How Quickly Should Those Who Follow Learn to Fish?

Thursday is for Discipleship

How quickly did Jesus expect those who believed in him or those whom he touched to begin to tell others about him to others?  

One of my former students (Matt) put it this way: “’Follow me’ – that’s discipleship. ‘and I will make you fishers of men’ – that’s the direction Jesus takes all true disciples.” The question is how quickly is this direction actualized? or maybe a better question is “how quickly SHOULD that direction be actualized.”

I think our experience in the American church leads us down the path of thinking that there is a delay between conversion and fishing. There is a tendency for us to think that witnessing for Christ to others is some how a mature disciple activity, something that doesn’t happen right a way. 

But … A close reading of the gospels indicates that the disciples are being sent out to do what Jesus did, very early in their time with him. A close reading of the book of Acts and the first and second missionary journey’s of Paul reveals that Timothy was gossiping the gospel all over a 50 mile area within months of his conversion. 

And just to emphasize the point… Woman at the well, instantly. Demoniac, instantly. Roman centurian, instantly. 

I’m not denying a process in becoming a fisher of men, I’m just saying that mature discipleship always yields a gospel telling man or woman. Compelled by the beauty of the gospel, the needs of others and most of all, the command of Christ, to tell others, rescued people tell others about their rescue. It doesn’t take as long as some people say. And when the process is drawn out too long it actually hinders spiritual growth.

The woman at the well, the centurian, and the demoniac knew very little, but what they knew was their story and their encounter with Jesus and they were all released to go and tell that to anyone that would listen. 

Length and maturity and depth of growth in the grace and knowledge of God should deepen our zeal to proclaim, but it does not follow that those who know little cannot tell what they do know effectively.  Let’s expect more from young converts and while we are at it, let’s expect a lot more from those who are “more mature” as well.

2 thoughts on “How Quickly Should Those Who Follow Learn to Fish?

  1. Several years ago a friend offered to teach me fly-fishing and I jumped at the chance. We began the first afternoon with me standing in a stream with a pole in my hand and Ace beside me, coaching my casts. I was fishing for trout from the very beginning. The fact that I did not catch one that afternoon is immaterial, I had a wonderful time with a very good friend and the memory endures.

    Looks to me like Ace was using the same approach that Jesus used in John 1:35-51. Those few verses cover a three or four day time span. Andrew and Phillip went fishing immediately.


  2. I brought this comment stream over from facebook. Kevin Tupper is a former member of a church I pastored, now engaged in a house church in VA. Kevin writes:

    “Do you see a distinction between witnessing and making disciples?

    In what ways do you see Jesus calling of the 12 and making them ‘fishers of men’ and his commission to make disciples emphasized in the epistles?

    Recently my experience has been that people already think they know all about Jesus, especially ‘Christians.’ But conversations about how our lives demonstrate a false view of the gospel and the world seem to be effective. (16 hours ago)

    Me: I don’t like the word witnessing. It has too many pejorative connotations of button-holing people in uncomfortable, can’t escape situations.

    I don’t think you see a lot of emphasis in the epistles because you don’t need to emphasize what people naturally do because it is normative in their experience. Telling others about Jesus, telling others what Jesus meant to you, introducing others to the person of Jesus was the normative experience of first century Christians. How do we know? Read the book of Acts. Acts spans the time frame of the Epistles. It is the window of how they lived in the world from the beginning of any individual fellowship.

    In addition, I think sometimes we don’t see some of the things in the epistles because we are looking for the wrong things or the wrong terms. It is as if we are color blind and someone told us to look for all the green verses. But green to us is red, so we miss all the signs. How many people look at Philemon 4-7 and see “witnessing” but I think that is exactly what Paul is talking about. He is thrilled that Philemon tells others about Christ and knows that the knowledge that Onesimus has come to faith will be persuasive and powerful.

    I like what you are doing in your conversations. I think it is a great way to go for the reasons that you mentioned–people do have many false notions about what the gospel is. Part of what I am trying to point at is that those kind of authentic, honest conversations are exactly what we need to do more of, all of us.

    At the same time, we need to move the conversation from data about Jesus to showing them Jesus in our lives in such a way that they see his beauty, love and justice. Hope that helps. [3 hours ago]

    Kevin responds: Thanks. That makes a lot of sense to me Marty.

    Would you describe that as what some have referred to as lifestyle evangelism? That’s a far cry from the pejorative connotations that are stirred up in most peoples minds when they think of witnessing, evangelism explosion, and so forth.

    Do you see a difference between that type of evangelism you are describing and disciple making? I don’t in the sense that these are people I would have a somewhat consistent context for relationship with. which is needed for disciple making or discipleship.

    The people who are particularly gifted at it would be considered evangelists, but that doesn’t preclude all of us from participating.

    If Jesus is real and makes a difference in life, how can we not express it in one form or another to those around us? In my understanding the gospel, it isn’t about telling people how they can live in the kingdom of God (heaven) when they die, but how they can do so now and make sense of life here, today.

    ‎”At the same time, we need to move the conversation from data about Jesus to showing them Jesus in our lives in such a way that they see his beauty, love and justice. Hope that helps.”

    I love it. Most of the people I encounter have heard the datapoints. They have no reason to believe them until they encounter someone who has died and now lives (I mean really lives) in Jesus.


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