Advance Magazine
Summer 2023

Turning Strangers to Friends

In the summer issue of Advance, pull up a chair and take in a clear view of missions' starting point: relationship building. People are important to the Lord! That's why missionaries find creative ways to meet people and build bridges to share the life-giving gospel. Our issue kicks off with an article by Dr. Patrick Odle, BMM's president. 

Fishers of Men

By Dr. Patrick Odle

In early childhood many of us learned the song, “I Will Make You Fishers of Men.” Perhaps we knew the words of the song before we had any idea what the words meant. Personally, I knew the song before I knew Christ and the gospel. Despite being taught in a simple song for kids, Jesus’ words from Matthew 4:19 are profound: “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Of all people, Jesus chose fishermen (vs. 18) to be transformed into fishers of men. While none of us can take credit for anything God chooses to do through us, I can’t help but think that being fishermen might have helped prepare Peter and Andrew to become fishers of men. The traits of fishermen are traits that God can use to enable us to develop relationships to reach people with the gospel.

Think about three of those traits …

Sum23 Fishers Men PI

Fishermen go where the fish are.

If you have ever spent any time with a skilled fisherman, you will discover that he or she knows where to find fish. Whether through past experiences, the use of fish finders, or by talking to other fishermen, good fishermen know where the fish are, and they don’t waste time fishing where the fish aren’t! Essential to developing gospel-focused relationships with unbelievers is going where they are, spending time in their “habitat.” Far too many believers are content to just sit on the bank of a fishless pond, basking in the sun. If there are no fish in the pond, it isn’t fishing. In similar fashion believers must interact with unbelievers in order to get to share the gospel. Good fishermen go where the fish are!

Good fishermen are patient.

Perhaps this is why I have never become a good fisherman. It takes time and patience because the fish aren’t always biting. The same can be said of reaching people for Christ through relationships. Genuine relationships take time and effort. Plus, rarely do unbelievers embrace the gospel after one or two gospel conversations. The Spirit of God works in hearts at His perfect pace, usually demanding patience and persistence from us.

Good fishermen are optimistic.

An avid fisherman typically thinks, “On this next cast, I am going to land one.” Rarely does he or she think, “This is a waste of time.” Being a fisher of men requires a faith-filled confidence in the power of the gospel to save souls. Such confidence will keep us motivated to keep “casting” the gospel, even if we have done so dozens of times without a single “bite.” You may share the gospel, or a portion of it, with someone dozens of times before it finally results in saving faith. Being a faithful fisherman necessitates maintaining a positive attitude that doesn’t stop fishing one cast shy of landing someone for Christ.

While Christ called a number of fishermen to become fishers of men, He also calls us to the same grand privilege and challenging task. May we endeavor to be faithful fishers of men.

Sum23 Fishers Men pole PI

Prior to his presidency of BMM, Dr. Patrick Odle served as a pastor for over 25 years. He challenged his congregations about witnessing through preaching and numerous evangelistic initiatives. Project Eternity, a ministry focused on sharing the gospel with every home in Wright Country, Iowa, was a focus of Holmes Baptist Church.

At First Baptist Church of Elyria, Ohio, the church launched an Evangelism Explosion ministry while also hosting two Exchange Seminars to equip believers for relationship evangelism. Patrick continues to be an active witness through his pulpit ministry, Sportsman’s Dinners, and personal outreach to friends and neighbors.

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