Larry Wright is a pastor in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He was preaching last New Year’s Eve when a man walked into his church carrying a rifle.
Wright, a former Army sergeant, walked up to the man and asked, “Can I help you?” The man asked Wright to pray for him. The pastor took the rifle and handed it to a deacon. One by one, the deacon and three others hugged the man, then led him to a seat at the front of the church. The pastor continued his message and gave an altar call. The man “stood right up, came up to the altar, and gave his life to Christ,” Wright said later.
Then the man asked to speak to the congregation. He told them that he intended to do something terrible that night, but the Lord spoke to him. According to police, the man later checked himself into a medical center.
How do we change a violent world? One person at a time.
I’ve been thinking about God’s priorities for his people in 2016. My mind was drawn to Jesus’ call to his first disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). “I will make you” can be translated from the Greek, “I will cause you to become.” We cannot “fish” effectively for men until Jesus makes us effective.
Studies indicate that the number of Americans with no religious commitment is continuing to escalate. Could it be that Christians are fishing for Jesus rather than allowing him to form us into the spiritual fishermen only he can make us to be?
My father-in-law was the best fisherman I ever knew. He’s been with the Lord for more than two years; I still miss him and cherish memories of fishing trips together. He taught me the three essentials of effective fishing.
One: Decide to fish. Don’t just study fishing or listen to the stories of other fishermen. The same is true spiritually: Until Jesus creates in you a passion for lost souls, you won’t do whatever it takes to reach them. So ask him for a burden for the lost, today.
Two: Know the fish you intend to catch. My father-in-law lived in northern Arkansas near the White River. He studied the trout that lived there—what bait they liked, when they were active, where they could be found. He didn’t try to catch all the fish in the world, just the trout in one part of one river.
Ask Jesus to put some lost people on your heart. Get to know their goals, challenges, and habits. Look for ways to serve them. Ask Jesus to guide you as you prove his love in yours.
Three: Measure success properly. My father-in-law had a beautiful boat and a variety of sophisticated fishing rods. But he measured success by the fish he caught. Ask Jesus to help you value the eternal over the temporal, the spiritual over the material. Solomon was right: “Whoever captures souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30).
Jesus made Larry Wright and his congregation “fishers of men” and a man’s eternal destiny was changed. If you follow Jesus, he’ll do the same with you. No matter your fears or failures, he will use you to draw others to himself. Therefore, if you’re not fishing for men, you’re not following Jesus.
For more on Pastor Wright’s amazing story, please see Nick Pitts’s “Man Walks Into Church With Gun, Walks Out With God.”