October 3, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      If I ever want to change professions, I have at least one option: I could be a travel trainer. People who struggle with life on-the-road are, often, lacking some "tips" (that's not a $5 for the bellman, but, rather, some techniques for pulling off the trip). From "how to pack for two weeks out-of-a-suitcase" to "how to make your hotel room feel like home," it's been-there, done-that, for me.
      Paul - the 1st Century leader who put the Christian faith on-the-map, after the Lord Jesus returned to heaven - was even more accomplished in his road-trip savvy, I think. He didn't have Admiral's Clubs, or first class upgrades, to smooth the edges... yet, he kept an amazing capacity to accomplish his mission. How did he do it?
      His march toward history would have slowed the average traveler, but there was a difference in Paul's story that stands out. My read? He was pursuing his calling the way some guys pursue their hobbies. Jesus had told Peter that it was like "fishing for men" when you went out to reel-in the big ones for the Kingdom.
      Did Paul manifest some strategic insights in the way he fished for men? Here it is: great fishing tips, from a Jewish tentmaker:
      >> Fish like somebody's life depended on it. In sport fishing, you fish by the rules... and the rules are made to protect the fish. In subsistence fishing, you fish to catch fish. There are no rules; its survival... for the fisherman. In Kingdom fishing, it's survival... for the fish. If they don't get caught, they die. Paul lived with an urgency that was real: someone's life depended on it.
      >> Know what you're fishing for. You donít fish for tuna the way you fish for trout. The clearer you are about your target, the more fish you'll catch. Guaranteed. Jewish fish? Gentile fish? Paul took the time to scope-out the target markets. He was a student of the stock pond, before he ever threw out a line: "to the Jews I became a Jew, to win the Jews; to the Gentiles, I became like a Gentile, that I might win some..."
      >> Fish where the fish are. You can spend more time finding fish than it takes to catch fish. There is nothing more pitiful than a fisherman fishing an empty pond. The fact that you've got all of the hardware, wearing the right clothes, and have the right intentions won't make fish appear on your hook. I've watched pastors casting and reeling... in a pond with no fish. Lost people are fish. If you want to catch fish, you've got to go where they are hiding-out; usually, they're together. And they're not congregating near the "fisherman's club" (church). If you really want fish, you have to go find 'em. Paul's frequent walker card is proof.
      >> Chum. Chum is bait... without the hook. Chum will get fish in a feeding mood... and, while they're feeding, they'll take the hook. In the spiritual sport of fishing, you're chummin' when you are ready to engage meaningful conversation in advance of "closing the deal." Paul's approach was to "reason in the marketplace," offering opportunities for people to hear about the Christian message - and its implications to them - before he asked them to seal the deal and get "caught" for the Kingdom.
      >> Rig smart. You've got to have the look and you've got to have the hook. One out of two just won't cut it. Fishing lures are often magnificent little works-of-art. They attract fish with their colors and movement as they move through the water. In the center of the contraption there is always... a hook. The art without the barb is foolish; the barb without the flourish will never pull 'em in. Funny, in a lot of modern-day fundamentalist circles, they think that it's the responsibility of the fish to be drawn to a bare hook... and to chomp-down, hard, without anything to attract them. Paul's ministry was about tying his own flies, crafting his message so expertly that his listeners were compelled to take a little nibble...
      >> Know how to reel em in. In fishing, it isn't how many you saw; it isn't how many you had on the line; it's how many you caught. Period. If you can't reel 'em in, you are a fisherman's assistant; you aren't a fisherman. Paul was a fisherman. He knew how to land the fish.
      Jesus used fishing as the ultimate metaphor for our central focus in life, once redeemed. Serious fisherman have a trophy catch mounted over their fireplace. Where's yours?      

Bob Shank

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