ne of my earliest memories is of a group of men from my dad's church being almost drowned on a deep sea fishing trip. I barely remember the folks gathering to pray, and the joy when we heard that the guys had survived. I also recall how the wives all got promises that their husbands would never go deep sea fishing again; but they did. They excused it by dramatizing how much they loved to fish and how many of the Apostles were fishermen. My dad took the side of the wives by reminding the church that Jesus had called Peter, James and John to put aside their nets and to become fishers of folks.
Most folks enjoy fishing. It is said that more money is spent on fishing than for any other sport. That may sound hard to believe but just think about it, nearly everyone has a few fishing poles, a box of lures and plastic worms. Then recall all of the boat trailers you see headed to the lakes each weekend. At times I have loved fishing too much. As a young pastor I found myself at Lake Avondale one afternoon casting with an expensive bait casting reel when I looked up and saw a neighbor pastor drive by who was obviously out caring for his flock. Yet, after all these years of freedom from my "addiction," I am still a little bit afraid to go fishing because I might get back into it too much and forsake my calling as a "fisher of men, women, boys and girls."
Jesus must have sensed that Simon Peter, James and John were afraid: "Fear not (Jesus said); from henceforth thou shalt catch men (persons). And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him." (v. 10, KJV).
Our three Apostles had not been sport fishermen. Fishing had been their livelihood as partners with their father in the "Zebedee & Sons Fishing Co." In order to follow Jesus they were giving up their jobs. This was their identity and way of life. Then along came Jesus by the sea and called them to exchange fishing for fish for fishing for folks. Jesus was asking them to "to catch people alive," (NRSV). Jesus' challenge was for them to become engineers in building the Kingdom of God.
If you have ever faced a career change, either by your choice, or by your employer's "downsizing," you know that on a scale of 1-10 a job change can evoke a high level of anxiety. This is especially true if you are in mid-life, as were the Apostles. Anyone setting out on such uncharted waters would have experienced a certain amount of natural fear.
My calling was as not fearsome for I was too young to be afraid; and then also, I had no plan prior to my call to preach. I was only a sophomore in college. I was at that ripe stage in life where I was looking for a path.
It was on February 15, 1966, that Jesus got into my boat and asked me to push out into the deep water and to let down my nets. My call was not unlike the call of the fishermen by the lake. It was not much different from every believer's call to follow Him. We are individual persons and God's plan for our lives is not the same size coat off the department store rack, but is tailor made just to fit us. He considers our aptitudes and, our gifts and graces, and backgrounds. He has a unique plan for every one of us. There is something special for us to do in his Kingdom and He will work things out to put us in just that right spot.
Simon Peter, James and John immediately, "left everything and followed him." (v.11). But not everyone who follows Him has to leave their jobs. Sometimes one's career can enhance one's influence. We have all known Christian teachers, doctors, lawyers, and business persons who have been able to smoothly tuck their careers into God's plan for their lives. Usually there is no moral conflict between calling and career.
One common thread in all of our tailor made lives, is that we are all called to be evangelists, in one way or another. Many influenced me. Likewise, I have attempted to be a helper to others. We never know what little word might turn a life in the right direction.
C.S. Lewis said to a person that he had led to Christ: "My feeling about people in whose conversion I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and even fear: such as a boy might feel on being first allowed to fire a rifle. Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice."
If we have never been a "Fisher of Folks" we might be a bit fearful, especially if we are not used to speaking to people about serious things. Sure, the extroverted person would have no fear at all, but for many it is a real barrier. Many times the timid person is used the most effectively. Our own church has touted the conversational method of intentionally inviting others to share your joy at your church. This means that the most fearful person can work into a private conversation a subtle hint something like, "You might be interested in maybe visiting my wonderful church with me." Your quiet, but sincere invitation will often win the way. Everybody has some Friend, Relative, Associate, or Neighbor whom you could intentionally invite. Our F.R.A.N. Process of intentional evangelism has given many of you the method through which to fulfill Jesus' calling to become a "Fisher of Folks." And it has worked in that we have had a net gain in membership every year for three years, and won "The Evangelism Award" in our district for 1998. Our hope is that many more of you will feel called to become intentional inviters.
More people are captured by what we are than by what we say. Adults learn to question words but not character. After they come to believe in us then they will trust what we say. People are not chumps; they are not that easily fooled; they can sense the authenticity of the messenger and only then will they listen to the message. It is the power of influence of one seeker to another that remains the way that individuals are won to Christ and find their calling. It is a marvelous experience to be in the midst of the working of the Spirit in a soul. He is calling each of us to assist him in building up His Church, one soul at a time.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor