The History and Theological Premise of Flirty Fishing (1977-1987)
And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
In the latter part of the '70s and early '80s, David Berg, responding in part to the sexual liberality of that time period, presented the possibility of initiating a more personal and intimate form of witnessing which became known as "Flirty Fishing" or "FFing." Flirty Fishing later developed into a ministry throughout the Family until it was discontinued in 1987.
In his Letters at that time, he offered the challenging proposal that since "God is love" (1 John 4:8), and His Son, Jesus, is the physical manifestation and embodiment of God's love for humanity, then we as Christian recipients of that love are in turn responsible to be living examples to others of God's great all-encompassing love. Taking the apostle Paul's writings literally, that saved Christians are "dead to the law [of Moses]" (Romans 7:4), through faith in Jesus, David arrived at the rather shocking conclusion that Christians were therefore free through God's grace to go to great lengths to show the love of God to others.
David proposed that the boundaries of expressing God's love to others could at times go beyond just showing kindness and doing good deeds. He suggested that for those who were in dire need of physical love and affection, even sex could serve as evidence to them of God's love.
One typically chilly London evening, David and Maria encountered a lonely businessman named Arthur at a ballroom studio. David suggested that Maria dance with Arthur and encourage him. As David watched Maria warmly interacting with and witnessing to the tall man with the lonely eyes, he wondered just how far a Christian can go to show God's Love to those in need. Here was a man in obvious need of love. Can a Christian even have sexual relations with someone in order to show God's love for that person?
The Bible says that if we see a brother or sister without food, and only say nice words to them and send them on their way without food, we have done nothing (James 2:15-17). Of course, it is one thing to give a hungry perÂson food, but could that same principle be applied to needs for love and and affection, and even sex?
So began the ministry of "Flirty Fishing" (FFing), as David dubbed it, and it didn't take long for this unorthodox approach to evangelism to hit the news worldwide, resulting in over 100,000 people being led to faith in Christ. The motivation, guiding principle, and theological backdrop to this ministry was that going to such lengths to demonstrate God's love could help the recipient to better accept and even understand God's great love for them. In 1987, Flirty Fishing was officially discontinued and writings alluding to the practice were removed from circulation.