By Stan Rodda: Scrap the mental image that fishing for men looks like a lone fisherman on a boat with a flannel shirt and a PBR hat. When Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” He was talking about fishing in the context of a net. In disciple making efforts I often say, “Cast a wide net.”
It’s true for all of us that often our eyes get down on what’s right in front of us. Sometimes we only see the one or two people we really hope to reach with the Gospel. More often than not, we find ourselves in an environment where all the fish already look like us. The dreaded Christian subculture. The place of “Mountain Jew” and “Salty and Lit” t-shirts. It’s an awkward place.
Here’s how I knew when I was stuck in that Christian bubble. When the guy discipling me would ask about conversations with lost people and I didn’t have any stories. All my stories had to do with church staff, my teams, life group leaders and my wife. Those aren’t bad conversations to have. All of them are must have conversations, however I wasn’t fishing as much as I should have been.
That’s when I started to create my own fishing ponds. Areas of life where I was intentionally around lost people. On purpose! I know right?! The kinds of places where if my car was seen near them in the mean streets of Central Illinois, I would have been the topic of town gossip and the primary agenda item on next week’s board meeting. But for those of you who don’t care if you get talked about or if the board is confused about why you want to be around lost people, this post is for you.
How do you identify fishing ponds around you?
Well, there are five! And you can fish in all of them.
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In Matthew 10:5-8 Jesus send out to the 12 into surrounding areas. He sends them specifically to the lost sheep of Israel. On this particular journey, the disciples would have met strangers and come into contact with places and people they weren’t familiar with. The swamp is difficult ground for fishing.
It’s the house of peace search in a new town or neighborhood. You are walking and praying, walking and praying. Asking God to show you who that person of peace is. It’s like quitting an addiction cold turkey, it’s difficult soil for sure. But it can absolutely be fruitful.
If you are a parachute church planter or have moved to a new city to make disciples in your living room, you are probably fishing primarily in the swamp.
When you are fishing for people in the river, you are primarily focused on people who are flowing by you. They don’t know who you are, but something about you catches their eye. You somehow end up in a conversation with them over a cup of coffee. This has happened to me when I wear my Passion 4 Planting t-shirt into Panera or Starbucks. People just “flowing by” stop to ask about the shirt.
We see this with the woman at the well in John 4:1-26. She was just “flowing by” minding her own business when this man starts talking to her. Pretty soon the conversation turns spiritual and this woman transforms an entire town when she introduces them to Jesus.
If you start conversations with people just “flowing by” because you’re wearing a “Mountain Jew” tee, then you’re fishing in the river.
The pond is where you are going to find people where you already live work and play. These people may or may not know you. They might be people from your gym you are getting to know or a cashier at Target you go to every time you’re there. Admit it, you’re there way too much.
Sometimes, these people may already have an interest in spiritual things or an inquisitive spirit. In John 1:35-30, John’s disciples start following Jesus. They swam in the same pond as Jesus, sort of. Heard His name from John, maybe witnessed His baptism. Yet, they had questions and wanted to follow.
The pond is where you naturally hang out and the people are getting to know you there. They might even have your coffee or lunch order memorized at this point. Where is your pond? Identify it right now. Write down the names of every person you know from that place. Start praying for God to go before you in future conversations with those people. God gave you that pond for a reason. Go fishing!
The Stocked Pond
The stocked pond is only slightly different in that we are talking about places full of people exploring spiritual things. You might walk or drive past a Mosque or Synagogue on your way to work. Maybe you know where a local Buddhist temple is. These places are stocked ponds because the people inside them are searching for spiritual answers.
A great example of this would be Paul addressing the men of Athens at the Areopagus in Acts 17. He recognized that these people were spiritual in every way. That they were pursuing wisdom and knowledge as best they could. He sees a statue for an “Unknown God” and sees his opportunity to share the Gospel. The Areopagus was a stocked pond.
Do you have any stocked pond opportunities where you live?
This might be the best place of all for each of us to do some fishing. The tributaries are freshwater streams that feed the larger rivers. These are the places where you will find your most natural relationships. They are already naturally feeding into your regular life.
Think about your natural relational networks. The people you know well in your life who don’t know Jesus. These people can be your mom, dad, cousin, aunt, uncle, son, daughter, grandchildren or the neighbor next door. The tributaries are the places where we already exist the most naturally in relationship with others.
This about Andrew and Peter in John 1. Go and tell the most obvious person you know that the Messiah is here. Start with a brother. A natural relational connection. A tributary. Who are the closest people to you in life who need to know Jesus? Write their name down. Start praying for them. Ask God to go before you in a conversation with that person.
When you find yourself stuck in the Christian bubble and you have little to no contact with lost people around you, it might be time to find a new fishing pond. Use this tool to start identifying different areas in life where you need to be casting a wider net.