Last week we saw how Jesus nearly sunk some fishermen’s boats with a miracle haul of fish. They were astonished, after a long night of unsuccessfully catching fish. In the brief conversation that Luke records right after this moment, I believe there are four components that are vital for churches that want to make disciples like Jesus did.
- Don’t be afraid
- Follow Jesus
- Catch men
Jesus’ call to us is to be disciple-making churches, but I have to admit that while “make disciples” is just two words, it can be complicated.
So “Where do I begin???”
How do you and I “catch men”?
At this point, the disciples had no idea. They weren’t even disciples, or at least didn’t identify themselves that way.
First of all, Don’t be afraid!
Faith Church has long supported a missionary, Joe Toy, and when I watch him I think “Wow, he has this ‘fisher of men’ thing figured out.” He is bold, smart, funny, creative, and so good in his approach. He is out there on the streets of Philly, at beaches in the summer, at Mardis Gras, and more.
“If that is being a fisher of men,” many of us say, “I’ll never be able to do it.”
But remember these fishermen were regular guys. People like you and I when they started.
Three years of following Jesus later they were ready to take over the ministry Jesus started. They learned from Jesus that they didn’t need to be afraid. You might not be a Joe Toy preaching on the streets of Philly. But as disciples of Jesus you need not be afraid to answer his call to be his disciples right here. He is with you. He says to you and to me as well, “Don’t be afraid!”
Here’s the rub: for those first disciples, during the three years they walked with Jesus, it took a significant commitment to leave and follow.
Those are the second and third words: Leave and Follow.
Some groups in Faith Church have been studying the book Not A Fan which talks about this invitation to discipleship. When Jesus said “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” we approach this different ways. The main idea of the book is that generally Christians falls into either the fan or the follower category. Fans like to watch. Followers actively participate.
When Jesus issues the command to follow him to be his disciples, the author of the book writes, “There is a fear among fans that by going all-in, they’re going to miss out. Fans want to have just enough pleasure without having to risk feeling any pain. We want to enjoy what’s available to us without having to risk sacrifice for it.
“Instead of come after we hold back. It’s not that we don’t want a relationship with Jesus; we do. We just don’t want it to cost us very much. … It’s like a man and a woman who have been dating. Things get pretty serious, and she wants to get married. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her, but he doesn’t want to get married. He’s afraid that if he makes that kind of commitment it will require too much of him or somehow, he’ll miss out on something better. So he makes the suggestion, ‘Hey, why don’t we move in together?’ Translated: ‘How about I get all the benefits of marriage without having to make any of the commitments and sacrifices?’
“That’s the approach fans take. Fans say to Jesus, ‘Hey, why don’t we move in together?’
“There is a satirical magazine called The Door, and it suggests that unmarried couples living together should share the following vows:
“I, John, take you, Mary, to be my cohabitant, to have sex with and to share bills with. I’ll be around while things are good, but I probably won’t be if things get tough. If you should get a cold, I’ll run to the drugstore for some medicine. If you get sick to the point where you can no longer meet my needs, then I’ll have to move on. Forsaking many others I will be more or less faithful to you for as long as it feels good to me. If we should break up, it doesn’t mean this wasn’t special for me. I commit to live with you for as long as this works out.”
“Fans are often guilty of offering these kinds of vows to Jesus. I’ll follow you, as long as things are good and you hold up your end of the deal. I’ll follow you as long as you don’t ask too much of me.”
But it was in those disciples’ best interest to leave their livelihood behind and follow Jesus! I wonder how their wives and kids felt about that? And yet we see from hindsight how clearly right and good it was for them to reorder their lives to follow Jesus in a new and deeper way.
The same goes for us!
What will it look like for you to follow Jesus? Don’t be afraid, Disciples are not just fans, they leave and follow. And finally, the fourth word: Catch others. Be fishers of men.
As followers of Jesus, we have a mission to invite other people become followers of Jesus. I believe this has been a missing component to many Christians’ lives. We learned the “I will make you fishers of men” song as kids, but we rarely take that teaching seriously. Simply put, it is part and parcel of being a disciple that you and I will help other people become disciples.
What will it look like for you to take on the work of a disciple to help other people become disciples? At the outset Jesus gave them a vision for what following him meant. It meant that followers of Jesus get more people to become followers of Jesus. That’s what the fisher of men comment was all about.
Disciples reorder their lives to follow Jesus so that they can help more people follow Jesus!
In 2015, I’m convinced Faith Church needs to simplify our ministries so that we can focus on being a disciple-making church. What about you and your church?
It starts right here with us. It starts by not being afraid, by leaving behind the attitude that says “I’m just a fan”, then by following Jesus into a lifestyle of helping others to be followers.