Are You Fishing or Hunting?
Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” But sometimes we hunt instead of fish.
What is the difference? A hunter corners his quarry, flushes it out, and pounces on it. Sometimes we hunt when we go street witnessing. We hand out tracts and preach, “Repent or perish!” We pounce on them: “This is what you need!” Our attitude is that of trying to corner, trap, or expose so we can shoot. “You are wrong and I’m right!” By the time we are done, we have driven them deeper into hiding than before.
A fisherman goes about it differently. A fisherman lures the fish to himself. He doesn’t go out with a gun. A fisherman takes a line and tackle box, quietly goes up to the water’s edge, and sits down. He baits his hook with what he knows will appeal to the fish. Then he throws his line in, sits down, and waits. Usually he is quiet, not talking much, lest he scare the fish away.
When I first got converted, I had a hunting mentality. I thought if I told people the truth, they would want it. Time and time again I told my relatives what they needed, but they learned to avoid me. I cornered them. I exposed them and pointed out their sin. And I drove them away. Every time I came by, they had their defenses up, afraid I would shoot at them again. God forbid. It is time we stop hunting and start fishing.
So how should I minister to the unsaved neighbor, family, and friends? What should my approach be? First of all, my attitude must be changed from hunting to fishing, from chasing to drawing. I must learn that unless the Father draws them, they will not come to Jesus. If Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself (see John 12:32). They will not be drawn to Jesus if I speak evil of their religion or church, or preach in a condemning way. No, that is what turns them away.
Instead, let’s talk about something they want to hear. Look for an unfulfilled need that they have, their felt need. Where are they hurting? What are their fears? What are their longings? This surface need is the avenue to the deeper and real issues of the heart. If you minister to their felt needs, it opens the door to minister to the depths of their soul–their need for salvation.
Here are some things you will need as a fisherman:
Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” When you speak to others about Jesus, do it prayerfully. A clean heart and much prayer are keys to winning souls for Jesus. Everywhere you go, ask God to open doors so you can share Christ.
Colossians 4:5 says to “walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of time.” Who are outsiders? They are ones living outside of the grace of God. We are not to be hunters, trying to flush them out so we can expose them and gun them down with the Word of God. That’s not walking in wisdom. Rather, be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Use the opportunities you have to speak words of life.
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).
Sometimes we talk too much religion and turn folks away from wanting to hear the Gospel. We don’t have the right kind of bait, and they’re not interested. If we try to force truth onto people, they will leave, and we will lose an opportunity to bring them to Christ. We do need to share the truth, but let’s do it wisely.
Learn to speak graciously. Good evangelism is always kind and courteous. I think of the people who influenced our lives and the graciousness with which they did that. They did not force the gospel down our throats, but graciously ministered to our needs. In doing so, they opened our hearts so our deepest need could be met.
Have salty comments. Speak words that create thirst and share thoughts that make them ask questions. Sometimes a salty question or comment can be followed by more gracious words, and then after a while, another salty comment about God.
They’ll notice that first salty comment. When your conduct is gracious, your character is godly, and your conversation is holy, they’ll begin to think about what you are saying. After a while, if they see you are not dangerous to them like a hunter is, they will feel free to ask questions.
You will be a fisherman, lifting up Jesus who will draw men to Himself.
Printed in the June 2002 newsletter. Edited and condensed.