The Strategy for Witnessing
Articles – Evangelism
Written by Mac Hammond
Witnessing. Testifying. Sharing your faith. Just the words are enough to tie knots in the stomach of many a believer. In fact, nothing in the Christian life is more likely to induce knocking knees, stammering lips and nervous perspiration than the prospect of sharing your faith with an unsaved person.
To the majority of believers, witnessing means risking confrontation, inviting rejection and suffering embarrassment. It’s no wonder more of us aren’t sharing our faith. But is this frightful image an accurate one?
The wonderful answer to that question is, “NO.”
The Lord never intended the sharing of your faith to be a fearsome, dreaded chore. On the contrary, true evangelism is something that can and should flow naturally out of your relationship with Jesus Christ. And you need to know that evangelism releases the power of God in your life in ways that nothing else can.
Why is that? Because God doesn’t indiscriminately bestow His power upon us. He releases it to those who align themselves with His purposes. And God’s overriding purpose in the earth in this age is to bring people back into fellowship with Himself.
If you want more power in your life, power to change your circumstances for the better, you must align yourself with God’s purposes. His purpose today is the same as it was when Jesus walked the earth:
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
The good news is, being a soul-winner doesn’t have to be scary or even unpleasant once you’ve discovered Jesus’ secret to stress-free evangelism.
A “Fishy” Story
Did Jesus give us a prescription for success in soul-winning? Yes! We find it in Matthew 4:18,19: “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18,19, KJV).
Following Jesus invariably involves joining Him in His quest for souls. Notice He didn’t say, “Follow Me and I’ll make you successful.” He didn’t say, “Follow Me and I’ll make you a good businessman.” No, He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is the central focus of the Christ-centered life.
Blessing and success are merely byproducts of following Jesus. They are signposts that tell you you’re on the right path. If you’re following Him to be a fisher of men, you’ll find yourself healed. You’ll find your needs met. You’ll find you’re successful in business. But the objective is always souls.
So how does this give us the key to a successful strategy for soul winning? It lies in Jesus’ comparison of witnessing to fishing! It’s no accident Jesus used a fishing metaphor when speaking of the call to proclaim the good news. Peter and Andrew were fishermen by trade. But the illustration is relevant to us, as well.
Learning to Fish
Of course, if you’re an avid angler, all of this will make a lot of sense to you. But even if you’ve never baited a hook in your life, you must understand how to be a successful fisherman in order to have a successful strategy in soul winning.
First, let’s make a distinction between two main types of fishing. One type involves the use of nets. Professional fishermen use large nets to harvest huge numbers of fish at one time. This is the type of fishing in which we see Peter, Andrew, James and John engaged in Luke 5.
This kind of fishing can be compared to mass evangelism. When we have a meeting and large numbers of people come forward to accept Christ, we are casting forth a net and bringing in a big harvest of souls. This, however, is not the type of fishing to which Jesus was referring when He said He’d make us “fishers of men.”
The type of fishing that relates to one-on-one evangelism involves the use of a line and a hook.
“But Pastor Mac,” you may be thinking, “They didn’t have fishing poles back in Jesus’ time did they?”
Well, they may not have had “Zebco” spin casters and graphite rods, but they definitely used a hook and line. For proof, look at Matthew 17:27. It describes the occasion on which Jesus and Peter needed money to pay the temple tax. Jesus tells Peter to…”go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened it’s mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”
So, you see, there was another form of fishing in Jesus’ day. This type symbolizes what I call “lifestyle evangelism.” It is person-to-person, one-to-one contact that results in someone giving his heart and life to Jesus Christ.
Yes, Jesus has called you to be a fisher of men. And unless you have a special calling as an evangelist, you’re going to bring them into the kingdom of God one fish at a time.
“But how?” you may ask. The answer lies in Jesus’ comparison of witnessing to fishing. The same things that make for a successful day of fishing will also make for success in soul winning. The following principles of good fishing are your guide to being an outstanding winner of souls.
1. Go Where the Fish Are
I remember an occasion back when my sons were young in which I found them standing at the edge of a mud puddle, fishing poles in hand, eagerly waiting to haul in a big one. There was just one problem. There were no fish in the mud puddle.
To catch fish you must go where the fish are. Today, fishermen have sophisticated sonar and depth finders that permit them to “see” the bottom of the lake and to locate schools of fish. Why all the high-tech hardware? Because any fisherman worth his salt knows that to catch fish, you first must find fish.
The same is true when it comes to soul-winning. Too often our tendency is to remain in the comfort of our church and familiar social circle of believers. As a result, we become totally isolated and separated from lost people. Then we wonder why we never have the opportunity to lead someone to Jesus.
If you’re going to win souls you’ve got to go where the lost people are. The most natural place to start witnessing is to lost relatives and friends. Regrettably, most of us alienate every lost person we know within a few weeks of being born again.
While it is important (especially for a young believer) not to maintain close, intimate fellowship with unbelievers, you shouldn’t close the door on opportunities to share your faith with them. Maintain relationships (not fellowship) with people in the world. It’s where the fish are.
When you barricade yourself behind the four walls of the church, you miss the entire purpose of God for your life and rob yourself of His enabling power to change the world around us.
2. Go Where the Fish Are Hungry
Any angler will tell you, it is not enough to just go where the fish are. You must go where the fish are biting. There is nothing more frustrating to a fisherman than to be sitting on top of a big school of fish that are completely uninterested in eating. If the fish aren’t biting, it doesn’t matter what type of bait or lures you put on your line. You’re not going to catch any fish.
