Fishers of Men Meaning: 9 Evangelism Lessons

In this post we want to explain what it means to be fishers of men. We’ll look at 9 evangelism lessons we learn from Jesus’ famous saying from Matthew 4:19:

Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

In these often-quoted words, Jesus quickly teaches us nine things about sharing the Gospel.

1. Fishers of Men Must Master Communication

Jesus is a master of communication. He does not come to the fishermen in Galilee saying “Would you like to join my outreach staff?” or “You’re going to recruit people into the Kingdom of God!” Jesus could have said these things. But people learn things better when it is put into the imagery they are familiar with. Since Jesus was talking to fishermen, He described evangelism in terms of fishing!

This same principle should be applied constantly in our evangelism. When sharing the Gospel, figure out what Gospel metaphors are already embedded in your friend’s mind. For example, emphasizing God’s role as judge would make sense if talking to a judge, lawyer, or attorney. Your examples can become quite creative. If your friend is into music, it may be helpful to compare sin to disharmony, or to a musician who always wants to hog the spotlight with a twenty minute guitar solo. If your friend is a dentist, you can appeal to something they understand very well: it is very hard to have a perfect set of teeth all on your own! And in the same way, left on our own, our “spiritual teeth” will rot.

2. Learn The Art of Inspiration

Notice that Jesus not only did evangelism Himself, but He was constantly interested in getting more people involved in conversations about eternal things. He didn’t only say “Follow Me” — He also encouraged them to become fishers of men. We should be doing the same thing! As you catch up with a Christian friend, tell them what you’ve been learning about sharing your faith, and let them know what you’ve been trying to do to talk more about God and the Gospel. Ask them what they’ve been doing. If they haven’t, follow Jesus’ example and inspire them to want to share their faith. How can you do that? Consider the next evangelism lesson.

3. Become a Vision Caster

Jesus inspired the disciples to change by giving them an alternative vision for their lives. Jesus described where their lives already were—fishermen—and he expanded the vision. “You won’t be men who fish; you will fish for men.” Do you see how powerful this can be?

  • How they were thinking: “I am someone who labors to bring fish into this boat.”
  • How they can now begin thinking: “I am someone who labors to bring people into the Kingdom of God.”

Let’s pause for a second: has Jesus transformed your vision for your life? Or do you still see your waking hours as being caught up in a cycle of working to make money, making money to pay bills, paying bills to stay alive, and staying alive to go to work? Jesus made you for so much more than this!

  • How you might be thinking: “I am someone who works in order to make ends meet.”
  • How you can begin thinking: “God wants to use me, my gifts, my opportunities, my time, and my relationships to better this world and bring people into the Kingdom of His Son.”

Are you there? Do you believe Jesus can transform your vision for your life? Do you have the faith to believe that Jesus wants to use you? Make that mindset shift now and never look back! Because now it’s your turn to inspire others, both Christians and non-Christians, to see that their life could be connected to God’s ultimate purposes and plans for this world.

4. Embrace Jesus’ Promise

You may not have noticed, but this verse is a promise.

  • IF you follow Me,
  • I will make you fishers of men!

You have Jesus’ word. If you step out in faith and begin following Him down the path of evangelism, He will be there with you to teach you, to guide you, and to mold you into a proper evangelist. Early on, it may be challenging. But remember His promise when you’re discouraged. He will make you a fisher of men!

As Charles Spurgeon said:

It is not “Follow me, because of what you already are.” It is not “Follow me, because you may make something of yourselves;” but, rather, “Follow me, because of what I will make you.”

At this point, you might be wondering about the details. The remaining evangelism lessons become more practical.

5. Fishers of Men Should Smell Like Fish

If you want to fish, you need to find a body of water with fish in it. Similarly, as an evangelist, you must be around non-Christians. You aren’t a good fishermen if you never go to the lake, and you won’t be a good evangelist if you never spend any time with non-Christians! Find something you can do to be with non-Christians. Ask yourself: “How can I take the activities I’m already doing and do them around non-Christians? How can I start to smell like fish?”

6. Cast a Gospel Lure

Once you’re at the body of water, you need to cast a lure. For the Christian, what would a “lure” be? We could probably apply this in multiple ways, some good and some bad. But in my thinking, a “lure” would be a sentence or two you can cast into a conversation to see if your friend “bites.” A very simple lure would be “What are you doing this weekend?” Well, how is that a lure? It’s a lure, because, if they bite, they will eventually ask you what you are doing this weekend. And that’s when we get to the next lesson.

7. Set the Hook

Once a fish has bitten, fishers of men must be ready to set the hook! So when your friend asks you what you’re doing this weekend, you need to be ready to respond. This means you should spend some time preparing a response. Here is a simple response: “I’m doing such and such on Saturday. And this Sunday my family and I are going to church. By the way, do you go to church anywhere? I’ve been meaning to ask you.” From there, you can begin asking more questions if they remain interested: about their spiritual beliefs in the past, about what they believe now, and so on.

8. Be Realistic

Fishermen also recognize that some fish get away from you. For us, this means that we don’t expect to have a perfect evangelistic conversation every time we talk to people. We can cast out a lure, but sometimes there won’t be a “bite.” Or maybe there is a very small bite, and we don’t act fast enough to capitalize. Don’t worry about it. Your job is to keep fishing, not to worry about the one conversation that got away from you.

9. Fishers of Men Must Be Patient

Lastly, above all, fishermen must be patient. If you’re only interested in evangelism because you want to walk people across the starting line of faith in Christ, you are thinking far too narrowly, and you will grow impatient with real world evangelism. You need to be in it for the long haul. And the only way you can do that is by learning to enjoy the process. (Check out our resources page for more evangelism lessons.) Work toward and pray for the moment your friend puts his faith in Christ for salvation. But learn to love every little baby step of the way.

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