Chapter Two – Fishers of Men: Why Cast Our Nets?
Kathi was a witch—a dedicated Wiccan who had a “family” of gods she served, and whom she thought served her. But after receiving two visions of Jesus calling her to Himself, she put God to a test. As the Lord would have it, a NetCaster named Rich Tatum was part of God’s answer to her call.
While working at Christianity Today as a Web project manager, Rich was about to leave the office one day at about 5:30 p.m. when he was pulled into this relationship. To aid in keeping up with issues surrounding his job, Rich was a member of a few newsletter discussion lists. Every day, questions landed in his inbox from fellow technicians needing help. Rich and others would ask and answer questions as they could.
“It had been several weeks since I’d culled through the messages from this discussion group,” Rich remembers. That night he suddenly felt an urge to check his mail folder. “I didn’t have anything pressing going on, and it would be one less thing to do in the morning. But, ‘Nah,’ I thought. ‘Just leave it.’”
Rich got up to go home, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. As he headed for the door, he felt the compulsion again. “Just check the folder.”
Sighing, he sat back down and worked as quickly as he could. About half an hour later, he had winnowed several hundred messages down to three that needed attention. “A couple of e-mails were informational pieces I could use, but one was a plea for help. It was from Kathi Sharpe, and her question was probably two or three months old by now. But, still, nobody had answered her.
“I thought to myself that I’d take care of it the next day. I’d want to take my time with it, provide screenshots and supporting material. It could take some time.”
So he closed his mail and got up to leave. But he was stopped again. “Answer it.”
“What?” he questioned. “It’s 6:00. The answer will take me at least another hour or two to prepare. She’s waited three months; another day won’t hurt.”
Still he kept thinking, Answer it!
Sighing again, Rich sat back down and banged out as thorough an answer that a quick reply would allow. He copied Kathi’s e-mail directly, to make sure she saw his answer. And, as predicted, it was at least another couple hours before he could head out the door. But this time he felt no compulsion to stay.
The next morning Rich received an e-mail from Kathi that blew his mind. “My note, apparently, was a direct answer to prayer. And what followed in instant messages over the course of the next year or so was a conversion story and discipling process that taught me more about faith and God’s faithfulness than I could have ever imagined.”
What Rich didn’t know was that Kathi was a practicing pagan witch, a Wiccan. God had been working on her heart, leading her to Himself, entering into her dreams, and answering her prayers.
The night before Rich responded to her work-related question, Kathi went to bed and prayed, setting out a “fleece,” telling God that if He really wanted her to listen to Him, then He’d better have an answer to her question waiting in her inbox in the morning. Her job was on the line, and if she didn’t solve this problem now, she’d be out of work.
That next morning she was stunned. Not only was her question answered and her job saved, but the e-mail came from an employee of Christianity Today. Furthermore, it was from someone within the Assemblies of God denomination—the only church she’d visited in recent years. “As far as prayers go, for Kathi, this was the trifecta,” Rich said later, “a neat little hat trick that did more to bring her to salvation than anything anyone else had to say to her.”
So since God had filled their appointment books, Kathi and Rich began chatting fairly regularly.
“I was very dedicated to what I thought were gods,” Kathi explains, “with zero plans of ever changing. I had two dreams, the second of which left me shattered and having to come to some sort of conclusion about who Jesus was. If I’d tried to ignore Him, I think I might have gone mad. Yet I wasn’t going to lay it all down without some sort of proof.”
In July, Kathi had her first dream of Jesus.
“My reaction was dual—wonder at why He, of all possible deities, would show up in my dreams, and anger that He’d have the audacity to do so. After all, He wasn’t one of my gods, and I didn’t want any part of Him. I told Him to go away, to leave me be!”
The following Saturday night Kathi had another dream. In this one, Jesus appeared clearly and spoke to her in sign language—a language she had not yet learned but recognized the need to since she was losing her hearing.
When she woke up the next morning, Kathi looked up the words in a sign dictionary. Jesus had signed very clearly, “Come, follow Me.”
“It couldn’t get any plainer,” Kathi said. “I was being called.”
Their daughter attended an Assembly of God church, so Kathi and her husband went to the morning and evening services that Sunday. “I was determined, though, to not veer from my chosen path,” Kathi explains. “I didn’t want to give up my gods, my complacent life, and the level of comfortability.”
But Kathi had many unanswered questions and felt that Christianity “in general” was responsible for most of the mess the world is in today.
“I spent both services in tears, torn between what I knew must be, and what I thought I wanted. I also spent some time talking to Christian friends, people who knew my history and knew what making a decision to follow Jesus would mean to me.”
