What the Parable of the Dragnet Can Teach Us About Evangelism

Tucked away near the end of Matthew 13 — after a ton of other parables about the Kingdom — is the Parable of the Dragnet.

It’s not very long. In fact, I’ll share the entire parable here for you so you can read it for yourself:

“Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they pulled it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.”

Matthew 13:47-50

Jesus makes a few application points afterwards — namely, that at the “end of the age,” God will separate the wicked from the righteous. Each will go to their respective eternities.

I don’t want to confuse the point of this parable. There’s no question that what Jesus is referring to is Judgment Day (2 Corinthians 5:10; Acts 17:31). On that day, God will separate the mass of humanity based on their obedience to Him. 

The parable is meant to be definitive. There will be a time when we are judged, and there will be a moment that we don’t have any more opportunities to change. God’s decision is final; our eternities are set.

So what does this parable have to do with a marketing funnel?

What is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel refers to the “story” of a customer’s interaction with a business. 

Sometimes that story is long, resulting in numerous touch points and purchases. Other times, that story is relatively short. They’re made aware of who you are, show zero interest, and they’re gone. 

Normally, there are several stages to this journey. 

The first stage is awareness. All you’re doing in this stage is telling people who you are and what you’re about. You’re not trying to convince them of anything except that you are an entity that exists.

After that, you have the interest stage. This is where the lead begins to reciprocate some of that attention you’ve shown them. They might gather more information, engage with your content, or check out your services.

Next, they’ll enter the desire stage. They’ll compare your brand versus other brands, evaluate the services, check reviews, do other online research and maybe even make some phone calls.

The last stage is action. Whatever your desired action is — purchase, email list signup, in-person visits — this is the point where your lead actually makes a decision.

Why is a Funnel Important?

Nobody makes a decision based on a single conversation. Even the people you read about in Scripture — the Apostles, woman at the well, Nicodemus, etc — most likely interacted with Jesus a few times before leaving everything to follow Him.

That’s not because the message wasn’t perfect, but because decisions that alter the entire course of your life aren’t usually made overnight. It takes thoughtful consideration, evaluation, and “counting the cost.”

While spontaneous, diehard converts are great, what you really want is for someone to go through all these stages — no matter how long it takes. You want them to take it slow; otherwise they’ll “spring up” and wilt when a different offer comes along.

From a technical perspective, funnels allow you to evaluate each stage to see where you can make improvements. 

Someone who initially shows interest but then doesn’t follow up most likely encounters issues in the desire stage. A person who understands the value but doesn’t complete the process may not be encouraged to take action. 

By breaking down your evangelism into measurable stages, you can fine tune the different levers to determine where you need to improve your efforts.

So What Does the Parable of the Dragnet Have to Do With Funnels?

In order for funnels to work effectively, what you need is volume. You need as many prospects as humanly possible so that you can filter them through the various stages of your funnel and weed out the ones who are not interested from those who might take action.

Isn’t that what the Parable of the Dragnet teaches?

The dragnet is cast and gathers “fish of every kind.” Once it is drug up on the beach, it’s sorted into different containers depending on whether they were good fish or bad fish.

Funnels provide this same type of filtration system with various prospects for evangelism. Some will be interested, some won’t, but the only way you’ll be able to properly identify them is by dumping all of them on the beach to begin with. Then, and only then, you can begin to sort them out.

Evangelism is About Volume

At it’s core, evangelism is a numbers game. The person or church that can tell as many people about the Gospel as humanly possible will usually convert the most people. 

Why? Because the more people you tell about the Gospel, the more potential study opportunities you’ll receive. It’s as simple as that. Don’t make evangelism harder than it should be; just tell everyone you can about God as often as possible.

The problem becomes when we try to pre-qualify potential converts. We (correctly) state that there is a broad way and a narrow way, and we (correctly) argue that we shouldn’t cast our pearls before swine. 

But we also (incorrectly) conclude from those two statements that we are responsible for identifying those prospects on our own. 

That’s not our job. Our job is to “go” and “tell” and “make disciples.” 

Evangelism is About “Telling”

Our radar for pre-judging is most likely skewed, anyways. Would anyone in their right mind have guessed that Saul the Church Persecutor would become Paul the Apostle?

When you look at the other parables in Matthew 13 though, what do you see?

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9), a farmer throws seed all over his field. Some seed lands on good soil, some on rocky, some on thorny, and some are eaten by birds. All the farmer did though was throw the seed everywhere.

In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), another farmer throws seed all over his field. The “enemy” sows bad seed too, but the farmer is only concerned with making sure every square inch of his field is covered.

Shouldn’t that also be our goal when it comes to evangelism? Instead of trying to determine on our own who will respond to the Gospel, throw the seed everywhere, and let their responses to the Word sort them out instead.

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