As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22
One of my passions is bass fishing. I’ll drop almost anything for an opportunity to spend some time on a lake or pond fishing. I find that fishing not only relaxes me but teaches me patience, as well. (One of my core sins is a lack of patience.)
Sometimes, when I am fishing alone, I think of the apostles, and why Jesus chose so many fishermen to evangelize, and why he has chosen me to do the same?
I finally got it! I realized that Jesus picked fishermen because fishing for fish and fishing for men require some of the same skills and techniques.
To be good at fishing, you’ve got to know the habitat, depth of the water and the type of fish that you are going to catch. It takes patience, and perseverance. Here are a few of the rules of fishing that can also be applied to evangelization.
1. It’s how you wiggle the bait. Some days you have to fish very slowly, jiggling the bait off the bottom and letting it drift back down. Other times you have to fish quickly. And every fisherman has his favorite retrieval style, like two twitches and a count of three, or three straight twitches and a count of five, and so on.
Some times when we are talking to someone about Jesus and our faith, we have to go slowly. Other times, we can present information much more quickly. Sometimes our retrieval techniques require some information or a question, then a pause before we continue, for a response or an answer.
2. If the fish aren’t biting you need to change your presentation or change the bait. Often times a bass fisherman will fish with several different colors, before he finds the one that the fish will hit. Other times it requires switching for hard baits, to plastics, to spinners, and back again before just the right one is discovered.
The same thing is true with evangelizing. Sometimes we have to switch our discussion from the Bible, to the Sacraments, to the Real Presence, and back again, before we discover a person’s interests.
3. The bigger the bait, the bigger the fish isn’t always true! Some of the biggest bass I have ever caught have come on smaller baits.
Sometimes subtle work better that a two by four to the head. Often times, following a men’s conference, the attendees will remember one line, one suggestion, one motivation or one thought, chosen from among a day’s worth of material.
4. If the fish are biting on one bait, fish that bait until they quit responding. One of the joys of fishing is finding just the right bait that will work consistently all day. Fishermen are taught not to switch baits until it quits working. Sometimes, a certain bait will quit working in a few minutes, other times the bait will work all day! I have begun many a day’s fishing with a simple four-inch scoundrel natural worm, and fished it all day!
In evangelization, if an approach is working or has worked for you in the past, start there. It may work time and time again, but be careful; it might quit working just as fast.
5. The barometer and moon phases will affect whether fish are going to bite at all. There are just some days that the dropping barometer reading or a bad phase of the moon will affect anything working. You can drop the juiciest worm right in their face and they will ignore it! Fishermen are trained to understand that when this happens, it’s probably a good idea to just go home.
The same is true for evangelization, some days the person you are trying to reach just isn’t in the mood. Nothing that you say or do will work on him that day. As with fishermen, it is probably best to drop the subject, and save your discussion for another day. It might be better to delay your discussion, than to turn the person off, so that they will never have any discussion with you about faith in the future.
Whether fishing for fish or fishing for men, the rules are the same! Isn’t it great that our Lord not only understood this but chose his apostles by these traits?
I have heard many people speculate as to why Jesus didn’t choose educated men to be his first followers? Why these fishermen, they would ask?
Now you know!
If you liked this story, you might like the Fisherman’s Prayer. Click here to read it.