Our team went salmon fishing in Puget Sound. Besides getting a nice salmon for my grill, I learned some valuable lessons about evangelism. Our experience in fishing for salmon taught us something about “fishing for men.”
Sacrifice and Inconvenience
To begin our fishing experience, we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. and drive an hour to the harbor. The salmon didn’t swim into our hotel bath tub. We had to sacrifice sleep and comfort in order to get to our fish. Yet, when it comes to fishing for men as Jesus invited us to do, we’re often put off by the inconvenience and sacrifice of getting outside our comfort zone.
A Rough Ride
I thought salmon would be swimming a short jaunt from the harbor. We found out the salmon were not where it was convenient for us. It was a 40 mile, two hour boat ride over rough waters, bouncing all along the way. To reach the lost, it’s usually not a smooth trip. We have to make a transition in philosophy, lifestyle, and location to get to the “fish.” It’s often bumpy and uncomfortable traveling over rough waters to get to where we cast the net. But the point is this: we have to get to where the fish are.
The Benefit of Expert Help
None of us had fished for salmon before. We were hopeless landlubbers. But Jim, our fishing guide, had the expertise and the equipment to make us successful. He brought us where the salmon were, set the hooks, helped us reel in the fish, and even cleaned the fish after we caught them. There was no way we could have come close to accomplishing the task without Jim showing us how. In evangelism, we can be more effective if we find an experienced mentor who can teach us how to penetrate the culture, present the message and attract men and women to Jesus.
After catching three salmon in the first hour, we went for two hours without another catch. We trolled back and forth with no response. We got bored. How long would we have to keep trying? Still, we kept moving. Once you’ve experienced the thrill of the catch, you keep at it, even when there’s no visible response. Likewise, this is when evangelism gets challenging. You’ve seen responses before. Now, there’s nothing. But you stay faithful because you know the lost are there. Evangelism isn’t always about visible results, but about faithfully putting the message out there in word and deed.
After patiently trolling the smooth waters of Puget Sound, we caught three more salmon. We caught them, not in smooth waters, but in turbulent waters. It was challenging to steer the boat straight and the water was full of sea weeds. But that’s where the fish were. So in order to catch fish, we endured the rough waters. We worked extra hard to keep the boat on a straight course in the cross currents of the rip tide. And we tolerated the weeds and junk that tangled the boat and our fishing lines. Evangelism isn’t always neat and tidy. There’s often turmoil, turbulence, obstacles, and extra work. It’s nice to be in a quiet, predictable worship service, but we’ve got to get out of our comfort zone if we want to share the Good News with the lost.
The Big One That Got Away
U.S./Canadian fishing regulations require that you use a “soft hook”, that’s a fish hook without the barb at the end. This regulation is to give the fish a better chance of getting away without permanent injury to the fish. In evangelism, we use a “soft hook”. As Paul said, we don’t seek to win people with hard-sell methods, impressive techniques, powerful arguments or intimidation. We use the power of Christ’s love. That will ultimately be more effective in bringing people to salvation.
We had to keep trolling. Salmon aren’t attracted to a stationary lure. It’s the movement that attracts them and gets them on the hook. You can’t win very many people to Christ by just sitting around. You have to keep moving and circulating. Jesus’ Great Commission can be rightly translated, “As you are going into the world…” In other words, in the course of your daily activities, you will meet people you can introduce to Jesus.
Jesus said: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” May these principles allow us to be more effective in bringing men and women into God’s Kingdom.
Wayne Pederson is Global Ambassador for Reach Beyond, following eight years as the organization's President. Reach Beyond is a global ministry using media, health care and leadership development to reach those who have never heard the Gospel.
Prior to that, Wayne served as Vice President for Broadcasting at Moody in Chicago, Executive Vice President for Radio at University of Northwestern in Minneapolis, Executive Director for Christian Music Broadcasters, and President of Mission America Coalition in Palm Springs.
Wayne serves on the board of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) where he previously served as chairman and president. Wayne continues to work as speaker, media spokesman, consultant, and writer.
At age 16, he received his call to ministry to "make the Gospel clear to good people who need a personal relationship with Jesus". Wayne earned his BA at University of Minnesota and M.Div at Free Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minneapolis.
Wayne and his wife Willi live in Colorado Springs. He has two daughters, Michelle and Christy, and 9 grandchildren.