Go Fish

Some years ago when I was visiting Alaska, a local approached me and said, “I want to take you fishing.”

“Well,” I stammered, “I’m not much of a fisherman. I’ve only been once. I got 78 bites—mosquito bites—but not a nibble from any salmon!”

“Then let’s go,” he grinned. “I promise we’ll catch something.”

His promise proved true. No sooner had I cast my line than I snagged a sockeye that looked like something that lives on the wall of the sportsmen’s lodge.

“Whoa,” said a crusty old fisherman who happened by to admire the catch. “If you’d have entered the derby you’d be a rich man right now.”

I was ready to toss it back into the river when my friend objected. “You ought to keep it.”

“But I don’t eat fish,” I protested.

“Give it to your neighbors. I’ll freeze it and ship it back for you.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

For months that fish hardened with frostbite until my wife, Cherié, laid down the law: “Get that smelly fish out of my freezer.”

“But how can I cut it?” I asked. “It’s almost petrified.”

“Figure it out,” she snipped.

As I stood next to the freezer in my garage, something caught my attention—the table saw. I fired it up and filleted the fish. The only glitch was that the blade had such wide teeth it splattered fish guts everywhere. I had fish in my golf bag, on the sunroof of my car, and even in my ski boots (which I discovered a year later).

At first, Cherie was delighted. She got her freezer back. But then, as the fish guts melted, the place smelled. It was so stinky she refused to go near the garage. This was not the case, however, for every cat in the county. Suddenly it was like we were running the Humane Society.

I’m not much of a fisherman—at least when it comes to fishing for fish. But if you want to talk about fishing for men—well, that’s my primary business. Jesus made this clear when He called His disciples. He said to them the same thing He says to you and me today—“Go fish. Be fishers of men.”

How? Remember the acronym FISH.

Find ways to connect with people who are far from God. If you want to catch fish, you've got to go to where the fish are. Try the bowling alley, the mall, or the local 4-H club—wherever there are people. Don’t expect the fish to jump out of their ponds and swim to you. You have to be intentional about fostering friendships with people who don’t know Jesus. Start there.

Initiate spiritual conversations. Drop hints early in the friendship about your spiritual commitment. For example, if a friend expresses a need, mention that you’ll pray for him. I have yet to find someone who is offended by that offer. It’s a simple way to cast a spiritual tone on a conversation.

Share a verbal witness. When the opportunity arises, share what Jesus means to you. Remember the time Jesus sent the demons from the man into the herd of pigs? The man was so pumped he wanted to tour with Jesus. But Jesus said, “No. Stay here and tell your friends and family what Jesus has done for you.” The man obeyed and the next time Jesus came to town there were many people who had come to faith through his testimony.

Hang in there. Sometimes you’ll go fishing and get skunked. Don’t sweat it. Just keep fishing.

Featured in: January 2005


Karl Haffner

Walla Walla University Church senior pastor, 1997–2007

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