Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fishing for a Calling

I don’t know about you, but I always get hung up on Jesus’ call to follow him and be a “fisher of men” (Mark 1:17). I am by no means an evangelistic superstar. I struggle to be out of myself reaching out to strangers and have a hard time raising the topic in the relationships I have. I always seem to be looking for a reason to let someone else do it or rationalize my personal ministry as being in some way different. At the same time I have the underlying conviction that my ministry is where I am- that the Kingdom of God, expressed through living a Christ-like life, loving and serving, and sharing the Gospel, is not limited to formal titles, organizational structure, or calendar events. In other words, we shouldn’t wait for a formal church program to appear on our calendar before we minister to others.

(As an aside, when I was at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a pastor and he asked if I was in ministry. I told him no, but I did lead a small group and he answered “well that’s ministry.” And he’s right, though I often forget that.)

Despite this conviction, I struggle with identifying myself as a “fisherman”. In Jesus’ day the young men that he would eventually call to follow him fished on the Sea of Galilee by casting nets over the side of their boats. Me, I drop a worm in the creek and wait all day for a nibble.

But I read this yesterday from Jamie Arpin-Ricci in his book The Cost of Community: When Jesus called his first followers, he “encounter[ed] them in the midst of their daily work, [calling] them to follow him and employ their skills for God’s kingdom.” (pg 27) He called fishermen to be fishers of men. Of course I knew this and understood the intentional play on words, but I never extrapolated that to my own life. I have always read this as I am called to be a fisher of men regardless of my daily work.

But if I take Jesus as meeting me where I am (and Paul talks about continuing where we are when we are called) then Jesus isn’t calling me to be a fisher of men and he’s not calling you to be one either.

That may be sacrilegious to hear, but it is true. Jesus isn’t calling me to be a fisher of men because I’m not a fisherman. If you are a teacher, Jesus is calling you to be a teacher of the Gospel. If you work with your hands, Jesus is calling you to build his Kingdom. If you are in the service industry, Jesus is calling you to serve his children. (This has shades of what Paul writes in Romans 12, “If you teach… if you serve...”)

Jesus is calling you to a metaphor for his Kingdom work that is specific to you.

So where does that leave me? I’m an engineer by trade so am I engineering God's Kingdom? I cannot say I am a ‘designer’ as I cannot improve God's perfect design. I can’t say I am a ‘problem solver’ for it is too easy to turn that into an excuse for inaction. I guess I could call myself a 'developer of disciples'. That would fit with what I do on this blog, in my small group, and in my limited free time.

Arpin-Ricci continues, “Just as he called his disciples amid their workplaces, so too he expects that we respond to his calling as our first priority. It is not enough to merely make room for Jesus in our lives, not enough to be volunteers in his mission when we have the time or the inclination. Rather he calls us to follow him, to utilize all of our strengths, gifts and resources for our truest vocation – ambassadors of his emerging kingdom.”

Yesterday Grayson Pope urged not to let our "wiring" keep us from our calling. Could it be that what has been holding me back was simply semantics?


K. Rex Butts said...

When we learn how to think vocationally about the kingdom of God in our own vocations and life, we'll be "fishers of men" more so then we'll ever be by door-knocking or some church evangelistic strategy.

TheTwelve said...

O.K. I like that.

Fatha Frank said...

Rex, you've got that right. This also relates to the "radical" debate- you don't need to quit your job and move to a third-world country to be "missional" so long as you view where you are as your own personal mission field.

Alexander, thanks for visiting and I'm glad you like the post! Come back anytime