This is no less true in witnessing. We experienced a prime example of this in the church I pastor. In the early years of our fellowship, we frequently sent witnessing teams into the neighborhoods right around the church building. To our dismay, these teams experienced very little success. Why? The fish weren’t hungry.
Then, as I was praying about the situation one evening, the Lord impressed me that we weren’t going where the harvest was ripe. Yes, there was a harvest around our church, but it was not yet ripe.
So, instead, we started focusing our attention on the inner city where the needs were greatest. Immediately we started seeing the hundreds of individuals coming into the kingdom of God. Why? Because now we were fishing where the fish were hungry.
To be a successful soul winner, you must find the hungry fish. How? By following the direction of the Master Fisherman, Jesus. He directed Peter to go to a certain place at a certain time to catch a fish. Likewise, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, will guide you to the right places and times to meet a person hungry for the things of God. You simply must have an open and hearing heart.
Follow the leading of the Spirit in you witnessing. Don’t just blast anybody that gets in your path with your Gospel shotgun. That is how many people get turned off and hardened to our message.
Learn to allow the Spirit of God to lead you to the hungry fish.
3. Use the Right Bait
Once you’ve found some hungry fish, the next important key to landing them is using an appropriate bait. I’ve yet to meet the fisherman who was so skilled that he could throw a naked hook into the water and catch a fish. It’s a simple, inescapable fact fishermen have to use bait.
Successful lifestyle evangelism involves the use of bait as well. You are probably aware that God created each of us a three-part being spirit, soul and body. Now, a good bait in witnessing is something that attracts a person at either the physical or soulish level.
Why not try to attract a lost person at the spiritual level? Because the bible tells us they are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:12-16; and 4:3-4). An unregenerate person is unable to understand or even perceive spiritual things. That is why you must often minister to a physical or soulish need in order to attract a person to address their important spiritual needs.
Jesus used many different kinds of bait. One of the most successful for Him was healing. Jesus attracted people to His message of spiritual life by addressing their physical needs namely the need to be healed from sickness and infirmity.
The Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin calls healing “the dinner bell of the gospel” because it is so often the thing that attracts a person to God. Once a person gets a taste of the healing part of salvation, he is going to be hungry for the whole works spiritual, emotional and intellectual redemption.
Another aspect of the physical realm is financial. Great financial needs can cause a person to be drawn to the promises of God concerning provision and sufficiency. When a poor woman finds out God doesn’t want her to be poor, it can be the bait that brings her to the point of complete surrender to Christ. This is another type of physical bait.
There is soulish bait as well. A soulish bait is something that speaks to and attracts the mind, will or emotions of a person.
A good example of this is music. Music speaks to the soulish part of man. It has enormous power to move and influence. This is precisely where much of the church world has missed it through the years.
Many folks, influenced by religious tradition, have claimed that godly music had to come out of a pipe organ or some dusty old hymnal. How many times have you heard some pious-sounding person denounce Christian rock music as being of the devil? That attitude is simply not biblical.
Musical style is strictly a matter of culture and preference. It’s the words and spirit behind the music that make it either glorifying to God or a tool of the devil. Different people simply like different types of music. One likes Lawrence Welk. Another likes Heavy Metal.
I’ve seen nearly every style of music utilized effectively to glorify God and draw people to Him. Music is only one among man types of soulish bait that can be used to draw people to Christ.
4. Present the Bait Correctly
As every fisherman knows, it’s often not enough merely to go where the fish are hungry and use the right bait, you must also present that bait correctly to be really successful. The best presentation in fishing is one which doesn’t in any way appear artificial to the fish. In other words, it’s genuine.
The same is true in presenting the gospel. Any hint of phoniness or insincerity is sure to turn a person off to the gospel. Compassion is the key to your presentation
Jesus, for example, was always moved by compassion when He ministered. We, too, need to be moved by compassion when we minister. We need to spend enough time asking God to show us His heart for the lost so that His love and compassion come across when we talk about Him to others. When you present the bait (God’s willingness to meet a physical or soulish need) with that kind of compassion, you’ll be perceived as sincere.
That’s when it’s time to, as the fishermen say, set the hook. You bring that person into a loving confrontation with Jesus Christ. You present Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. But you don’t stop there. There’s another step.
5. Reel Them In
Have you ever heard of a fisherman going to all the expense and effort of hooking a fish and then just laying his rod down and walking away? Of course not. He reels the fish into the boat. It’s the reason and objective of everything he’s done up to that point.
When you reel in a fish, you take him out of his old environment the water and pull him into a new environment, the air. When a lost person takes the hook of life by making Jesus Christ his or her Lord, you then must reel them in by pulling them out of their old environment, the world, into their new environment, the Body of Christ the Church. But, be warned, like some fish, new believers will often put up quite a fight. They’ll strongly resist any suggestion that they get involved in a church.
That’s when you have to be a skillful fisherman. If that baby Christian stays out there in the world, he’ll be cut off from his source of supply and nurture. It’s absolutely essential that new believers get involved in the life of a Spirit-filled Bible-believing, Word-preaching church.
When you lead someone to a commitment to Jesus Christ, invite them to go to church with you. Offer to come pick them up. Try inviting them to other events, such as care groups, which might not be as intimidating as a full-blown worship service. Do whatever you have to do the get that fish in the boat! That’s the objective of evangelism.
Ask God to show you the style of evangelism that best fits your personality and temperament. Then go fishing! It’s the best way I know to get the power and provision of God flowing in your life.
Copyright © Mac Hammond Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.