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Man and boy waiting while fishing

In God's Perfect Time

Objective: To understand and apply active waiting to evangelism strategies.


Patient Waiting and the Evangelistic Task


Someone defined fishing as a jerk at one end of the line waiting for a jerk at the other! I resemble that remark! Many people think fishing is passive, with fishermen waiting quietly and patiently for a fish to find and take the bait.

For many, fishing is a low-energy endeavor that includes reading a book while waiting for a bite. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I prefer active waiting.

Sometimes I cast and retrieve a lure 120 or more times per hour. I keep moving. I’m waiting for a bite but not passively soaking my lure in one spot for the whole hour.

I don’t expect fish to discover my lure. I take it to them. My style is high energy.

Even on my best fishing days on the Susquehanna River, I know it’ll take an average of 40 casts to catch one fish. I’m exhausted at the end of the fishing trip, and my back usually hurts. Why do I fish that way? My chances of catching fish are much better if I can tempt many fish an hour compared to far fewer (and maybe none) if the bait is sitting and soaking where there aren’t any fish.


Patience isn’t inactivity. “The Lord isn’t being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake.

He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT).

The Lord is patient and at work in the lives of people who don’t yet know him. “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, God’s righteousness, and the coming judgment” (John 16:8 NLT). God patiently, actively waits for them to respond to the conviction the Holy Spirit brings. 


We shouldn’t confuse patience with inactivity. We shouldn't twiddle our thumbs while the months pass like guard rails on the highway at 70 miles per hour, waiting for co-workers to decide to follow Jesus.


We shouldn’t confuse patience with inactivity. We shouldn't twiddle our thumbs while the months pass like guard rails on the highway at 70 miles per hour, waiting for co-workers to decide to follow Jesus.


We pray. We demonstrate love in practical ways. We share what God is doing in our life.


We look for signs of God at work. We team up with others in the evangelistic task. We engage in active waiting! 

Cooperative Fishing and Effective Evangelism


One day my dad and I were fishing from a canoe on the Susquehanna River near Marysville, Pennsylvania. I was in the front seat of the canoe, and my father was in the back. Since it’s easier to steer the canoe from the rear, we’d developed a routine to free our lures when they hooked the river bottom.

If I snagged my lure on the bottom, my dad would paddle me to the offending rock, and I’d pull the lure free. If his lure wedged under a rock, he’d hand me his rod and reel, and we’d repeat the same drill.

My dad’s lure got stuck on a snag that morning, and he handed his rod and reel to me as usual. The only difference -- after he gave his outfit to me, the “snag” began to move. He’d hooked a 33-inch carp, and neither he nor the fish realized it.

After I began to apply pressure, the fish started to swim. It took about 15 minutes to land it on a six-pound breaking strength line, and two of us did it! He hooked and paddled after it as it made runs; I fought and landed it.


Teamwork and Evangelistic Effectiveness


Our fishing experience illustrates the evangelistic task. It takes more than one fisherman’s input to lead someone to faith and maturity in Christ. At most, 10% of believers have the spiritual gift of evangelism. That is according to C. Peter Wagner (quoted by Christian Schwarz in Natural Church Development, p. 35).

That means there’s a 90% chance we don’t, but a 100% chance we can still make a significant contribution to sharing and living out the gospel.


Paul wrote, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

The one who plants and waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their hard work, for we are God’s workers.…” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9a NLT).

The seed is a gospel that’s both declaration and a demonstration. Paul did more than preach to the Corinthians the way to be saved from the penalty of sin. "So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.” (Acts 18:11 NLT). The gospel is more than the simple message of becoming a child of God through repentance from sin and faith in Christ’s sacrifice in our place.

It’s the declaration and demonstration that real life (eternal life) is found only in Christ. In our workplace, we must demonstrate Christ’s life. We share how others can embrace it for themselves.

Without a demonstration of that life, the declaration falls on deaf ears. We don’t have to do it alone but have an essential part to play.


