Mark 1: 14-20
Prayer: O Lord, open our hearts and minds to the message of your good new, the gospel for everyone. May we not only be hearers but sharers of what we’ve come to know of you. These words speak life. May they speak life to us now. Amen.
Lamar Hunt, the man who started the American Football League and once owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, was walking through his home and came across one of his daughter’s toys. The toy was called a “Super Ball.” In that moment he was given the inspiration for the name of the championship game between his upstart AFL and the old guard National Football League.
“Why not,” he wondered, “call our championship game the Super Bowl?” The name caught on quickly and thus, an American tradition was born.
I read this week about the 1989 MVP of Super Bowl 23: Jerry Rice. There is an interesting story about him. He was the longtime star for the San Francisco 49ers, considered one of the greatest receivers in the history of football; he played for the 49ers for 15 years, 1985 to 2000. He is a famous athlete and you would think he came from some legendary college team but he didn’t. He played for Mississippi Valley State University, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, a virtual unknown.
He was once asked, “Why did you attend a small, obscure university like Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi?” Rice responded, “Out of all the big‑time schools (such as UCLA) to recruit me, MVSU was the only school to come to my house and give me a personal visit.”
The big‑time schools recruited through cards, letters, and advertisements, but only one came to meet him and showed Rice personal attention. It makes a difference in this world to meet people eye to eye and invite them to be a part. As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, the scriptures say, he saw Simon and his brother casting a net into the sea.
He approached them and invited them to be a part. He went a little further and he saw two more brothers: James and John. He went up to them extending the same invitation and they followed. It is the personal touch which attracts us; is it not? Cards and letters are nice and they’re meaningful but they can only do so much. And advertising is so impersonal. But a shake of the hand and a personal touch, it makes the difference.
How can we reach others for Christ? And do it with a personal touch? I believe we can do it by…
I. First, meeting people where they are. As I get older I tend to spiritualize the stories of the bible less and less. I see the practical side to Jesus’ teachings more and more. In the calling of these first disciples, the spiritual interpretation would say, “Jesus is calling the disciples to radical discipleship and a life of suffering.” The practical interpretation says, “The disciples do something radical in quitting their jobs, putting down their nets, but they have no idea what that decision will cost them.
We talked a lot of about this at the Bible Study on Friday of this Sunday’s text. If is most likely that Jesus knew the disciples from before this meeting when Jesus called them to follow him. They grew up in the same region and it makes more sense based on human experience, that they knew Jesus. But the time had come. It was right, and Jesus called them to follow him.
The spiritual interpretation would point out that Jesus calls them out of the world. The practical interpretation would want to add that Jesus meets them where they are. He talks to these fishermen in a language they can understand, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” Is it any wonder then why they left their nets immediately? They had a relationship based on trust.
Effective outreach is not impersonal, but personal, the personal touch of meeting people where they are. Andrew, Peter, James, and John were moved by a God who spoke their language.
I like the example given by James Emery White in his book “Rethinking The Church.” Many of you are old enough to remember the Chevy Nova, a very successful car for Chevrolet for several years. They had such success with it in the States they decided to market the car throughout the world.
In the Latin markets the Car was a complete failure. The research department went to work to figure out why but they remained baffled until one day they discovered the answer. In Spanish the word Nova meant “no go.” No Go! The Chevy No Go!
Purdue Farms had the same problem when they tried to expand their chicken business. Their popular slogan tried to appeal to women by making men prepare a chicken dinner. Do you recall the slogan? It was, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.” Desiring to reach into the Spanish market they translated their slogan and announced to the entire Latino world, “It takes a virile man to make a chicken affectionate.”
Now that’s a personal touch but not the kind I had in mind.
How can we reach others for Christ? We can do it by speaking their language. Understanding their Jobs, taking an interest in their hobbies, speaking to them about their families. We can do it with a personal touch.
II. Second, we should not use canned soul‑winning tactics. If there is anything that is impersonal it is a religious person who tries to coerce someone into a conversion experience. I don’t like the approach where you introduce yourself to someone and then seek to save the soul.
I still remember one time when one of my friends, came to my door and held up four fingers, and asked me, “how many fingers am I holding up?” I looked at him like this is strange, but I answered, “four.” And he then said, “that’s right, and have you heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?” And he went into this canned speech about coming to Christ. And gave me this little pamphlet. This was early in my life, but I was definitely a Christian already.
