Fishing for people requires intentional relationships.
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Matthew 4.19 ESV). This was the invitation Jesus gave to His first followers. They had spent their entire lives learning from their fathers how to fish for a living. Now, Jesus was inviting them to fish for men. He was calling them to a greater purpose, an eternal vision.
As soon as they accepted the invitation, Jesus launched them out on six “fishing trips,” where they could watch the Master at work, fishing for people. Those six encounters are carefully recorded for us in Luke 4 and 5. Following is a brief summary:
- Luke 4.31-36: Jesus heals a man with a demon in the synagogue.
- Luke 4.38-41: Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and others from the village come for
healing and ministry.
- Luke 5.1-11: Jesus performs a miraculous catch where Peter is working.
- Luke 5.12-14: Jesus heals a leper.
- Luke 5.17-25: Jesus heals a paralyzed man brought by his four friends.
- Luke 5.27-30: Jesus calls Levi and reaches out to his lost friends.
Over the many times, I’ve read these passages, I’ve noticed a few things. First, in every one of the situations, Jesus is doing the main work while His followers are “shadowing” Him. They are watching and observing how Jesus encounters different kinds of people in various situations. This tells me that the art of encountering people is more “caught than taught.” It’s really important to have someone model for you how to reach out and encounter people in various situations.
Second, every one of these encounters happened in the areas where Jesus’ disciples actually lived. They didn’t have to go on a mission trip to some foreign land to encounter people who needed God’s love. Those people were right there, literally under their noses.
One day while studying these six encounters with a group of men, we started to write on the board what would be the modern-day equivalent to these environments Jesus utilized. The man healed in a synagogue would be equivalent to someone we know from church. The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law might be like someone who is hurting in our own family. The miraculous catch at Peter’s worksite, and Levi including his old business associates, could be like reaching out to a co-worker. The healing of the leper could be people who are marginalized by society, such as the sick, elderly or homeless. The paralyzed man helped by his friends could represent our friends who need Jesus. Our list on the board looked something like this:
Jesus started with the places they were already going to and with the people already in their lives. This is a good place for you to start. Stop right now and think about the people you know who are in these five categories. Who at work or in your family is far from God? Who was visiting your church that you haven’t seen in a while? Are you unclear about any of your friends’ spiritual condition? Where could you go to encounter people on the margin who need help and hope?
Next, let’s get really practical. Right now, start making a list of people God brings to your mind. Write down their names. Do your best to come up with five people. You don’t have to have one from each category. There may be several from one category and none from another. There may be someone who doesn’t fit into any of these categories, but as God brings them to mind, write them down. From this point forward, we will call this your “Top Five” list.
You may be thinking, “Why do I have to make a list?” Over the years I have discovered that when I have a list of people that God put on my heart, I am more likely to pray for them and intentionally reach out to them. If I don’t have a list of names in front of me on a regular basis, they quickly fade from my mind and attention. Making a “Top Five” list means that you are prioritizing living on mission. (Note: I’d like to thank my friend, Dann Spader, for showing me the importance of these six fishing expeditions. This has been a game-changer for me.)
Written by Craig Etheredge
Photo credit: Robson Hatsukami Morgan