Fishing for Souls: Where the Fish Are Biting

Jonathan ScottBy Jonathan Scott10 Minutes

Welcome back to Strengthen Your Walk, I’m Jonathan Scott. As we are going through this series on evangelism, we’re using some fishing elements and illustrations. I want to give you what I consider to be the most important secret of effective fishing. You’re going to be able to catch a bunch of fish with this. So, go ahead and get a pad and write this down.

Here’s the greatest secret for fishing. Here it is: go to where the fish are. Brilliant, isn’t it? Here’s the thing, for everything I know about fishing, they’re not going to come to your house. You can’t fish from your den or from your bathroom. As a matter of fact, the fact that your boat is in the water isn’t good enough, or your line’s in the water, you got to go to where the fish are. It’s one of the reasons why fishermen spend an awful lot of time studying where the fish are and where they’re biting.

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If you want to catch fish, you go to where the fish are. In the Great Commission, the original language, the command is not going or go. It’s making disciples. Going is assumed. The Great Commission assumes we’re already in the process of going from where we are to where people are, which enables us to accomplish the Great Commission.

What’s really sad, however, is that many of us Christians believe that the place where we’re going to find non-Christians is in church. The truth about it is that a lot of non-Christians will never darken the doors of a church, but they’re all around us. They’re in our neighborhoods, they’re in our businesses, they’re at our recreation sites, they’re in restaurants and post offices and parks. Maybe even in our own home. But it may require us to cross some comfort zones to go to where they are.

Jesus, as our model, left from where He was with heaven and eternity, and He came to the earth to go to where the fish are, to go where the hunger is. It says in John 1:14, that “the Word” —that’s Jesus — “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory.” And Luke 19:10 reminds us again, “For the Son of Man came from where He was to seek and to save the lost.” And even while on earth, Jesus went to where the disciples were. He found Peter and Andrew, James and John, and went to them at the lake to call them to become fishers of men.

But even with those people who didn’t know about Christ or the way of life, He would find them where they were. Zacchaeus — He finds him in a sycamore tree — but then He goes to Zacchaeus’ house. He also went to a place in Samaria He should not have been according to the customs. But He went and had this amazing conversation with a woman at the well. Then He sends His disciples with the Great Commission to go from Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to the ends of the earth to cross boundaries that are not only distance and geography, but racial, socioeconomic, political, and religious, to where people are that need the gospel of Christ.

The bottom line is that for us to fulfill the Great Commission we have to leave where we are and go to where people need it. We need to meet and go to where the people are. But not just that, we need to meet them where they are. In other words, those places where there can be common grounds from which the gospel can be communicated, intention in finding those places where there is similarity.

In the gospel, Luke records in Acts 2 that Peter is preaching this message to those Jews gathered for the festival. He says to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give ear to my words. This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.” In other words, he’s speaking to people who understand the scripture, who know about the Old Testament, meeting them where they are as common ground. Later on in Acts 8, the Holy Spirit gives guidance to Philip the evangelist to find the desert road to Gaza, where he finds an Ethiopian eunuch reading the scripture. The Spirit says, “Go to the chariot.” Philip goes to the chariot and hears the Ethiopian reading the prophecy of Isaiah. He hears that and asks the man when he gets to the chariot, “Do you understand what you are reading?” In other words, he didn’t get to the chariot and just launch into a gospel presentation. He started with where the man was and what the man was reading and answers the questions that he may have had.

I love what Paul did in Athens to the Athenians that were there at the Areopagus. When he got to Athens, he saw so many gods and the scripture says that he was grieved and distressed at his heart. But when he had a chance of being able to speak to the men, he says, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious,” even quoting some of their poets later on. In other words, he didn’t blast them for the idolatry, he met them where they were.

Folks, for those of us that are fishers of men for Jesus Christ, it’s important that we go to where people are and meet them where they are on common ground. Sometimes that can be difficult, especially if you’re talking to strangers whom you may have an opportunity to as I’ve had. One of the techniques I’ve used over the years is called the fire method, F-I-R-E. In other words, when you’re in a conversation with someone, start by asking about their friends and their family. I — their interests — what do they like to do? What are their obligations? What are the things that they occupy their time with? R — their religious orientation. Ask them about their background or how they grew up knowing about God or religion. How they grew up that way? And then E — their eternal considerations. What do they think happens after death? Do they believe in heaven or hell? Start from that place and find out more about them.

While they’re talking, number one, be courteous, be kind, listen, be present with them as they share their story, but also be curious. If they say something that requires a question for clarity, then ask them, “Tell me more about that. Or how did you come to that conclusion?” I’ll also say, be compassionate, be caring. They matter to God and they should matter to us as well.

The truth about it is that success in evangelism is finding ways of developing that connection, that interaction on common ground as we love, as we care for people, as we’re courteous to listen to their story, to meet them where they are.

When we come back in the next session, we’re going to take a look at what I consider to be the best lure for fishing for people. Join us next time on Strengthen Your Walk.

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