She couldn’t figure out how she could give up paganism to follow Jesus. “My whole identity was focused on being pagan. I was a leader in the community online. I was respected as being a powerful witch. And my gods were family. But I could not refuse the call of Jesus.”
By Monday Kathi was coming close to surrendering to Jesus, but she wanted some proof. “Dreams can come from anywhere. So Monday night I prayed for the problems I’d been having with a piece of software I’m responsible for at work to be resolved. This issue had been giving me gray hair for some time, and in spite of asking for help of other people who use this software (weeks before), I’d gotten none. Tuesday afternoon, in my mail, was a letter from Rich Tatum, telling me how to resolve my problem.
“Now, imagine me, a pagan still in heart, having prayed to a God that I didn’t really believe in, and then getting a nearly immediate answer from somebody from Christianity Today online!
“I asked God Himself to show me that He was real, and I asked Him to do so in a very specific way. He responded by sending Rich my way—first to answer that prayer in a way far more specific than I could ever have imagined, then to show me the way to Jesus.”
Rich spent hours talking to Kathi online the next day. He told her, among other things, the story of Saul’s conversion and answered many of her questions. At one point that day, Kathi made the decision in her heart to do as Jesus said and to follow Him. “Over the next two days, my heart became light, and I knew that I had finally come home.”
Today Kathi and her husband are serving in full-time ministry, and their son is called to missions work. The whole family has come to faith. Since her dramatic conversion, Kathi has gained a lot of experience with Internet evangelism. The staff at ExWitch.org successfully used one of Kathi’s message boards for six years for that purpose.
Kathi explains how Internet evangelism played a key role in her coming to Christ out of paganism. “Recognize that having an online component, especially for people with unique backgrounds, such as leaving the occult, can fill in gaps that local churches are hard-pressed to provide.”
“I don’t think that Internet evangelism should ever replace face-to-face witnessing,” says Kathi. “Jesus said for us to go and make disciples, and we should use every opportunity to do so, anytime someone’s available to talk to. Maybe if we start looking at all our interactions with other people as ‘divine opportunities,’ more people would come to know Jesus.”
Taking the Word to the World
Just as Rich brought the Word of God to Kathi and now Kathi is taking the gospel to others, Jesus has called each one of us to be fishers of men, being obedient to Christ’s Great Commission:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19–20)
This is the calling of every Bible-believing Christian. But it’s important to understand that what Jesus was saying to His disciples here—and to us—was not some new plan of God’s. From the beginning of creation, His intention was that His people would be His caretakers, bringing His message of love to the nations.
The arrival of Jesus Christ—the Word made flesh—is the culmination of God’s missionary purpose to redeem mankind to Himself. This missionary purpose, the sending of the Word to the world, began with creation—and more specifically, the creation of man in the Garden of Eden.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” (Gen. 1:26)
God gave dominion to man and made him His regent or ambassador on the earth to oversee His creation for Him. God gave man responsibility in the world—dominion or authority—to tend it, name the animals, and carry out His will on this planet.
The Word through Israel
It’s important to understand that God was making a dramatic gesture in coming into a covenantal relationship with man once again through Abraham. When Adam and Eve disobeyed His word to them, man’s relationship with God was broken. The original Edenic Covenant, granting mankind dominion, was still in place; but God’s plan for man to rightly rule on the earth through a loving relationship with Him was blocked by sin. Though God had relationship with man through people like Abel, Seth, Enoch, and Noah, the vast majority of mankind had rejected God.
Through the covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God was reestablishing a personal, loving relationship with man.
“As for Me, My covenant is with you, and you will become the father of many nations.” (Gen. 17:4)
God blessed Abraham with the son of promise, Isaac. But then God tested Abraham, calling on him to offer up Isaac. When Abraham obeyed, placing Isaac on the altar, raising the knife, and then plunging it downward, the angel of the Lord stopped his hand. Then the voice of the Lord spoke to Abraham:
“And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.” (Gen. 22:18)
Abraham was the father of many nations as God promised, both through natural Israel by blood and spiritual Israel by faith. So it is through the sacrifice of Jesus, the seed, that God’s promise is fulfilled, that “all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (22:18).
John Stott says of the Abrahamic Covenant, “God made a promise . . . to Abraham. And an understanding of that promise is indispensable to an understanding of the Bible and of the Christian mission. These are perhaps the most unifying verses in the Bible; the whole of God’s purpose is encapsulated here.” 1
God made the same covenant promise to Isaac: “I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky, I will give your offspring all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring” (Gen. 26:4).
