The Science of Soul Winning

Advice for fishers of men.

By R. ALLAN ANDERSON, Professor of Bible, La Sierra College, California

One day Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two men casting a net. These two men were destined to play a part which would change the course of history. As He looked at them, they little knew their des­tiny. The Great Teacher, reading their hearts, said, "Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." Mark 1:17.

Here was the call to a larger ministry. These fishermen were successful in their work. Jesus was building on that. Nothing appeals to fishermen like catching fish. Jesus did not say, "I will make you preachers, or mission­aries, or even soul winners." But wrapped up in the statement "fishers of men" was the call to soul-winning evangelism. He laid down the conditions of successful soul winning when He said, "Come ye after Me." That meant more than appears on the surface. In reality He said, "Come and live with Me; study My meth­ods; share My life ; and then I will make you to become fishers of men."

Notice that it takes more than environment to make successful fishermen. Fishermen are not born. They are made. There is no more chance of a man's being a born preacher or a born soul winner than there is of a man's being a born pianist or a born mechanic. It takes much hard work and application to be a suc­cess in any line of business or industry, and nothing short of hard work and diligent appli­cation will make a successful soul winner.

Jesus was calling these men into a lifework, and He approached them on the basis of fishing. Peter afterwards became the greatest soul-winning evangelist of all time. Three thou­sand souls in one haul staggers our imagination. Now there are two main methods known to fishermen—one is the hook-and-line method, and the other is the net method. The success­ful preaching evangelist who has learned the science of soul winning in the individual in­terview may employ the larger method of the net. But just as every successful fisherman knows that to be a success he has to work in harmony with certain principles, so every evangelist must discover that the appeal to the individual is absolutely basic in all larger min­istry. The successful net fisherman has first learned the ways of the fish through the hook­and-line method. Successful evangelism de­pends upon winning the individual. The church is made up of individuals.

Now the success of the fisherman is seen, not in the possession of his equipment, but in his catch. Some of the biggest fish stories that were ever told concerned fish that were never landed. As evangelists, we do well to ponder this thought. It is possible to possess very elaborate fishing equipment, and yet never get a catch. On the other hand, how often we see men with very meager equipment whose baskets are full.

I remember going as a boy with some chums for a swim in a river. Not far from the place where we were making plenty of noise, there were three fiesbermen with very elaborate equipment. They had new gut lines, and arti­ficial flies, and everything that could delight a fisherman's heart. They were much con­cerned lest we, in our exuberance, should frighten the fish. They were there for hours without a bite. Not far from them—in fact, in the very place where we were swimming and making all the noise—another fisherman, with a bent stick for a rod, and a line that was all knots, was hauling in fish. We saw him haul in twelve fish in ten minutes. Here was a fisherman who knew the methods of actually landing fish. The others were men who de­pended upon fish stories and expensive equip­ment. They went home without a catch.

Now there are two kinds of unsuccessful fishermen. One takes along a hook, but no bait. The fish take a glance and pass on their way. The other kind takes plenty of bait, but no hook. As evangelistic fishermen, we must know the art of baiting our hook. Nothing is more important. The hook of truth must be baited, and words are the bait. The truth must become attractive by the personality of the soul winner. A great deal more depends upon our personality than we realize.

The Carnegie Foundation, which has spent a considerable amount investigating the sci­ence of selling, declares that in salesmanship only is per cent depends upon the article that is being sold, its technical value, etc., whereas 85 per cent depends upon the personality of the salesman. And there is nothing more vital to the salesman of gospel truth than a winning voice, Giving instruction on this point, the messenger of the Lord says:

"The tones of the voice have much to do in affect­ing the hearts of those that hear."—"Testimonies," Vol. II, p. 615.

"The manner in which the truth is presented often has much to do in determining whether it will be accepted or rejected."—Id., Vol. IV, p. 404.

"Every Christian is called to make known to others the unsearchable riches of Christ ; therefore he should seek for perfection in speech. He should present the word of God in a way that will commend it to the hearers. God does not design that His human chan­nels shall be uncouth. It is not His will that man shall belittle or degrade the heavenly current that flows through him to the world."—"Christ's Object Lessons," p. 336.

"The workman for God should make earnest ef­forts to become a representative of Christ, discard­ing all uncomely gestures and uncouth speech. He should endeavor to use correct language. There is a large class who are careless in the way they speak, yet by careful, painstaking attention, these may be­come representatives of the truth. Every day they should make advancement. They should not detract from their usefulness and influence by cherishing de­fects of manner, tone, or language. Common, cheap expressions should be replaced by sound, pure words. ' —"Counsels to Teachers," p. 238.

Nothing means so much as our words. It is not sufficient for us to warn the world. We are to win men to Christ. There is a great deal of difference between warning and win­ning. If a fisherman goes out merely to warn the fish, he is surely not a success. The suc­cess of a fisherman is seen in his catch.

I remember going years ago when I was in the colporteur work, to a little fishing village. In the evening I strolled down on the jetty and opened a conversation with a young man there. He was a fisherman who really enjoyed his work. As I talked with him about his work, he told me how important it is to know about the tide. In that place at certain seasons of the year there was as much as fourteen feet in a rise and fall of tide. In order to catch fish, he had to go out in his little rowboat, and at low tide jump over into the icy, cold water in his bare feet in the middle of winter, and cast his net. I asked him, "But what if the tide turns at one o'clock in the morning?"

"Why," he said, "then we must begin our work. We have to work while the fish are running."

"And how long do you work ?" I inquired. "Oh, we begin at the turn of the tide, but we never finish for at least ten hours."

It was a rebuke to me. I thought to myself : If in order to catch fish for a living, a young man will get up in the middle of a winter's night and go out under those conditions to catch a few boxes of fish for the market, with the risk of encountering sharks and sting rays that infested those waters, how that should inspire me in my work of fishing for men for the kingdom of God! Like fishermen, we have to work where the fish are; we have to work while the fish are running; but above all else, we have to work. And it takes hard work to be fishermen. Maybe that is why Jesus chose men from that occupation to become the great preachers and soul winners who turned the world upside down.

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By R. ALLAN ANDERSON, Professor of Bible, La Sierra College, California

October 1940

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