Sunday, May 28, 2006

Fishers of Men-part 1

18 ¶ And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22

Jesus keeps the analogy overly simple for us about making His disciples fishers of men. However, in my opinion, it seems to be misunderstood by so many people. The illustrations based on this passage usually go something like this: “We need to be fishers of men. To be effective fishermen we need to have a good fishing rod, we need to use the right kind of bait, and we need to reel those unbelievers in! [And most of the time, there is an emphasis on ‘bait’]. We must change the bait from time to time because our culture changes.”

The phrase ‘fishers of men’ is the only part of this passage that I hear any more. It is lifted out and a whole new system is born that was never meant to be. Instead of the ‘local church’ being a place where believers gather for discipleship, Bible Study, edification, and personal ministry to those who lack in any area, it has turned into a ‘fishing hole’. The idea is to get as many unsaved or ‘unchurched’ people into the congregation by baiting them with something they like, then reel them in with the gospel show. But very few of us see this as a problem because we are a part of the system; and, it works so well. The end justifies the means. People are saved; so, it must be right.

By accepting this concept, we now have an open license to become like the world…but only if we are trying to catch fish. I have seen it often and have been guilty myself. To be ‘relevant’, we change our hair color/style, grow facial hair or shave, wear the latest style clothes, use lots and lots of technology, etc. One of my favorites is the ‘stool and table’ that many speakers have gone to. Why? It depends on who you ask. You will get varying answers, but the consistent theme is ‘relevance’. A large number of books have been written devoted to this cause. There was (and I think still is) a periodic magazine called “Relevant”. I know, I used to read some of these things. In fact, it easily got to the point where a I was spending more energy learning the ‘how to’s’ rather than “Following”.

This particular passage, and how we use it, is a great example of how much we lack in our personal Bible knoweldge and/or conviction; which I believe is our biggest problem today. Ministers who are gifted in teaching the Bible have even abandoned their gift in order to be relevant or to preach a relevant message... and we will contiue to do so because being relevant increases attendance; and, this will push all of our ‘self’ buttons.We have developed a church culture where we spoon or bottle feed the congrgation at best.

In fairness, I must say two things: First, I don’t have all the answers and I am not sure what to do. And even if I did, I don’t know that I would do it. Right now, I think that I am in a major transition stage of observing, learning, and trying to understand from this new angle that I have found myself in…and I have a very long way to go.
Second, many of these same churches are trying to develop discipleship small groups that meet on Sunday nights or sometime during the week. I understand that Celebrate Recovery is a good discipleship time. I have met a few people that go for the learning and personal ministry, even though they are not ‘recovering’ from anything. Another church that I know have seems to have the small group thing going on. It is their main focus. Build the small groups and, by the way, we can meet on Sundays for large group fellowship. (Most churches have the opposite approach—build the large gathering, then get them plugged in to small groups. The problem is that if you baited them to church, you have to bait them to discipleship.) It seems that in the Biblical New Testament Church, it was meant to be a gathering of Jesus Followers, not a fishing hole.

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