Then God made the same covenant promise to Jacob: “Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:14).
So the call of God through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendents, the chosen people, Israel, was always to take the Word to the world. Through Israel—both natural and spiritual—all the families of the earth were to be blessed.
The Word to the World through Jesus
In His earthly ministry, Jesus affirmed this missionary purpose of God. Through His love and compassion, Jesus demonstrated the love of Abba for the entire world to see. Jesus picked up the missionary calling after the nation of Israel failed to fulfill it.
John Stott writes, “Although Israel is described as ‘a light to lighten the nations,’ and has a mission to bring forth justice to the nations” (see Isa. 42:1–4, 6; 49:6), we do not actually see this happening. It is only in the Lord Jesus himself that these prophecies are fulfilled, for only in his day are the nations actually included in the redeemed community.” 2
Because Jesus is the head, and we are the body, the ministry of Jesus in the earth has been extended to us. We see a key example as Jesus activated His disciples to be His witnesses. In verse 1 of Luke 10, Jesus sent out the seventy to take the gospel to Israel.
After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1, emphasis added)
The Greek word in verse 1 is apostello, which means literally “to send.” But then in verse 2, Jesus amplified the meaning behind what He was doing.
He told them: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2, emphasis added)
The Greek in this verse behind the English phrase “send out” is ekballo, which means “to expel, to drive out, cast out, or thrust out.”
Gordon Robertson explains, “When Jesus would drive out a demon, He would ekballo it. When Jesus drove the money changers from the temple with a whip of cords, the Greek is ekballo. Translating ekballo as a gentle “send out” doesn’t do the word justice.” 3
In sending out the seventy and in encouraging them to pray that the Lord of the harvest would ekballo the disciples, Jesus was demonstrating the heart and purpose of God to thrust out laborers to reap the harvest. Here is the fulfillment of the protoevangel of Genesis 3:15—both through Jesus, and through us!
It is significant that when the seventy returned, rejoicing that demons were subject to them, Jesus nearly quoted verbatim God’s promise to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:
The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”
He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you.” (Luke 10:17–19, emphasis added)
Jesus extended both His authority and His missionary calling to the disciples—not only those seventy, but all of His disciples, at all times, in all places. Christians have been adopted into the family of God through faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul confirmed this sonship and this calling by declaring:
The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Rom. 8:16–17, emphasis added)
Paul also confirmed the believer’s inclusion in the missionary call of God to destroy the works of the Devil when he wrote:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Rom. 16:20, emphasis added)
God’s plan is for believers to join in the missional calling of Genesis 3:15, working in conjunction with Jesus to crush the head of the Serpent and bring the kingdom of God to Earth:
The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s work. (1 John 3:8)
Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would be given to empower the church to carry out God’s plan to take the Word to the world. In these final instructions to His disciples, Jesus once again reaffirmed the purpose of God through the church:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, emphasis added)
So the Great Commission is, in fact, the great reminder. As spiritual Israel, from the Day of Pentecost until the return of Jesus Christ, the church is called to carry forth the great missionary calling of God by making disciples of all nations (Greek: ethnos).
Today God has given us the Internet as an amazing tool to fulfill this missionary calling.
Harnessing Technology to Preach the Gospel
But this is nothing new. At each major phase in the development of the church, the Holy Spirit inspired believers to use the latest developments in travel and communication to carry out the Great Commission. Many believe these new innovations—the Greek language, Roman roads, sailing ships, the Gutenberg printing press, locomotives, automobiles, radio, airplanes, television, and satellite communications—were providentially supplied by God to carry the gospel from one generation to the next.
During the Renaissance, Europeans suddenly gained a new appreciation for science, art, and literature. It was an era marked by a rejection of superstition and unchecked religious dogma. In Germany, Britain, and France there was a renewed interest in the systematic study of Scripture, with an emphasis on the examination of the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible.
This revival of scholarship helped ignite the flames of the Protestant Reformation, and the bold teachings of Luther, Calvin, and others.
From the advent of the written page, books had been distributed only as quickly as they could be hand-copied. Prior to Gutenberg’s press, it cost a working man a year’s wages to purchase a Bible. The church harnessed the technology of the day, the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1456, and the Holy Spirit used it to carry the Reformers’ message to all of Europe and beyond.
The burgeoning desire of the time was to know God’s Word, and it’s significant that the first book printed by Gutenberg was the Bible. The printing press brought the Scriptures into common use as Luther and other Reformers translated and circulated the Bible into many of the languages of Europe. The people, both common and noble, who read the Bible soon realized that the Roman Catholic Church of the time was far removed from the New Testament ideal. Soon books and pamphlets written by the Reformers were being read throughout Europe and beyond.
