"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19).
Ever try fishing? If you did, you will admit that proper equipment is important, but that knowing how and where to fish is even more so. Equipped with the best, a fisherman recently cast his line repeatedly without obtaining a nibble; whereas a native nearby, possessing meager equipment, pulled in a big catch. The difference was that one knew how and the other did not.
As all fishermen know, learning to fish means spending time with fish. One has to become acquainted with their habits, reactions, responses, and attractions. Besides knowing about fish, the fisherman in order to obtain a good haul ostensibly must go where the fish are. Excellent equipment and technical knowledge are useless if the particular lake, river, or pond is not stocked. Equipment and knowledge must be involved with fish if a person is to catch fish.
Success Means Involvement
Fishing for men calls for a comparable experience. All the learning, poise, and polish that a college or university imparts are next to useless to a potential soul winner unless he becomes involved with men. Therefore, I would suggest to all aspiring gospel fishermen that they obtain the best equipment available and then go where the fish are.
Keep in mind that fish do not jump into brightly colored barrels set on the edge of a river, pond, or lake. The fish may be nearby in large schools, -).et they will remain there unless someone goes out after them.
We, too, have our attractive barrels—tabernacles, airdomes, tents, luxurious halls, modern churches, and the like—but the fact is that people, like fish, do not jump into these barrels. If they get into them at all it is because they have been persuaded and invited by someone. In the over-all, some neighbor, relative, friend, or professional acquaintance is the chief reason why people attend our evangelistic meetings. Those attending are first attracted and hooked by the Christian charm of our faithful members who are constantly fishing in homes, neighborhoods, offices, shops, stores, and in all experiences of life. May their tribe increase!
Get the Fisherman's Outlook
As ministers we need to sense anew the importance of getting out among people if we expect to develop soul-winning ability. In addition to Greek, Hebrew, and theology, a fisherman's outlook is a needed asset to any ministerial graduate. Often this is best demonstrated by laymen who have never had formal training. The reason why some laymen are effective soul winners is because they are constantly among people We recently heard of a Seventh-day Adventist layman who in his lifetime won more than one thousand people and organized twenty-one churches. Quite a record for a layman, don't you think?
A minister who confines his fishing area to his study and pulpit should not be surprised if his gains are meager. In saying this, we would not in any way depreciate the minister's daily study, devotion, and prayer period, but merely point out that following Christ, the Master Fisher of men, also leads the minister out of the study and away from the pulpit into the homes and gatherings where people are found.
Consider that in addition to being found in the secluded place of prayer, Christ was also found at the wedding, sickroom, funeral, feast, market place, temple, seashore, mountainside, water well, village, town, and city. He was at these specific places for the obvious reason that people were there too. And this is where He got His followers and disciples.
Follow Christ's Methods
Do we want similar results? Let us then follow Christ's methods. Let us get out and away from our secluded ivory palaces, comfortable denominational centers, and mingle with people, wherever they are found. The separation from the world that we are to experience is a separation from its habits and wickedness but certainly not from the men and women who make up the world. In His priestly prayer Christ said, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (John 17:18). We are sent into the world, not away from it.
Commenting on our need to mingle with people not acquainted with our faith, Ellen G. White says: "He who does faithful work outside of the pulpit will accomplish tenfold more than he who confines his labors to the desk."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 124. And, "Let ministers teach the truth in families, drawing close to those for whom they labor; and as they thus cooperate with God, He will clothe them with spiritual power. . . . If it is omitted, the preaching will be, to a great extent, a failure."—Gospel Workers, pp. 187, 188.
Wise, indeed, is the minister who follows his Lord and thereby becomes a profitable fisher of men. Years ago a young minister came to me confessing his frustration in soul winning. He had everything and tried everything, but with no results.
I advised him to order a club of thirty missionary magazines, to tuck them under his arm and go from house to house calling on people. The periodical visits led to Bible studies and the studies led to baptisms. The following year this young minister's baptisms soared. Today he is a mission director and recently participated in a single baptism of more than one hundred people. Special talents? Not necessarily. He just goes where the people are, gets in among them, and fishes for all he is worth.
Fishing Church Members
Wise also is the minister who shares his fishing technique with his church members.
There is no special virtue for a minister t,o constantly demonstrate his fishing skill before a satisfied audience of two or three hundred nonfishing church members. This soon becomes wearing and boring to both fisherman and audience.
Unless the church members are fishing themselves, they soon begin to pick flaws with the minister's technique, garb, equipment, and catch. Worse still, they soon forget the fishing demonstration and begin arguing among themselves, splitting up into smaller and still smaller self-satisfied groups, finally dissolving to the place where the demonstrator is fishing alone.
On the other hand, when the church members get involved with the preacher in fishing for men, the atmosphere of the church changes. The dull routine in Sabbath school, prayer meeting, and Sabbath service is replaced by a vibrancy and expectancy as experiences and victories are recounted in pulling men and women from the waters of perdition.
Believe it! A church fishing for men is soon revolutionized. Saving faith becomes a warm reality to all involved. In an amazing manner Christian love replaces sterile formality when church members see persons transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and declaring themselves for the "commandments of God and the faith oflesus." Forgotten are the doubts, criticism, and problems of the gospel's relevancy and other enervating academic questions that assail those who do nothing but look at one another and the preacher from Sabbath to Sabbath.
Cast Your Line in Faith
A successful fisherman is never discouraged, disillusioned, disheartened, or dismayed. Secure in his technique and equipment, knowing from experience what procedure works best, he casts his line in faith, believing that his efforts will be rewarded.
In like manner, by following the Lord Jesus Christ and His methods, we can become fishers of men. Let us therefore enthusiastically organize fishing bees, such as Vacation Bible Schools, Branch Sabbath Schools, cottage meetings, group Bible studies, youth efforts, public evangelistic endeavors, and literature visitation programs.
Incidentally, if you want an excellent fishing companion, get a literature evangelist into your church. This worker's activity is bound to attract fish into your net. Best yet, he will encourage and delight your heart with true fishing stories. As your lines and those of your members lock in thrilling spiritual struggle for the souls of men, your living testimony will do more to encourage others to join us than any number of dry lectures on the theory of the gospel. Most assuredly, you will discover gospel fishing is a contagious experience.
Going fishing? You should! Reports in THE MINISTRY have it that fish are biting all over the world. Nothing else will revitalize your experience and that of your church as following the Lord in fishing for men