Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Called to fish

Upon calling his disciples, Jesus told them that he was going to make them “fishers of men.” He told them that he was going to make them into evangelists. We clearly see that evangelism was at the heart of Jesus’ call to his disciples.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." – Matthew 4:19 & Mark 1:17
"Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." – Luke 5:10
What does a disciple of Christ look like? Well, Jesus leads with the value of evangelism. If we are in the business of creating true disciples of Christ, then we will be in the business of making fishers of men – evangelists.

Is this a core value of our churches today? I fear that what we see is a modern church, and now a post-modern church, that downplays and distorts the act of making fishers of men. In fact, evangelism often has a negative connotation. Or, it is considered too challenging for the modern American Christian. The modern model often looks like this: instead of us making you a skilled fisher of men, we will simply encourage you to invite people to church and then we will close the deal. You bring them and we will close them. So, instead of making skilled fisherman, churches are using their congregations as lures.

This isn’t the model Jesus used. Central to his model is making disciples into evangelists. He has called us all to be disciples and told us to go into all the world making disciples. Therefore, he wants all of his followers to be evangelists. We are all supposed to be equipped and ready to boldly proclaim the gospel and fish for men.

You are called by Christ himself to fish. Have you been trained to fish? Are you fishing? Are you training others to fish?

6 comments:

jeff said...

Using the congregation as a lure is very well said. The fastest way to get any professed believer to feel guilt is to bring up evangelism. My favorite excuse is, "It's not my gift." Right, it's not a Christian's gift to tell others about the love of Christ. Nice one.

dlormand said...

Speaking from personal experience, if believers feel guilty around the topic of evangelism, it is probably induced by the message of "duty", how Jesus "calls" and commands all believers to be evangelists. I might point out that all these words that Jesus spoke, He spoke to the 12 Apostles, who witnessed the Resurrection. They had a personal experience to share, not an abstract, theoretical, theological faith message, the "Plan of Salvation", the "Roman Road", the "Four Spiritual Laws", the "Evangelism Explosion" questions, "F.A.I.T.H", etc, that contemporary evangelical rank-and-file people have to deal with. I've just escaped from a church where the clear message from the pulpit was, "If you're not out there winning souls, I have doubts about your salvation."

I think we need to be very careful with our zeal for evangelism, lest we cross the line to legalism again. If we don't have a vital personal experience with God that we are eager to share with others (uncoerced by church leaders), then "Evangelism" will be a counter-productive activity at best. A much better use of our time is to help believers plug into Jesus and experience His love, rather than beat them over the head with the "duty" club.

Eric Jones said...

dlormand,

I understand what you're saying. However, it is only legalism if someone is doing it out of religious duty rather than out of a heart turned to God in faith and sincere love.

I agree that the disciples had some awesome first-hand experiences with Christ. But, we as Christians have also experienced Christ first-hand. Additionally, we also have the Bible and the Holy Spirit which both further embolden our faith.

It is love for God and for others that should drive us to evangelize.

Why wouldn't a follower of Christ want to share with others the transformation they have experienced due to Christ? Why wouldn't they be looking for opportunities to help others experience this same victory, love, freedom, and ultimately salvation?

Teaching people the message of the Bible, even the challenging parts, should not be portayed as beating them over the head with a "duty" club. However, I agree that people could take it too far if they are not delivering the message out of love and from a strict biblical perspective.

dlormand said...

I'd like to point out that in your three recent posts on the subject, it appears that the message is "we are called" (obligated), "we should equip ourselves", "we need to bring in the harvest." Seems like the focus is on us, and our obligations, and our abilities. I'm not picking on you, but this focus seems to be what I'm objecting to in my comment above. Yet your response above changes the focus to God, and what He did for us. I totally agree with the tone of your comment. But it's different than the "standard evangelical church" line from your blog posts.

Just suggesting a possible reaction. Check out my little (?) post at dlormand.us for my analysis of this whole subject, and see where I'm coming from.

I totally agree that the Love of God should drive us, not only to "share", but to LIVE REALITY! Independent of human-focused cheerleading or guilt-tripping from the church. That is religion, and is not different than the convert-making drive of the Muslims or Jehovah Witnesses.

Eric Jones said...

We are called to admonish each other. We are supposed to spur each other on to good works. Being challenged is not a bad thing and it is not a religious thing. I do not rebuke those who encourage me. The Bible is full of challenge and admonition. Jesus commissioned (called) us to go and make disciples; teaching them to obey all he has commanded. He sent his disciples out to bring in the harvest. He called his followers to be fishers of men. Out of a love for the Lord and a heart turned toward him I will follow and obey.

I hear where you are coming from, and agree that the heart must be in a right place. However, I think you need to be careful not to confuse obedience with legalism; and encouragement with rebuke.

Joules said...

I think there's a time to preach the gospel without words and a time to speak out. Asking the Lord for daily wisdom and discernment are helpful. There are relationships I have strained through believing I had to speak out, following a pattern of evangelism that was copying someone else's ideas about how to witness instead of simply and naturally bearing witness to the grace of God operating in my life.