Fisherman refuses to belly up to the beer
By George Henson
NACOGDOCHES–When it came right down to it, Lendell Martin decided the priority of his life was being a fisher of men, not just a fisherman.
Martin balked last year when the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, commonly known as BASS, added Busch Beer as a sponsor. Part of the agreement between the brewery and the fishing federation was that all anglers would wear Busch patches on their clothing and sport the Busch logo on their boats.
“They made it mandatory that you had to wear that Busch beer patch,” Martin said. “Of course, I made a call, and they said it was what everybody was doing. They brought up the racing industry and said it would allow them to pay out more money.”
None of those things addressed Martin's concerns.
“BASS has these programs like 'Get hooked on fishing, not on drugs,' and then they want us to wear a beer company's patch,” he noted. “That's what wrong with a lot of our kids–we speak with forked tongues.”
Martin confessed, however, that even though he made his decision not to wear the patch even before he finished reading the letter, it was something he continued to think about.
“The flesh wanted me to wear the patch and just go on fishing, but I didn't think that's what the Lord would want me to do,” he said. “I had some problems with alcohol years ago, and the Lord took that away from me. I never felt like I was an alcoholic, but the problems I had in my life then were all related to the alcohol. I just didn't think I could sleep at night if I wore that patch.”
Most importantly, Martin did not want to do anything that would hurt his testimony as a Christian.
“In my heart, I knew that if I >put that Busch beer patch on I would jeopardize my testimony. Our job is to bring others to know Christ, and I don't know how that is going to help me do that. I've done enough I'm not proud of, but I'm not going to do any others that I can help. I've got too many black marks already.”
Martin's decision to reel himself in has not been painless. With the decision not to fish BASS tournaments, he lost about $100,000 in sponsorships this year.
“It has cost us a lot of money, but Scripture tells us he'll open doors and provide for us, and he does,” Martin said.
One of those doors God has opened for Martin is providing time to lead his congregation, Highway 259 Baptist Church, in constructing a new sanctuary.
“The Lord knows a lot more about what's going on than we do,” he said. “If it hadn't been for this, I wouldn't have had as much time to help with the building.”
If he has a little more time to give to his church, his church also has given him support during this time.
“Your church family gives you strength, and my church family has been a big asset to me while I've been going through this,” Martin said.
He said his pastor, Garrel Faulkner, didn't tell him what he should do, but asked him two questions–“Are you living for God, or are you living for BASS?” and “Are you willing to compromise?”
While Martin decided his walk with Christ wouldn't allow him to compromise, he doesn't belittle the Christians still on the BASS tour who elected to wear the Busch patch.
“I feel like a lot of them wear the patch because of the financial aspect, but they don't feel good about it because they pull that sticker off their boats as soon as it comes out of the water. They don't even want to pull their boat home with it on there,” he said.
After 20 years on the BASS tour, Martin said he feels like he's starting all over again, establishing himself on a new tour and finding new sponsors. But with his cattle and a few other things he has going, he believes he'll survive.
At least his witness remains intact, he said, which is important to someone who sees his job as reeling in the really big ones.
“The Lord has used me to witness to a lot of men,” he said. “While you're out in a boat, they pretty much have to listen to you. If I was wearing that patch, I just don't think my witness could have been as strong.”