Deep-sea fishing is not something I’m accustomed to doing on a daily basis. In fact, I’ve only been once and it happened this summer. The Pacific waters were cold and there was a thick haze over the coastline. It was a great day on the water with gracious and patient family members who did most of the work.
One fish was caught during our six-hour tour. In fact, it was the only fish the conservation officer on shore had seen on board a boat all day. What fascinated me was that we had everything we needed to go fishing. We had the right boat. We had state-of-the art sonar equipment. Our rods and reels were the envy of other people fishing. We even had fancy downriggers that plummeted our hooks and lines deep into the schools of fish swimming around at sixty-five feet depth. We had all of the gear to be awesome deep-sea fishermen, but the fish were not interested in cooperating.
The problem wasn’t our gear. We didn’t lack in knowledge because we had very experienced fishermen on board who had caught their limit just two days prior to our adventure. We were ready. Apparently, the fish were not ready for what we had to offer. At the end of the day, we concluded several things to explain away our lack of fish to our hungry family members back at the house. It could have been the weather. It could have been the tide. It could have been the fact that some on our boat had no idea what we were doing in foreign surroundings. One rational reason was that apparently you need the right bait. The lone fish I reeled in was caught using shrimp as bait. No other bait worked to lure in the big catch that day.
It reminded me of what all we do to try to convince people around us to accept Jesus as Savior. Paul would say we were foolish to even discuss this topic because it is “foolish” to think we can convince someone of his or her need of Christ. While it is true that Holy Spirit does the convincing and that Jesus saves, Christ still asks us to be his messengers. In other words, we still need to be fishing for “men.” And we have all the right stuff. We have the right equipment. We offer the correct worship experience. We host community events. We know what kind of preaching and music and street tacos people enjoy in our culture. Why aren’t they “biting?” We are doing everything right!
This perspective is missing one key element. For the Christian faith it is the “bait,” if you will allow me to call it that, which makes Christian living attractive to all. It is not the luring aspect of God’s saving grace, but it is crucial in the quest to evangelize as many as possible into the “gospel boat.” What is it? It is simple, but many apparently forget about it. It is love! Not only are followers of Jesus supposed to be known by their love, we are supposed to live it out on a daily basis. In fact, early Christians who were scattered about the landscape of the first century Roman world were encouraged to love one another deeply. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
Are you relying on your gear too much to reach people for Jesus? Do you have the right “bait?” Does the love of Jesus show up through your words and actions to others? On your next expedition for souls, show the love of Christ in practical, tangible ways. There are plenty of “fish” out there who need to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
Jim Dunn is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.