might help him catch bigger and better fish than his partner. If he has a good Zebco 33 reel but hears about a neighbor catching a ten pounder with an Ambassador 5000, you can be sure he’ll be on the lookout for one just like it. Money just doesn’t seem to be much of a problem to a real fisherman.
4. New Methods. Every fisherman is constantly looking for better ways to fish. Their conversations seem to have a way of working around to this same familiar subject. Where did you go? What time of day was it? What kind of bait did you use? Were you trolling or anchored? How deep were you fishing? New fishing holes are closely guarded secrets and only their best friends find out about them. If he hears the bass are hitting “hot spots,” he will head for the nearest sporting goods store and stock up on them. Fishermen are constantly trying to improve their techniques.
5. Patience. This is perhaps one of the most outstanding characteristics of a successful fisherman. He never gives up. He might come home tired out, half frozen to death without a fish in his ice chest. Even though he declares he’ll never go back to that certain lake or fishing hole, it won’t be two weeks until he has forgotten those numb fingers and that long, miserable drive home and he’s ready to go again. He will arise at four or five o’clock in the morning and sit in a boat all day long through the blazing sun or the drizzling rain and never give it a second thought. If the fish aren’t biting, he simply tries another spot or a different lure. But he never gives up! If that “big” one gets away, it never daunts his courage. In fact, it spurs him on because he knows for sure there’s probably more just like that one that got away.
6. Keeps Records. A fisherman’s records may never be written on paper, but you can be sure he has them stored away in his brain. He can tell you almost the exact spot where he caught a certain size bass or trout, what he used-every detail. He knows what time of day it was, the weather conditions, the time of year, the kind of lure, how deep he was fishing, how he brought it in what kind of fight he had, etc. It is very important to make mental notes so that he can return to the same spot-or at least brag to his friends about his catch. Good records are essential to being a good fisherman.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A SOUL-WINNING
Now, let’s apply these same characteristics to the successful “soul-catcher.” You will see that they are identical.
1. Study. A person who has never studied the nature and habit of human beings will never have much luck bringing them to Christ. This doesn’t mean you need to study psychology, but it does mean you have to watch people. You must know something about human emotions. What causes anger, joy, sadness, love, peace, fear? What can I do to win the friendship of a person I’m trying to catch?
The greatest book of all to study, of course, is the Bible. It contains the answer to every problem of life an individual may encounter. Just as a good fisherman pores over fishing magazines, the soul-winner will be an avid reader of his Bible. He must know what he believes and be positive about his message. In his own mind he must be convinced the gospel will really work-and on every person in the world. He will be very ineffective in his witnessing until he is first sold on what he’s trying to sell others.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).
2. Time. The art of soul-winning is mastered only by experience. There will be some failures. You will lose a few fish you are working on. But when a sufficient amount of time is spent, the law of averages has to be on your side.
He is ever witnessing and doing his best to win the lost regardless of the weather. One certain man went out in freezing rain, rolled up his sleeves and began knocking on doors. Of course, everyone invited him in because it was so cold outside. From that one day of “fishing,” he got 56 promises and the next day 52 of them were in Sunday School. He found that disregarding the weather paid off. “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).
3. Money. The seasoned soul-winner gladly spends his money to win souls. He doesn’t mind wearing out his car to bring others to church. If children spill things on the carpet or back seat of his car, he doesn’t worry about it. If he has to buy a new set of tires sooner than normal and buy many extra tankfuls of gas, he never complains. Buying clothes and food for those in need is considered to be part of the expense of catching souls. To buy extra groceries and spend countless hours preparing meals in order to get a hook in someone’s jaw is all part of the game.
You will never hear a soul-winner complaining about what he has sacrificed to see a man receive the Holy Ghost. Like the fisherman, he gladly invests his money in equipment and lures to persuade a friend to turn from his wicked ways and follow the Master. With the Apostle Paul he can say, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you….” (II Corinthians 12:15). Tightwads and soul-winners are poles apart.
