And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me,
and I will make you become fishers of men.’”
I have been fishing for a grand total of one day in my life. Growing up in NYC there were no fishing holes I could just run down to. For me, fishing meant going to the local fish market and selecting the fish I wanted. It was already caught, scaled, and cleaned. If I was hungry I could simply order fried whiting with french fries. How’s that for shortcutting the experience? Yet this was the extent of my knowledge of fishing growing up. Surprisingly enough when Jesus began his ministry two of the first disciples he called were fishermen. They were Simon (Peter) and Andrew.
This statement was spoken by Jesus and is found in Mark 1:16-18: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
It is to these fishermen that Jesus says follow me. Being fishermen, this was probably a very intriguing statement to them and over the next three years, this idea would become more plain and real to them. This word that Jesus spoke to Simon and Andrew is true of us today. Jesus wants you and me to be fishers of men. How then is this possible? How can Christians today be fishers of men? Hopefully, you will allow this city boy who has never really fished to help you understand this analogy and how you can do this.
What does it mean to be fishers of men?
To be a fisher of men in the simplest terms means to win people to Christ. This means to share the gospel and to ask them if they want to receive it. I know that is very basic and there are different methods you can use to try to win people to Christ but the bottom line is fishers of men are soul winners. Now that we have that clear how can you actually do this? What are some things to remember if you want to be a fisher of men?
Here are 4 ways you can be fishers of me
1. Find where the people are.
You don’t catch fish in a barrel. You have to go to where the fish are. This is true of the gospel as well, you need to go to the people. The good news is that there are people who don’t know Jesus all around you. You really don’t have to go that far. I can bet you probably have people in your family who don’t know Jesus. Do you have a neighbor who does not know Jesus? What about co-workers and other friends? The list can go on and on. These are all people that need to hear the gospel and are all a good place to begin sharing the gospel.
2. Bait the hook/cast the net.
Too often when it comes to sharing the gospel we want to play the short game. We bait the hook throw it into the water and if they don’t bite right away it’s time to move on. While I don’t know a lot about fishing I do know that fishing many times takes patience. You can’t rush the process. Most people that I know who go fishing plan on being out there for a few hours, not just a few minutes. My point is don’t just tell those in your circle about the gospel and leave it there. You will not only have to tell them but live it in front of them. This is the long game.
When I was growing up we used to go out and hand out tracts doing street ministry. Comparatively speaking street ministry is easy. You go up to people you don’t know and share Jesus with them. Once the conversation is over regardless of the outcome you will probably never see that person again. This is not true with people you know. You can’t just give them the gospel and disappear. You have to engage with them on a regular basis. This daily engagement is the work that it takes to reel in the fish. This is where patience comes into play. People are watching not just your words but your actions. Your attitudes. How you interact with other people. Your kindness. Your gentleness. Your patience. Your love. These are the things that will bait the hook and draw people to you.
A friend of mine Jonathan Leath, who is a pastor at Converge Church in Moorestown, NJ said these words that were very revealing to me. He said that a person is drawn to you before they are drawn to Christ. What he meant was that who you are is what catches their eye first and it opens the door to share Jesus with them because you make Jesus look attractive to them. This my friend is the long game.
3. Catch them before you try to clean them.
In my limited fishing knowledge, one thing I know is you can’t clean a fish before you catch it. I have seen so many Christians who want to be fishers of men focus heavily on cleaning the fish before they catch them. They get surprised by how unsaved people act. What do you really expect? You should never be surprised when unsaved people act like unsaved people. We should also never expect people without Christ to live up to the standards that Christ set. You couldn’t do it without Jesus and they can’t either, so stop expecting them to. When people are controlled by their sinful nature they are going to do what their sinful nature dictates. Isn’t that what you did before Christ changed you? Love them through the process but recognize that the change in their life will come when Jesus comes into their heart and not before.
4. Focus on casting the net not how many fish you catch.
When Christians are trying to be fishers of men there is one thing I see them struggle with. They worry about the results. I want to take this heavy and unnecessary burden off you. There is nowhere in the Bible, at least I haven’t found it, where it says you are responsible for getting people saved. What you are responsible for is sharing the message of the gospel with people. In all honesty, there is nothing else you can do. Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 3 that some will plant, some will water, but it is God who gives the increase. It is God who draws people to himself by the Holy Spirit, he simply uses us as a vehicle to plant and water. Let that be your focus. In fact, God will reward you for simply doing your part.
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7-8
I think it is safe to say that any good fisherman will tell you that you have no control over the number of fish you catch. The same is true with the gospel. As you go out to be a fisher of men and share the gospel don’t worry about how many get saved, you cannot control that. Worry about how many nets you throw. When it comes to Christians being fishers of men and sharing the gospel this is what Jesus wants you to focus on.
A final thought with a non-fishing analogy.
There is one part of sharing the gospel that has nothing to do with fishing. When you think of how Christians can be fishers of men this is one thing that sets it apart from just regular fishing. You must ask people to make a decision. The fisherman never asks the fish to jump in the net or get on the hook, they simply hope they will see the bait and grab it. This is not true with the gospel. We need to share it, but we also need to ask people to respond to it.
In Acts 2 after being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stood and preached the first gospel sermon. He held the first outdoor crusade. As he got to the end of his message here is what Peter did.
“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” – Acts 2:40-41 (NIV, emphasis added)
The word pleaded can also mean invited. What he was doing was asking, even begging, the people to make a response to the message of the gospel. You should always remember that whenever you share the gospel with someone. It is not complete until you ask the person to make a decision. Remember you are not responsible for the outcome, but you are responsible for asking the question. When you do this you are understanding how Christians can be fishers of men.
I hope you got all my fishing analogies as you read this. I must say they weren’t bad for a boy who grew up in the city and has one day of fishing experience. I think I did ok. My fishing advice will probably not help you catch any more fish in the lake or the ocean but hopefully, it will help you become a better fisher of men.
A Prayer to be a Fisher of Men
God, help us. Help us to fish for men, we pray. You say right here, Jesus, that when we follow You, You will make us fishers of men. So we ask You today, make us fishers of men. Help us to look for people to be intentional, and working for other people to come to know Christ. Help us to pray toward that end. Help us to share the gospel toward that end. Lord, help us to share the good news of what You’ve done in Christ with somebody else today. Lord, don’t let us, we pray, don’t let us go through our lives, as your followers, not fishing for men. Not doing what You have clearly called us to do, commissioned us, set us apart to do. Make us fishers of men, we pray. And we pray the fruit of our lives will be many other people. God, may it be so in each of our lives. May there be many people who are following Christ, because we have been intentional to fish for men. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.