The drive back to Georgia, while evacuating from Hurricane Florence, gave Leslie and me a great opportunity to revisit some of our fondest memories of growing up in the Peach State. Every time we come home, it sparks conversation about the way things used to be. We talk and laugh about the things we did as children with our parents and siblings. One of my favorite things to do with my father, James, Sr., was going fishing. A fundamental lesson that he taught me was how to bait my hook. I have always been fascinated by the different kinds of bait that people use to catch fish. Some people use the traditional worms, other people use minnows and crickets, and yet there are some that even use chicken livers. All of these people use bait, in an attempt, to catch fish.
As I think about the decline of the Christian Church on the Western Hemisphere, this lesson from my father challenges me in a profound way. It reminds me of the words of Jesus to Simon on the fishing boat, “…Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10b, NRSV). However, it leaves me asking the question, as a Church, what kind of bait do we have on our hook? In other words, what are we using to attract people to a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ? Bait is essential to fishing for two reasons. The first reason is that bait is used to attract fish. There is something about bait that sticks out to the fish and makes them leave what they are doing to go after the bait. One of the greatest challenges in evangelism is choosing the right bait. We must have a bait that is not only able to attract a new generation, but it also has to be something that is consistent with the teachings of the words of scripture.
The second reason that bait is important is because it covers up the hook. As attractive as bait can be, it does not mean anything unless leads to the hook that is able to catch the fish. One of the most disappointing things to me as a young fisherman was when I had a bite on my line only to discover that the fish ate the bait but left the hook. If we are not careful, this can be one of the hazards in the contemporary Church. If we put too much emphasis on the bait, yet the people do not get hooked on the Word of God, our fishing is in vain. Jesus makes reference to this in the Sermon on the Mount when HE admonishes us, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NRSV). My friends, let’s make sure we are using the right kind of bait to get others hooked on Jesus Christ.