It’s hard to say what most of us expected when we first started following Christ. Certainly there are a number of glittering promises. And then there are some “brown” ones–less shiny, it seems, to the disinterested reader, but incredibly important to those of us who look for purpose in Christ.
Scared of Fishing
Jesus said that He would make His disciples “Fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). “Fishers” in that verse is a metaphor related to preaching the gospel, catching people out of the perishing world, and influencing them to follow Christ. There’s not one thing more significant to a life than being caught for Him. But for years as a less experienced Christian, whenever I heard the charge to fish for souls, a jolt of dread ran through my body. Talking to people about Christ was for those who had graduated to some mystical level of maturity. It was for folks who stood on soapboxes and shouted at crowds while tomatoes whisked past their heads. It was for people who were willing to travel great distances and risk being shot by rebels packing AK-47′s.
Preach the gospel? No thank you. Unfortunately, that’s where many Christians end up–as fishermen who are scared of fishing.
When we pay closer attention to the strategic plan of Jesus, which He laid out in Acts 1:8, it provides us some needed recalibration: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Observe the order in the verse. It starts with witnessing to people in Jerusalem and then progresses to the end of the earth. Today we have a habit of obeying this verse backwards, starting at the end of the earth with people we don’t know. It’s as though if you want to get serious about the gospel, the process begins in faraway lands, eating things you only see on the Travel channel. Jesus didn’t start there. He said to begin in Jerusalem.
Fishing Where You Are
Jerusalem signifies that which we know, the people we relate to on a daily basis. Everyone has a Jerusalem. It doesn’t rate any glamorous testimonies, but it still requires guts to witness there. Our Jerusalem is populated with the folks we would rather avoid when it comes to the subject of Christ. It’s the relative with the barbed sense of humor who knows how to belittle your faith with one liners. Or it’s the best friend who is indifferent to the state of his soul, and would rather talk about the weather in Timbuktu than the gospel. It could be the neighbor who has been so programmed by anti-Christian rhetoric that she becomes belligerent every time anything remotely religious appears on the radar. The gospel is never without some degree of awkwardness. Still, the Jerusalem principle means you won’t need to relocate or learn another language or eat anything more exotic than cheeseburgers in order to share Jesus with people. They are, after all, your people.
Unsung Gospel Heroes
The church has always celebrated the faithful who uproot themselves and their families and relocate for the sake of the gospel in foreign locales. I think this honor is justified. However, I believe the unsung heroes of evangelism are the countless plain Joe and plain Jane Christians who start fishing where they are and talk to a coworker or roommate or relative.
Who Thanks God for You?
There was a time when I was part of some Christian’s “Jerusalem.” Charlie offered me a gospel tract in 7th grade. Debbie expressed concern for my soul in high school. Mr. Barton my drafting teacher told me he’d pray for me. An army chaplain unfolded the gospel of salvation to me. Another guy told me to go to church. Also of course, there was mom and dad. Each one of them I either ignored or laughed at. The sum total of their witness however, was my final capitulation to faith in Christ. They were all my missionaries. I’m thankful for them every day. But that’s not enough. I can’t stop with merely thanking God for other fishermen. None of us can. We should hope that sooner or later someone will be thanking God for us and for our faithfulness in the New Testament fishing ministry.
New King James Version
Matt. 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Visit the audio file “Starting Where You Are” under the series entitled “Fishers of Men.”
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