I have a few baits that I turn to on a regular basis. One of my favorites is a purple-green flaked curly-tailed worm.
The proper designation is “Junebug”, and I tried it one day after hearing some others talk about it. It worked! I was so excited!
I like the deep purple of the worm, with specks of green and gold glitter buried inside. I liked how the tail of the worm fluttered as it was dragged through the water, as if it were swimming. I liked the weight of it, which aided my casting on windy days.
I short, I fell in love with the worm. I started buying variations of it – crawdad-shaped, 3-inch, grub. I even bought some Junebug-speckled titanium weights to go along with them!
I enjoyed my success. But there came a day when I didn’t get as many hits. I experimented with a faster retrieve, a slower one, reeling in as soon as it hit the water, letting it sit for 15+ seconds in one spot.
Nothing. Not a nibble. In desperation, I pulled out a 6-inch motor oil fluke bait – and caught a fish!
What had changed? Evidently, quite a lot for the fish! And thankfully, something had changed in me.
Rule number one that I have learned from fishing – DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR BAIT!
It’s easy to fall in love with your lure. We can get so excited about how many fish we caught on that certain day back when, in that season, when things were good. We want to hold on to those times and convince ourselves that it will always be this way.
How does this happen in the Church?
I am reminded of Peter and James and John with Jesus up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the story of Jesus being changed in front of them into His heavenly glory, along with Moses and Elijah.
Peter’s response is most like mine – “Lord, it is good that we are here! Let us build some tents so that we can stay up here forever!” (Fisackerly Rough Translation, 2023)
What Peter wanted was to hold on to that feeling he had, that experience of being overwhelmed and totally fulfilled at the same time. He had found what he didn’t even know he was looking for – he just wanted to keep things the same forever!
But Jesus’ response was to take them back down the hill. The mountaintop experiences are good, but we don’t stay up there. We have to go back down into the valleys, and live.
I can fall in love with styles of ministry where I had success 30 years ago. But if I ignore how the world and people and our culture has changed, then it doesn’t matter how fast or how slow or what kind of presentation I give. I need to find what will work with people TODAY.
When I fish, I have to make myself try different lures if I’m not having success. It’s not important whether I get to use the lure I want; what’s important is that I CATCH FISH! We are judged by our FRUIT, not our desires.
I have started keeping a record of my catches – what was the weather like? What bait did I use? What was the hook size or line color or type of retrieve? I refer to this log when I am being stumped by the fish. What were they hitting on the last time I was in this situation?
Many things affect the fish’s willingness to take the bait. It could be the size of the worm; it could be its color; it might be the water temperature or an upcoming storm front. Those who are most consistent in catching fish are constantly re-evaluating their current situation.
Churches are like that, too. The churches that are most effective in drawing people to Christ are the ones that are constantly looking at their methods and their success.
If you have a family member or a friend who seems to be constantly against the Gospel message, don’t give up. Change your retrieve. Slow down – be more subtle. Listen to them more, and speak less. Offer grace in unexpected places.
And most of all, turn it over to God. Trust that God knows the best way to reach this person’s heart, and all you have to do is kindly and graciously present the Gospel.
Keep on casting!