I've just finished the Fishers of Men
evangelism-training program. My local church invited the Fishers of Men to come to the church and teach their method of evangelism to those members who volunteered to attend. It's a ten-week program (eleven counting graduation) that meets once a week for two and a half hours and includes homework which Fishers of Men estimates to take at least an hour a day. So it's a large commitment for a church.
Fishers of Men is a program intended to address what is without doubt a serious hole in the church: a lack of training for Christians so that they are both willing and able to teach Christianity to those outside the church. The program challenges Christians and holds them accountable, requiring seven studies with a non-Christian by the end of the course in order to graduate from the program. Graduation consists of receiving a certificate that one is a "Fisher of Men" and receiving a fishhook-shaped pin, signifying both our Christian calling to teach the world, and that we are "hooked on Jesus" as our salvation, and the salvation of the world.
On the positive side of the scale, Fishers of Men challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone and specifically ask non-Christian friends of mine if they wanted to study the Bible. The weekly classes went over evangelism methods, modeled after proven sales methods, of how to get people interested, how to keep them interested, and how to teach in such a way that it reaches them. To that end, the Fishers of Men suggest, among other things, asking "open questions," developing the ability to actively listen, and working to present yourself in a spirit of humility, not as the master in a master-pupil relationship.
On the negative side, the program is a huge time commitment for a Bible class, at an estimated eight and a half (or more) hours per week, although I did not find the daily homework to actually take a full hour every day. The questions themselves were of a simplistic nature, in the form of true/false or yes/no questions. As such, many of the questions were a waste of time to me. For example, consider questions 3408-3413 of Week 3, Day 4, which address Hebrews 4:12:
- God's word is so powerful it can judge the thoughts of your heart. (T/F)
- Is God's word powerful enough to judge the intentions of your heart? (Y/N)
- Knowing the power of God's word, I should become more concerned about the thoughts and intentions of my heart. (T/F)
- Will you pray and ask God to help have pure thoughts and intentions? (Y/N)
- Isn't it great to be a Christian and to become more like Jesus every day? (Y/N)
- I want others to experience this joy that I have in Jesus. (T/F)
I don't disagree with the conclusions that these questions clearly want the student to reach (sometimes I did disagree), but I dislike the force-feeding of this sort of questioning, and I dislike having to spend time on throw-away questions like, "Isn't it great to be a Christian?" (Is there a Christian who would answer "No" on a homework sheet like this?) I especially dislike being instructed as to when and what I should pray about; this particular question did not ask, "Will you pray right now..." but many others did.
More seriously than these problems, I was disturbed that much of the daily homework did not address evangelism at all, but rather addressed church doctrine, such as whether instrumental music in the church is right or wrong (Week 8): Fishers of Men teaches it is wrong. As Jesus and the apostles never mentioned music, or even singing, in relation to salvation, it's my conclusion that music and singing do not relate to salvation, though they do relate to worship. Therefore, it is a question that each Christian and each church must study for themselves. Given that Fishers of Men describes itself as an evangelism-training program, it should teach evangelism and leave non-evangelism questions to the local church or to each Christian.
I raised these questions and specifically the teaching on music with our instructor. His response to my first question, on the nature of the homework questions, was: "The daily checking allows students to determine each day if they are making progress or failing!" He later added, "Homework is to give you a deep understanding of the subject you will be teaching to lost souls... Lack of knowledge produces fear and members hesitate to share because of lack of knowledge."
On the question of teaching church doctrine in an evangelism class, he responded,
"I believe the church is lacking 'sound teaching/doctrine.' (I Tim 1:10; 4:6) The teachers/preacher's 'salvation' is conditional on what he/she teaches as well as the person who is taught ( I Tim. 4:16; James 3:1) (awesome responsibility)." He then asked, "How can brethren teach what they do not know? (Matt 28:19-20) After baptism a person must be taught 'all that Jesus commanded.' That includes the Lord's church and worship! (Jn 4:24)"
That many Christians lack knowledge is clearly evident, but I am skeptical that it is the job of itinerant Christians to visit other churches and teach doctrine to them, especially in a class that is advertised as being about evangelism. I am skeptical because other Christians lack the authority to say what doctrine is, except where the Bible clearly states it, or to determine whether Christians are "making progress or failing." I suspect that our instructor was correct that the church is lacking in sound doctrine, but I do not think it is the responsibility of the Fishers of Men program to fill this void. That is the responsibility of each local church and each individual Christian.
The Fishers of Men program has a goal---to teach evangelism---that I applaud highly. They recognized a need and have worked for decades now to fill that need. Jesus Christ will never have enough of such men. However, because the program goes beyond teaching evangelism and into the realm that properly belongs to the local church, or to the individual Christian, I regretfully conclude that I cannot recommend the Fishers of Men.