Notice the last part of 1 Corinthians 3:5 NLT: “Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.” We all have strengths that contribute to building up Christ’s body.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT). These strengths are connected to the tasks the Lord assigns us. 


Active Waiting and Effective Evangelism


Gardeners break up the soil, remove stones, plant, irrigate, fertilize, cultivate, weed, spray, and harvest with lots and lots of waiting interspersed. “Active waiting” contributes to the abundance of the crop. Those with a “green thumb” provide favorable conditions for an abundant harvest! Evangelism is similar.

Individuals respond differently to the same gospel message. Some never respond positively, “for not everyone is a believer” (2 Thessalonians 3:2 NLT). Hardly anyone “gets it" immediately. Some take longer than others.

On average, people hear the gospel about seven times before they receive Christ. I heard it more than 1000 times over 15 years before it penetrated my 7-millimeter-thick skull! Many people in my church, and I would have concluded I got it long before that, but I didn’t. Before understanding and responding to the gospel, I was a fruitless, baptized church member.

When it comes to conversion, people are like plants. We can harvest spinach 45 days after planting. Tomatoes mature in 65-80 days. Sweet corn takes 75-90 days.

Banana and papaya trees produce a year after they’re planted. Guava takes 2-3 years. Avocados don’t bear fruit for 7-10 years. 

I did an informal survey of people in churches in my denomination. I asked them to raise their hands if they received Christ as Lord and Savior the first time they heard the gospel. Of about 1,500 people polled, only two said they did. Perhaps those two misunderstood my question!

The survey results shouldn’t surprise us. We didn’t receive Christ the first time we heard the gospel. Evangelism is a process. It’s more than an event where the unsaved fidget in pews.

It includes lunches together with seekers who are wrestling with life’s burdens. It’s babysitting an unsaved co-worker’s child, so he and his wife can have an evening out together.

It’s spending time with a co-worker in the woods, fields, or streams, hunting or fishing together. It’s going to the mall or watching the Super Bowl together.

It’s helping someone move. It’s getting close enough to influence others. There’s no harvesting without sowing and watering.


Most of the work of evangelism isn’t done by those who lead people to Christ but by friends and relatives who prepare the way by taking Christ to people. They’re channels through whom Christ’s love flows.


The more people in our church who are sowing and watering, the more God can make grow, and the greater the harvest. Praying for the salvation of our pre-Christian friends and relatives and demonstrating caring by meeting their needs is a vital part of the evangelistic process. Practical demonstrations of love can't bring them to Christ, but they probably won’t come without them.

God uses a sequence of events and experiences, like steps, to bring people closer to Himself. We probably won’t help someone take the first step in their spiritual journey toward a relationship with Christ (the first exposure to the gospel).

We probably won't be the last step (receiving Jesus), but one of the intermediate steps. Moving someone one step closer to a commitment to Christ is very significant. Perhaps through answering a question. Through sharing our faith or performing a loving action. 


Irresistible Evangelism by Steve Sjogren, Dave Ping, and Doug Pollock, published by Group in 2004, describes evangelism as a process. It’s like golf. How close the ball is to the hole (someone’s closeness to receiving Christ) determines the “club” we should use.


The ABC of Evangelism is like a putter to move those close to a commitment to Christ. It isn’t the right tool for an atheist. That’s like using a putter to hit the ball off the tee!


Unbelievers' distance from Christ is the key. It determines how we reach out to them.

It takes the form of active kindness for those farthest away. It is dynamic friendship, active wondering, or active sharing for those closest to Christ. Except for active wondering, these four are self-explanatory.

Active wondering is asking questions. We do it to learn another person’s beliefs and values. We listen attentively for their response. We could ask questions like, “I wonder what you think your life’s purpose is?” 

How can we find our purpose? We need to know how to grow spiritually, improve our spiritual health, and learn how our purpose relates to making better disciples. 

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