If youre going to be good at fishing, youve got to learn to think like a fish. If youre going to be an effective fisher of men, youve got to think like a lost person. Heres the problem. Unfortunately, the longer you are a Christian, the less you think like an unbeliever. I dont think like a non-Christian; I think like a Christian. In fact, I think like a pastor. Thats even worse! Its 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. Youll 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. Id die for the inspired, inerrant Word. But non-Christians dont care about your view of inspiration.
Or youll see a church advertise Holy Spirit services. Thats going to scare people away! Non-Christians dont 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, youve 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. Youve got to know what the fish youre trying to reach like to do. If youre going to understand and reach non-Christians, youve got to begin with their mindset.
The Bible says in Luke 6, Jesus knew what they were thinking (GW). In fact, multiple times in Scripture we read that Jesus knew what the people whom he was ministering to were thinking. Jesus gives us a great example of someone thinking like a fish.
Jesus says in Matthew 10:16, Im sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Jesus is saying we need to be strategic. Think about who you are trying to reach before you try to do evangelism. Unfortunately, we often fulfill only the second half of that verse. Were harmless as doves, but not as wise as serpents.
If I went overseas as a missionary, I could have all of my doctrine right be totally scriptural, I could have the truth that could change lives, but Id still have to learn the language.
Thats true even in the country where we grew up. You have to learn the language of the unbeliever. They dont talk in religious terms. I often hear about how resistant people are to the Gospel. But I dont think thats true. Theyre not resistant. Theyre just on a different wavelength.
About 20 to 30 years ago in the United States, CB radios were big. And people would communicate through these radios on different wavebands. I could have the best message in the world and if Im on channel 4 and youre on channel 8, it wont get through. Ive got to get on your channel.
Ive got to speak your language. I dont expect you to speak my language as a Christian. I have to learn to speak your language. Thats called love. Thats called caring enough about people and not letting the method prevent the message from getting through. Youve got to start where people are.
I grew up in very small country churches and in a town of less than 500 people. All my life I was around poor people in a small town. I was told you couldnt reach wealthy people with the Gospel. Now, at Saddleback, thats about all were reaching; they are just about all who can afford to live in South Orange County, Calif., where our church is. Ive discovered rich people arent turned off to the Gospel. We just needed to communicate on their wavelength.
How do you discover the mindset of lost people in your community?
You talk to them. Sounds simple, but its true. The more you talk to non-Christians, the more you begin to get on their wavelength. Then you can build a bridge from your heart to their heart that Jesus Christ can walk across.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.