Fishing and Football: A Christian Worldview Today

June 11th, 2012 at 6:00 am

I wish fishing were like watching Dallas Cowboys’ games. I usually record the game at home, then watch it in my den while fast-forwarding the commercials. If I go to Cowboys Stadium, I sit in air conditioning and watch the game on the field unless I’m gawking at the largest sports scoreboard ever built. Everything is consumer-centric.

Fishing, by contrast, could not be more inconvenient. You have to go when the fish are biting, usually when you’d much rather be in bed. You have to go where they are, sitting on a wooden seat while floating in the middle of a lake. You have to use the bait they want to bite—worms or artificial lures with painful hooks protruding. If you fish like you watch football, you’ll be much more comfortable but you’ll catch far fewer fish.

Jesus called his first disciples to “come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). They were fishermen and understood the metaphor. Do we?  How do we join them as “fishers of men” today?

First, we decide which “fish” we are called to “catch.” Fishing for bass in a lake is much different from fishing for mahi mahi in the ocean. Do you sense God’s call to a particular group of people, such as unchurched college students in your community?

Second, learn what you can about their “lake”—their culture, values and experiences.  Philosophers ask seven questions which compose a “worldview”:

  • What is real?
  • How do we know what we know?
  • How should we think?
  • How can we communicate meaningfully?
  • What is valuable?
  • What is beautiful?
  • Where is history going?

Let’s say you’re called to reach unchurched college students on a nearby campus.  What is their “worldview” likely to be?

  • The world is “relativistic”—whatever they believe it to be. They reject the concept of objective reality.
  • They know what they know through personal experience, rejecting the notion of absolute truth.
  • They think in subjective, intuitive ways.
  • They communicate through technology and images.
  • They value relationships and community, rejecting the concept of objective ethics. They believe that they have no right to force their morals on others.
  • They are attracted to technologically-driven, fast-paced, image-centered experiences.
  • They don’t believe history is going anywhere—this world is all there is.

How can you know more about their worldview? Go the movies they attend; listen to the music they download; read the online articles and digital books they like. The more you learn about their part of the “lake,” the better.

What does their worldview say about effective ways to reach them? They will likely be unimpressed by sermons, Bible studies and objective truth claims. “That’s just your truth,” they’ll respond.  But they will be attracted to faith in life—believers who feed the hungry, visit in prisons, care for orphans, reach out to AIDS patients and so on. If they find your faith to be relevant to your world, it might be relevant to theirs.

Third, be intentional about going to the “fish” you’re called to reach. The wrong approach will frighten them away. You are not called to “win” them to Christ—only the Spirit can do that. To shift metaphors, you are a witness on the stand, called to tell what you know. Jesus is on trial; the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney; Satan is the prosecutor; and the person you’ve befriended is the jury. Your job is to build a relationship with this person, whether he or she becomes a Christian or not. Over time you will earn the right to tell what Jesus has done in your life, trusting the Spirit to use your story in bringing your friend to Christ.

Fourth, pray. The Spirit knows the “fish” far better than we can. He will lead us to say and do whatever will be most effective in helping them experiencing God’s love in Christ. The more we are yielded to him (Ephesians 5:18), the more he can use us to make an eternal difference in our culture.

I recently heard Tom Doyle, longtime missionary to the Middle East, make this arresting statement: Jesus never called anyone to become a Christian. He called us to become disciples. Discipleship begins for us, as it began for his first followers, by following Him so He can make us “fishers of men.”  Are you a Christian or a disciple?

By James C. Denison, Ph.D., President of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, and Theologian-in-Residence for Texas Baptists.


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