Many churches provide their members with free tracts to distribute. However, if a small church cannot afford to do so, there should never be a complaint on the part of saints to invest in “fishing gear” to win souls. A Baptist layman recently told us of his consuming desire to win the lost. He spends $150 every month of his own money to buy booklets and tracts to pass out. He has formed tract routes in which he supplies stores with large quantities of literature. The booklets he is distributing do not have the full plan of salvation, but he has found receptive hearts and gladly spends his money for bait-to catch souls.
4. New Methods. Every soul-winner is constantly searching for new and more effective methods of winning the lost. If he hears of a new approach toward getting in a home, he’s anxious to try it. He thoroughly enjoys talking with other soul-winners to see what kind of gospel “bait” they have been using lately and how well it worked. If he hears of a book that might stir him to greater action, he rushes out to buy it. He can’t help it; he is addicted to this sort of thing. The Apostle Paul said, “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” (I Corinthians 9:22). Just let him get a new idea about saving a soul and he can hardly wait to try it. This urge gets in the bloodstream and compels men and women to go to great lengths to rescue an individual. If one method is not too successful, they will try another. On and on they are driven to apprehend the lost.
5. Patience. Oh, the patience of a soul-winner. They may cast their bait into the water dozens of times before they get a strike; but they never give up. Maybe they are working on three neighbor families. The prospects look so good. Any day they are expecting to make that unbelievable catch. But the devil gets busy and before you know it, they are all off the hook and sailing away in the opposite direction. His prize fish has made a wrong decision and is out of reach of the gospel. Does this discourage him? Not really. Sure, he may be very disappointed and shed many tears over the turn of events, but it will not make him give up. Soon he is casting again in a different direction; maybe using a different lure.
“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36. This is the kind of patience that makes a man or woman keep frying without a shred of hope in sight. In their patience, they “possess their own souls” (Luke 21:19).
6. Keeps Records. Just as a fisherman makes mental notes of his most exciting catches, so does the soul-winner. He remembers how the power of the Lord overcame his resistance. After a few of these on the stringer, the soul-winner has confidence in his God to help land any size individual. The fear leaves and no fish is too big to tackle.
We are admonished to build up ourselves, “on your most holy faith….” (Jude 20). The best way to do this is to keep records. Remember what God has done for you in the past. This produces faith for the future. Maybe we will start out catching small fish. But that will give us faith to believe for greater things.
RECORD OF WITNESSING
At the end of each lesson we have included several methods of witnessing. From week to week the students in your class will fill out this record. At the end of the week, the total column will be filled by adding together the daily figures. It may be surprising to see how much or how little we are doing to catch men. You may conduct this part of the class as you wish, but your students should be encouraged to fill out their reports daily so they will form the habit of “thinking” about witnessing.
From week to week the entire class should strive to do some particular phase of soul-winning. To build the courage of those who are timid and have never become involved in this business, begin with something simple. For instance, you might wish to stress that each student “prepare” to witness this week by placing some type of tract holder in their car, by the front door of their home or in their desk at work. If you present this right, there is a good chance that you will get a hook in the jaw of some of your saints who have never been interested in winning the lost before. Who knows? You might develop some outstanding fishers of men right in your own class.
If time permits, it would be good to let members of the class express themselves about how they compare spiritually to the fisher of men that is successfully winning the lost that we just studied about. Or you might let them commit themselves to participating in this course by expressing their feeling about it and their desire to do more for God.
It is a proven fact that people are more apt to do what they hear repeated over and over from the pulpit. For instance, if you preach the necessity of the Holy Ghost, people will believe it. If you preach trusting God for healing, they will practice it. If you preach holy living, they will abide by it. If you can preach soul-winning for thirteen weeks, there’s a good chance you will develop some first class soul-winners.
Our last series of lessons taught us how to defend ourselves from the attacks of Satan. But that is only half the battle. We must also be on the offensive. That’s where soul-winning comes in. This is just as important in our Christian walk and is the only way we can be real over comers. Let’s see how many “fearless fishermen” you have in your church.
(The above material appeared in Fearless Fishermen, Search for Truth Publications, Houston, TX.)
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