It risks stating the obvious but engagement in mission is part of discipleship. That’s to say that because we are followers of Jesus we will participate actively in his ministry; not least because he calls us to.
Preaching from Luke 5, where Jesus calls the first disciples after their all night fishing trip had caught nothing I was struck by three things which might help us in our mission engagement.
First, Simon and the others had an encounter with Jesus. All missionary endeavour starts with a God encounter, in this case an encounter with the power of God. The gospels suggest that Simon and the others knew who Jesus was before this event, so he was not a total stranger. Nevertheless this encounter was life changing because not only did Jesus instruct them to do something which made no sense to these experienced fishermen, but they responded to Jesus by doing what he said. They put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch. Mission requires us to be listening to Jesus and responding to what he says; it grows from trust and discipleship. In our situation mission almost certainly involves taking risks, putting out into the deep, and doing things in new (counter intuitive) ways.
Second, Peter recognises God’s activity in Jesus and his own sinfulness. In the larger unfolding of Luke’s gospel this helpfully opens up Jesus’ ministry of forgiveness which culminates in the cross, but Peter’s reaction is a reminder that the ways of Jesus are different and so we see Peter moving from just knowing about Jesus and obeying what he says to repenting and believing in Jesus. Peter’s response sets him on a trajectory of holiness, becoming like Jesus.
We too are called to holiness, we too are called to be followers. Left to our own devices we become followers of our culture, but Jesus wants us to follow him. The question is are we being disciple by Jesus or disciple by the culture. Our culture seeks to move us from faith to doubt, with its growing distrust for faith and preference for atheism. It moves us from love to insecurity with its focus on performance. It bends us from community to individualism, not least by robbing us of our roots and through the break down of family. It exhorts us to go from contributing to consuming, the emphasis is on what we can get out of life not what we can put in. And ultimately, this lack of a still centre in our lives moves us from rest to exhaustion.
And culture matters. We are all products of our culture and whether in the UK or globally, mission necessitates reaching out to others whose culture is different and being aware of our own biases and how they shape us enables us to be more sensitive to the things that shape other people.
Third, Jesus commissions Peter and the others – go and capture others alive. To swap catching dead fish for catching people and giving them freedom. To leave all they have valued and live out this new relationship as followers of Jesus. We can be tempted just to skip straight to the end of this encounter and the call to go fishing for people but it is the encounter with Jesus and the recognition of holiness that really make this a foundation for mission. Going fishing isn’t just to get involved in any activity but is a deliberate change of life and values; it is to join the missional community that Jesus builds around him and share in Jesus’ ministry.
And if you want to know how I turned these thoughts into a sermon – have a listen here….