“And Jesus called out to [Simon Peter and Andrew], ‘Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people.’ And they left their nets at once and went with Jesus.”
– Matthew 4:19-20, New Living Version
Just for the record, I hate moving! And although some say it’s like Christmas when you unpack, I still am not a fan. As I look around our new home and my new office, nothing is the same. I imagine those disciples who left everything behind must have felt the same way – a little overwhelmed, a tad lost, and wondering what is ahead.
While setting up my home office, I found a Sunday School craft that my oldest son had made. By its looks, he was about 6 years old when he made it (Aaron is now 37 and his handiwork has vastly improved!). It is a smiling person with outstretched arms, sitting in a boat. The two popsicle sticks glued to the back of the artwork hold a yellow plastic netting, like the kind you find on frozen turkeys. Obviously, this person is “fishing for people!” It made me smile, and took my mind off the messy unpacking and re-organizing that had consumed me in the move. What struck me about Aaron’s artwork was the large, outstretched arms and the bigger-than-life hands. One hand and arm were even bigger than the body he had drawn! I saw in it a profound statement about “fishing for people”that I am sure Aaron never intended to make: It takes big hands and wide arms to fish for people. Making disciples is not a job for wimps!
Somehow, our modern mainline churches have lost sight of the hard work and high commitment needed to help people come to know and follow Jesus. It is not simply a matter of education and programs; it takes formation. Just as we would never expect people to learn to play basketball by sitting in a classroom and studying a book, neither can we expect disciples to be formed by simply coming to worship or doing a Bible study. We must find ways to actively and holistically engage people (including ourselves!) in the practice of our faith – which includes worship and small groups, but, in fact, is more than that. Jesus engaged his disciples in an intense three-year discipling process, which included a variety of opportunities to practice what he taught. Then he cut them loose, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent them out into the world to do the same thing with other disciples. HOW these disciples discipled others is a source of debate among scholars. THAT they discipled is a fact – or you and I would not be here today!
Over the next several months, I invite you to think about these two questions:
How are we intentionally discipling people to become more Christ-like? How are we fishing for people? In the midst of the messy unpacking of new ministries and re-organizing of current ideas, we cannot lose sight of our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Secondly, I invite you to join me in praying for Ames First United Methodist Church: for our leaders, our ministries, the people who are connected to our congregation, and for those who are not yet here. However we decide to disciple together, I know it is going to take big hands, wide-open arms, and lots of prayer!