When Jesus introduced himself to these fishermen he asked them to follow and he would MAKE them fishers of people. He din’t say they would BE fishers of people. They were slowly made into disciples over the course of 3 years. It does not happen over night. It takes time for the Teacher to educate the student. It takes time for the Master to convey his skills to the apprentice. It takes time for the Lord to make these fishermen into disciples. The personal touch takes time. Canned approaches promise success over night but the personal approach takes time.
You will find, if you will try, that the best witnessing happens in passing moments of conversation. In other words, you will do the greatest work for the kingdom in relatively minor ways.
I think of a suburban woman who was playing tennis with her good but quite secular friends. In a conversation between sets she referred to something she had read that morning. It would have been easier for her to say, “I read something this morning.” Instead she simply introduced one word into her conversation. She said, “In my devotional reading this morning.” It was not a major soul‑winning moment.
But it was a true sowing of a seed. By a simple word she made a small motion that opened the door for further conversation.
Unfortunately we have been convinced that we have to say some dramatic far‑reaching thing to impact someone’s life. So what do we do? We say nothing. And we miss the moment when we could have used a personal touch and said some small potentially significant thing.
How can we reach others for Christ? First, meeting people where they are. Second, we should not use canned soul‑winning tactics.
III, Third, you can reach others for Christ by finding your calling. I will be the first to tell you that not everyone is called into the ministry full time but all of us are called to minister to one another whenever and wherever we are.
Take a look at the front of your bulletins. What does it say right under “Pianist, Mary Lu Conley?” Who are listed as “Ministers?” “All who love and service Jesus Christ as Lord.”
That’s right! We are all called to minister. And our ministry changes from time to time, sometimes from moment to moment, or from once stage of life to another.
Andrew was called from his nets and he put them down to follow Christ. A new stage of life was beginning for him. Peter was called away from the fishing trade and he too followed leaving the craft to other capable men. James and John were called from their family trade and they gave up the love of their family for the love of another kind. Each of these were called in a new way. You may be an Andrew; you may be a Peter; you may be a James or John, called from the nets of this workaday world.
But another Andrew today might be asked to pick up his nets and serve Christ in his boat. Another Peter today might be asked to stay and do his work in the market place.
You might be a James or John whom God does not call but of whom God asks stay in the corporate world and make my name known.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is where Jesus tells a man who he has healed to go back home. The man begged Jesus to let him follow but he did not let him, “Go home to your family,” said Jesus, “and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
My friends, I cannot tell you the value of a ministry like that. That one person single handedly changed that town for Christ. He was sent back to be a vivid, walking, living, unanswerable demonstration of what Christ can do for us.
How Do You Know You Are Called? How do know what your calling is? I believe this is how you know: Your calling can be found at the corner of where your desires and the needs of the world intersect.
It’s an age‑old question but a wise minister gave an answer worth pondering. Frederick Buechner, in his book, “Wishful Thinking,” says it well. He says that a good rule for finding one’s vocation is this: Our special mission in our life is usually
A. That which we’d love most to do and
B. It is work that the world most needs to have done.
Work being anything we do, not necessarily a profession we are paid for. It could be delivering meals on wheels or something. But that’s your calling. And if anyone here today is wondering what is your calling, this is how you figure it out.
Buechner says that if we really get a kick out of our work, or some activity we are involved with, we have probably met requirement A, but if that work is writing TV deodorant commercials, chances are we haven’t met requirement B.
If our work or activity is being a doctor in a leper colony, we probably have met requirement B, but if most of the time we are bored and depressed by doctoring, the chances are we have not only bypassed A, we probably aren’t helping our patients much, either.
That’s an extreme example, but you get the idea. Buechner concludes: “The place God calls us to, is the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That’s the personal touch. Meeting people where they are. Speaking simple conversational words in life impacting moments. Finding our calling. That’s how Christ reached the fishermen and that’s how we can reach our community for Christ. Amen.
Prayer: O Lord, help us to understand that we each are called to be ministers, and in our lives to see each day as an opportunity to minister. May we ask each day, “What is God calling me to today?” And may we be open to your Spirit’s leading and the people you bring into our lives. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.