In the centuries preceding the Reformation, both John Wycliffe and John Huss preached the same basic message as Luther’s, but they were not successful in igniting the fires of Reformation. According to church tradition, as Huss was being burned at the stake for his biblical teachings, he prophesied this explosion of God’s missional purpose on the earth.
You are now roasting the goose, [ huss means “goose” in Bohemian] but in a hundred years there will rise up a swan that you shall not roast nor scorch. Him men will hear sing and God will allow him to live. 4
It was only after the invention of the printing press—a key communication technology that helped usher in the Reformation, Renaissance, and Enlightenment—that both the Bible and the teachings of Luther and the other Reformers were distributed far and wide in books, pamphlets, and leaflets. As the people received the truth of God’s Word in their own language, their eyes became enlightened to God’s will and change came in their hearts and minds.
Modern Marvels and Gospel Pioneers
In the early part of the twentieth century, Christian evangelists and missionaries seized the modern invention of radio to take the Word to the world. Another technological tool used effectively by evangelists in the twentieth century was motion pictures. Ministries like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, with its World Wide Pictures film production arm, and Campus Crusade for Christ, with The Jesus Film, have used movies to take the gospel to millions around the world. Campus Crusade has used The Jesus Film so effectively that it is now the most-watched film in the history of the world. 5 Since its creation, The Jesus Film has been translated into 810 languages and has been seen by more than 3.5 billion people.” 6
In the 1950s ministers like Oral Roberts, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and Rex Humbard harnessed the technology of television to preach the gospel to the world.
“The vast majority of people do not go to church and the only way we can reach them is through TV,” Humbard said in his autobiographical book Miracles in My Life. “We must go into their homes—into their hearts—to bring them the gospel of Jesus Christ.” By 1970 Humbard’s syndicated program appeared on more TV stations in America than any other television show and eventually reached more than six hundred stations. 7
While Humbard, Roberts, and Graham developed radio and television programs, Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, Jim Bakker, and later Morris Cerullo launched vast satellite television networks to take the Word to the world.
In 1968, as the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) was preparing to open its newly built television studio in Portsmouth, Virginia, the Spirit of God fell on the staff during a corporate time of prayer. “I want you to pray for the world,” the Holy Spirit spoke to the heart of Pat Robertson, who wrote about the experience in his book Shout It From the Housetops.
Instantly, as if He had reached His hand into my heart and enlarged it, I felt the capacity to accommodate a vision far greater than I had ever had before. . . . “I want you to claim the world for Jesus,” the Holy Spirit was directing. I heard myself praying with great power, and felt an enormous faith building in my heart that the entire world could, indeed, hear the good news of Jesus. It was not an impossible task—just a difficult one—and God was calling me to help bring it to pass. 8
Today CBN’s programs can be seen in more than 160 nations of the world. As the new millennium dawned, CBN had expanded its television outreach to the point that more programming was done in the indigenous language and culture of nations outside the United States than inside. The ministries of the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the PTL Television Network, which became the INSP Network, followed CBN’s lead.
God’s Missional Mandate Today
These twentieth-century pioneers harnessed the communication, technological, and travel advances of their day to take the Word to the world. Now, with the dawn of the new millennium, unprecedented opportunities abound through the Internet and digital technology to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in creative and influential ways.
Allan Beeber of Campus Crusade’s Global Media Outreach—a ministry that has led more than a million people to the Lord through the Internet—sees unlimited potential through digital technology. “Through the use of CDs, DVDs, and streaming media, the evangelism world is offering a host of new options. The issue is to get the message out in a form that seekers are currently accessing.” 9
Dr. Sterling Huston, chairman of the Internet Evangelism Network Executive Committee, declares, “We need to put the gospel in a language and format that communicates with new generations; in a way so that they respond, in Internet-relevant presentations.” 10
“The truth of the gospel never changes, but the methods of delivering the truth must change to meet our culture. We have a great opportunity, particularly with children and with young adults. The National Center for Education says 90 percent of U.S. children and adolescents ages five through 17 have access to a computer and use one. Sixty percent are online. And among those 15 to 17, 75 percent of them are online. Among college students, 98 percent have access to the Net. This is where we will find them. This is where we need to meet them.” 11
Today NetCasters are taking up the torch and carrying this gospel message to the World through the World Wide Web. You can be a part of this NetCasters’ revolution. Read on to find out how!