Methods of Fishing for Men
“Come ye after me,” says Jesus, “and I will make you to become fishers of men.” Jesus had various methods of soul winning. He preached to the great multitude. He talked with the individual. In the temple and synagogue He spoke to the godly and religious. He went into the streets, the markets and the lanes proclaiming the Gospel to the wicked and irreligious. He opened the gates of Heaven, that He might entice His people into the Father’s house. He opened the gates of Hell, that they might see “the fire that is not quenched,” and “the worm that dieth not.” It was Jesus who did this—not Milton nor some medieval monk. And He did it because love prompted Him to be faithful and tell the whole truth. He went into every department of human life, from the cook mixing the meal in the kitchen to the king on is throne inviting to his son’s marriage, that He might get an illustration, a handle by which the people might take hold of the truth. Let us come after Jesus in His methods.
In fishing there must be skillful adaptation. There are fish that you cannot catch singly. They go in schools. They do not bite hooks. If you ever catch a fish of that kind you have to draw the seine around the whole school. There are people like these fish. They are fond of crowds. They go together. They will come to the great assembly, and when they hear witnesses testify for Christ they will believe the testimony. When they see people go into the aftermeeting they will go with them; when they hear them confess Christ they will be encouraged to confess. You can reach that class of people only through the crowd. They are social beings and you must touch them in their social nature.
There are other fish that do not go in schools. Like the brook trout, they hide in out-of-the-way places. They are timid and wary. A fly out of season has no attraction for them. The fisherman must keep out of their sight, and if he breaks a stick he has lost his chance of catching that fish. There are men of this kind. They dislike the crowd. They are timid. They do not like the personal approach. If you go in the open you will frighten them away. We need the wisdom of God in tactful approach, that we may say just the right word and speak it in the right spirit. Nicodemus could hardly have been won in a crowd—that meditative, thoughtful, inquisitive mind. He wanted the quiet of the midnight hour, and the whisper in the quiet was more to him than a thunder peal in the turmoil. You could not have won the woman at the well in the crowd. If Jesus had spoken to her in the presence of others she would have been embarrassed and perhaps embittered. The eunuch had been in the crowd in Jerusalem. He had doubtless heard the Apostles preach, but it took the quiet chariot ride with Deacon Philip at his side, talking in conversational tone, to win him to the Lord.
There are others that you must win in more heroic fashion. Saul of Tarsus could never have been won in a quiet way. To have mentioned the fact that you wanted him to become a Christian would have led to your arrest. It took the light from heaven, the flash from God; it took the blinding and the dark to bring him to consider and make him pray.
Edward Payson, with his tones of tender love, put some people to sleep. What they needed was Jonathan Edwards with a thunderbolt against sin in every paragraph. “Gypsy” Smith, with his fascinating gypsiness that has in it the fragrance of the wild flowers and the sweetness of the bird’s song in the woods, is very attractive to some, and they are glad to hear the Gospel as he preaches it. But there are others (and perhaps the larger number) who need the sledgehammer blows of R.A. Torrey, and the fiery zeal of “Billy” Sunday.
You do not fish for trout as you do for sturgeon. Try your trout bait on sturgeon and you will get no fish; try your sturgeon bait on trout and you will not fill your basket. So do not criticize the trout fisher because he refuses to use the sturgeon method, and do not criticize the sturgeon fisher because he refuses to use the trout method. “By all means save some.”
A word as to Process. “Come ye after Me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” If you are not a soul winner, Christ can make you one. Just transfer the experience of your business to the spiritual realm and see how it works. You are a merchant? “Come ye after Me,” says Jesus, “and I will make you a merchant of men. I will help you to deal in goods that do not perish with the using—in merchandise better than gold.” Are you a carpenter? “Come ye after Me and I will make you a carpenter of men, building structures of character that will outlast marble and granite.” Are you a sculptor? “Come ye after Me and I will make you a sculptor of men, chiseling into shape that will stand after the marble of Phidias has crumbled into dust.” Whatever your occupation, let your experiences in that occupation be projected into the fishing for men.
The Higher Power
But fishing depends upon more than skill. It depends upon the elements above us; the sun, moon and stars, for some fish can be caught only at floodtide. Old fishermen tell us that it depends upon the wind, and they make doggerel out of it:
“When the wind is East,
The fish bite least:
When the wind is West,
The fish bite best.”
You can argue with the science of it, but when you go fishing you find that the catching of fish depends upon the wind, weather and tide. Our success in fishing for men depends upon the wind that comes from God, the tides that are moved by heavenly influences, the atmosphere that comes from Pentecostal prayer and preaching. If we look up and trust God to give us the wind, tide and the atmosphere we shall have a great catch to the glory of the Master—fisher of men.