In this article I am relating an idea that have occurred to me as I muse about evangelism and how we can be effective witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). I will be basing my thoughts on implications of Matthew 4:19 (“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”) and Matthew 13:3 (“The sower went out to sow.”), so I will be talking about the Sower and the Fisherman. The Sower is the believer who scatters the seed of the gospel broadly and relatively indiscriminately to raise awareness that there is a God and this God has given us the gospel of salvation. The Fisherman is the believer who engages life on life with an unbeliever and who employs the gospel to bring about repentance and faith.
MARKETING and SALES
In business terms, the Sower might be thought of as the Marketing function of the gospel enterprise, whereas the Fisherman represents the Sales function. In this sense, the Sower attempts to raise awareness that there is a gospel and to advertise its features, whereas the Fisherman engages the identified prospect with the objective of bringing them to salvation. The message of salvation is the same, but the methods and measurements are different.
THE SOWER – THE MARKETING FUNCTION
The Sower is the one who broadcasts the seeds of the gospel everywhere without paying a lot of attention to where the seed is going. Think about the parable of the Sower itself and it is apparent that the Sower is not careful about where the seed goes. Some of it carelessly falls on the road and is lost. Why does the Sower let that happen? Because aiming and targeting the seed is not essential to the task of the Sower. The task of the Sower is to get as much seed as possible out into the field so that some of it would find the good soil. The Sower is about quantity over quality. And this is essentially the ‘marketing’ function (with apologies to those who are very sophisticated in marketing). The gospel Sower is scattering many gospel words and pictures and ideas out into the culture* so that the culture becomes aware of the gospel and remains aware of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (* “Culture” could be the small sphere of one’s influence. While I will probably not change the American culture, perhaps I can change the culture in my group at work or the culture of my neighborhood or my tennis team. Think small as well as large when considering “culture.”) So, the Sower scatters tracts and leaves her Bible on a visible shelf in her office at work. The Sower posts Bible verses on his computer screen or on his bulletin board. Sowers broadcast the seeds of “Jesus words” and “gospel words” in their conversations. Maybe the Sower has a gospel bumper sticker or occasionally wears a t-shirt with a gospel message on it. The Sower talks to the person in the seat beside them on the plane, not just about the weather, but also about the Bible or the gospel or the Lord Jesus. Thus, the Sower is doing the marketing function for the gospel, intentionally scattering gospel seeds all over the place. (What other ways can you think of for scattering the seeds of the gospel?)
As the marketing function of the gospel enterprise, the Sower is not expected to make a huge impact but is accountable for making people aware that there is a gospel that will save them from the Judgment. The Sower is measured on faithfulness in sowing, on consistently emptying their sack of gospel seed into the field. Breadth is preferred over depth. Saturation of the entire area is more important than penetration.
Observe that, in the parable in Matthew 13, the Sower is not critiqued or coached to improve his skill. Even when the Sower wastes perhaps a quarter of his seed on the hard ground, there is no mention of rebuke or correction or need for coaching. Why is this? It is because you do not rebuke someone for doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. The Sower is supposed to be scattering the seed. It is a humbling fact that there are no “master sowers.” All Sowers are basically of equal skill, but this also means that virtually all sowing is successful. If the Sower is intentionally sowing, the Sower is successful.
THE FISHERMAN – THE SALES FUNCTION
In contrast to the Sower, for the Fisherman, the face has come out of the crowd and now there is a name and a journey and there is a person with a story. The fishing function, then, is similar to the Sales function of the gospel enterprise. The proclamation has gone from the nameless many to the familiar few. In the Sales analogy, we now have a prospect. Now instead of broadcasting the features of the gospel generally, the Fisherman is crafting the gospel message for this one person so that the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes their gospel.
The goal of the Fisherman is different from the Sower. When we as believers are “fishing for men,” we are seeking for the person to make a commitment to Christ, to pass from death to life (John 5:24). A conversation with an unbeliever would be considered a success for a Sower, because there resulted a greater awareness of Christ. That same conversation would not be a “success” for a Fisherman, because the goal for the Fisherman is repentance and faith. The Fisherman aims to get the fish in the boat.
The skill level is different between the Sower and the Fisherman. Observe that in real life there are no “sowing contests.” That is because sowing is an unskilled function. But there are fishing contests, because fishing is a skilled activity. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Implied in this is that Jesus will need to teach and instruct His fishermen, that we slowly become better fishermen over time. Fishing skill requires fishing practice.
So, the, the Fisherman has identified and engaged with a real, live person who has expressed some interest in something related to the gospel and the Fisherman is now seeking to explain the things of God and the gospel so that the unbeliever comes to faith in Jesus. The tools of the Fisherman are the Bible, the local church, prayer and his or her own powers of persuasion (2 Cor. 5:11). The Fisherman urges the unbeliever to come to faith, even skillfully begging the unbeliever (2 Cor. 5:20) to avoid the terror of the judgment of God (Ezekiel 33:11).
For the believer, there are two broad functions to the evangelism task: the “sowing” function and the “fishing” function. These are similar in some ways to the marketing and sales functions of a business enterprise. When all the members of the local church are broadcasting the seed of the gospel and are winsomely guiding unbelievers around us into the “boat” of salvation, then our joy will increase and the church will grow.
SDG rmb 3/1/2019