My dad turned 65 this week. When I talked to him on his birthday, he said he was going to get his fishing license. Apparently, in Iowa, when you turn 65 you get a free fishing license that never expires! I don’t know if it will ever entice him to retire, but at least he’s thinking about relaxing some.
Some of my favorite memories are fishing with my dad when I was a kid. It was just one of those things that we did. After work, on the weekends. My dad would just grab the tackle box and pole and say we were going fishing. I enjoyed fishing. I loved catching fish, but I hated baiting the hook or actually having to touch the fish. I still am not so good at that part.
My brother, loved fishing. He spent most of his money on tackle and equipment. When he turned 16 he got a DNR map of the state and was told to have fun. Fishing is one of those things that requires intentionality, it requires the right equipment, it requires a willingness to do what it takes, and it requires patience.
But many of you know, when the conditions come together, there is no better way to spend your afternoon. I’m looking forward to a little fishing next week as we go up to Josiah’s family cabin for a few days.
Fishing is one of those important metaphors in the Bible. When Jesus first called his disciples, he called fishermen. He called fishermen who were fishing for their very survival, it was their job. He called them and said, you are fishing for fish now, but if you follow me, I will make you fishers of people. Let’s go fishing, he said.
This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He began with asking his followers to seek out new followers.
Today, our scripture focused on one of his last teachings, but the message is the same. “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus tells us to go and make disciples, new disciples. And then help them to become part of the church, baptize them. And keep doing it, to the end of the age… Go fishing!
He didn’t say go build buildings and stay in them. He didn’t say bring together a few people that you know and like and hang out together once a week. He didn’t say get in the boat and stay in the boat and procreate so the boat stays full. He said go… go fishing!
Over the next few weeks we are going to talk about the purpose of the church and the mission that has been given to us… to go and make disciples.
Today we are going to talk about the Call.
Our call is pretty clear, go make disciples, baptize them, and don’t stop.
The first part of this call is that we are to go out and find people who are not already following Jesus. We are to be replicating the process of becoming Christ followers. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a mandate. Go out… tell people, invite people, serve people, love people. Go and show them Jesus.
“Preach the Gospel always, if necessary, use words.” I love this quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. But showing people Jesus, introducing people to Jesus, inviting people to know Jesus happens in various ways. It’s not enough to sit in your job, sit at school and just hope people notice that you are different… we are to intentionally go out and make disciples. This means engaging with people. Talking to people.
You probably don’t know this about me, but I am naturally an introvert. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but when I am put next to an extrovert, it is very clear. I have to go out of my way, make an effort to talk to a stranger. But I do it, I do it because Jesus tells me to do it. When I’m at Target and I see that mother struggling with her crabby toddler, or at the pool and I notice someone reading a book that I’ve read, or when I’m at the coffee shop and I have time while the barista makes my coffee… I push myself to start a conversation. And if the conversation can lead to a discussion about VBS or my weekend plans, or my job, or my busy summer… I try to invite, bring about an opportunity to tell someone that I am a Christian and I love my church.
Make disciples… Go fishing!
This fall, we are going to be working on inviting, creating opportunities to invite. This last week, that was the challenge to the kids at VBS, invite a friend! They did just that. The first day we had just under 40 kids, the second day we had 50! Imagine if that happened here! Attendance went up by 25% overnight! This fall we are going to strategically create opportunities to make the invitation a little easier. Our fall kickoff will be an outdoor church service, Cowboy Church. We will worship outdoors, have a meet and greet with our Sunday School teachers, and follow service with a Cowboy Cookout.
Our sermon series this fall will be Church 101. Just in time for the start of the school year, we will focus on why we come to church and explain some of the traditions and practices that maybe we just do, without really knowing why we do them. Like what’s that light about that doesn’t go out, or why does the cross say IHS, or what’s with the candles, or why do we take offering, where did these hymns come from… If you’ve been going to church your whole life or have never been, we will be explaining the very basics of how and why we ‘do church.’
We will have a few key events/gatherings that lend themselves to invitations to neighbors, friends, and family.
I will be challenging you to make disciples, go fishing!
But a disciple is someone who follows, so it doesn’t end with an invitation. Making disciples is really about creating followers. Helping people to really understand what it means to follow Jesus. So we will offer opportunities for small group interaction, Sunday school, worship and outreach all intended to help people, including us, grow in our faith.
Go make disciples, go fishing, and pull the fish into the boat.
Jesus also says that we are to baptize. Baptism is the outward symbol of the covenant. It is that public proclamation of our faith and hope. It is the covenant between God and an individual or parents, but it is also a covenant with a community. It is the mark of joining a community of faith, it tells the world that not only am I follower of Jesus, but I am part of this community called the church. It is the mark of a people, a symbol of a new identity.
Baptize them, so they can go fishing!
Everywhere you go across America; there are little churches like this one that dot the fields, the crossroads, small towns and even urban centers. Methodist churches founded after the passion for invitation exemplified in John Wesley. Wesley was passionate about the invitation. But once the invitation was made, it was all about sanctification, the growth, discipleship of the people.
This is one of those churches, created to provide a place for invitation and discipleship. It is all at once our history and our legacy. Just like John Wesley was called and later, Jacob Emery, who founded this church, was called to go make disciples, we are called to go make disciples. And keep fishing, keep going… to the end of the age. Jesus is with us to the end of the age.
We are called to go fishing, so let’s go fishing.
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