What if Rick Warren Misunderstood Jesus' Fishing Metaphor?

Rick Warren, one of the innovators responsible for imposing the “Seeker-Sensitive Model of Church” upon the Body of Christ justifies his radical innovations by alluding to Christ’s statement to Peter that He’d make him a “fisher of men”. In other words, Evangelism, according to Jesus is akin to fishing. Rick Warren picks up on Jesus’ fishing metaphor and says:

“If you’re going to be good at fishing, you’ve got to learn to think like a fish. If you’re going to be an effective fisher of men, you’ve got to think like a lost person. Here’s the problem. Unfortunately, the longer you are a Christian, the less you think like an unbeliever. I don’t think like a non-Christian; I think like a Christian. In fact, I think like a pastor. That’s even worse! It’s two generations removed from the people I want to reach.

You can tell just how differently pastors think than lost people when you look at church advertisements in the newspaper. You’ll see advertisements like, “Preaching the inspired, inerrant Word of God.” Who will that appeal to? I know what the inspired, inerrant Word of God is. In fact I believe in it. I’d die for the inspired, inerrant Word. But non-Christians don’t care about your view of inspiration.

Or you’ll see a church advertise “Holy Spirit services.” That’s going to scare people away! Non-Christians don’t know what you mean by the Holy Spirit. Is that Casper the Friendly Ghost? You must learn to think – and communicate – like a non-believer if you are going to communicate the Gospel to them.

To catch fish, you’ve got to know their habits, their preferences, and their feeding patterns. Certain fish like smooth water. Others are bottom crawlers. Some like rushing water. Others hide under rocks. You’ve got to know what the fish you’re trying to reach like to do. If you’re going to understand and reach non-Christians, you’ve got to begin with their mindset. (Online Source)

What if Rick Warren’s understanding of evangelism and fishing is dead wrong? What if Rick Warren has mixed his metaphors and has drawn incorrect conclusions about what it means to be a “fisher of men”? What if the fishing Jesus was referring to was not bait fishing but NET FISHING would that cause you to rethink the Seeker-Sensitive movement and question whether its methodologies are faithful to Jesus’ Biblical methods of evangelism?

It should.

Bait Fishing is to Net Fishing as Deception is to Integrity

Streamer-purpleperil The Purpose-Driven / Seeker Sensitive model of evangelism attempts to attract so-called ‘seekers’ (Rom. 3:11) to attend a church service by radically changing the nature of church. Gone are hymns, and Biblical expository sermons. These have been replaced with culturally appealing rocks shows and practical self-help, felt-needs, life improvement seminars that contain a few ripped out of context verses thrown in to create the illusion that they’re based on the Bible. The model of fishing that Rick Warren is teaching his fleet of ‘fishers of men’ to employ is Bait Fishing. It is important to understand that the primary strategy of bait fishing is deception. Bait fishing deceives unsuspecting fish into believing that they are about to enjoy in their favorite meal but instead they find themselves being killed by a well hidden hook.

Deception is precisely the method employed by Purpose-Driven / Seeker Sensitive ‘evangelists’. They’ve discovered that they can convince unbelievers to come to their churches IF they deceive them by hiding the ‘church hook’ in culturally relevant self-help stage shows. These churches are experts at marketing. They purchase newspaper advertising and send out thousands of mailers promising to give non-Christians the secrets to achieving ‘Red Hot Sex’, financial freedom, and a less-stressful life. But, Biblical Christianity does NOT offer or promise ANY of those things. The truth is that many marriages have been destroyed because one partner has converted to Christianity while the other persisted in their unbelief (Matt. 10:36). Many Christians around the world and in the U.S. struggle to pay their bills while other believers cannot even afford the basic necessities of life. Faith in Jesus does not include a guarantee of wealth or freedom from debt. In fact, financial status has never been a indicator of one’s standing before the Lord (Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22) God warns us of the dangers of wealth and the love of money (1Tim. 6:10). Furthermore, the Bible does not offer Christians a less stressful life. Around the world Christians are persecuted and martyred for their faith. Rather than offering stress relief, confessing Jesus Christ in many portions of the world is a guarantee for experiencing life threatening danger and the stresses that go with knowing that you have been marked for death (2 Cor. 11:24-28). At its core Purpose-Driven / Seeker-Sensitive “evangelism” engages in lies and deception (bait fishing). That alone should disqualify it from being eployed in ANY church. So what was Jesus talking about when He told the disciples that He would make them ‘fishers of men’?

The fishing that Jesus calls His church to engage in is the same type of fishing that the humble men of Galilee were familiar with. This type of fishing requires them to leave the safety of the shore and head out to the deep water, where the fish are. Once there, they cast their nets into the sea and drag the fish into their boats. There is no disguising a net. There is no deception involved in net fishing. There’s no need to “think like a fish” or to understand what their favorite food is to lure them in. Instead, a fish that is caught via net fishing, one minute is swimming along with its school minding its own business the next minute it is being dragged against its will into a boat.

Isn’t this exactly what Jesus said in John 6:44?

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

The greek word for "draw" is the word ἑλκύω (helkuo). Here is how BDAG defines this word:

“to move an object from one area to another in a pulling motion, draw, with implication that the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of persons is unwilling to do so voluntarily, in either case with implication of exertion on the part of the mover”

Biblic19 Net fishing drags unwilling fish into a boat. Evangelism that utilizes Net Fishing does the exact same thing. The net that the church has been called utitlize is the gospel. The focal message that we are to use for our nets, according to Jesus, is the message of ‘repentance and the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 24:46-48). If our nets are to be effective at dragging in fish we must preach both repentance (the law) and the forgiveness of sins (the gospel). To omit either of these key points is the equivalent of using a compromised net that is full of gaping holes. Holes make a net useless.

The evangelism / fishing that our Lord calls His church to engage in is Net Fishing. He doesn’t ask us to engage in deception nor would He ever. Instead, he calls us to maintain the integrity of our nets by maintaining the integrity of His Word. We are then to take the nets out into the deep waters of our world and culture and cast them out. God will provide the fish. He will send them into the net. When He does, we are to drag them into the boat. There is no need to change the church and deceptively make it more attractive to unbelievers. Instead, when God sends the fish to our nets we are supposed to drag them in and feed them with the living word of God and the nourishment found in spiritual songs that exalt Jesus Christ, sound doctrine and the proclamation of Jesus' and the salvation He won for us on Calvary's cross.

Net fishing is the ONLY type of fishing that Christians are called to engage in. To be an effective Net Fisher one must always maintain the integrity of the net. Bait Fishing on the other hand, depends on lies and deception. Bait Fishing is the Devil’s method of fishing because Satan is, “a liar and the father of lies.”

What type of fishing does your church's evangelism efforts utilize, Nets or Deception?

Here’s a segment from my radio program that examines this topic from the scriptures by reviewing a sermon by Pastor Ernie Lassman on Luke 5:1-11.


What do you think?

χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη σοι,