14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to the Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the reign of God has come near; repent, and trust in this good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—because they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As Jesus went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and James’ brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately Jesus called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired workers, and followed Jesus.
Please pray with me this morning, church:
God of Hope,
You invite us to enjoy the riches
Of your abundant goodness.
Help us to invite others to encounter your grace.
Give us words to share.
I have a tricky relationship with fishing.
I guess I always kinda have.
My problem is that I’m just not very good at it. Like, I think that I just don’t, like, get it. It’s not really my speed.
Right. That’s the one. It’s not really my speed.
And truthfully, I am not taking anything away from those of y’all that like to fish. I’m glad for you. I’m glad you like it. I’m ecstatic that it’s your thing. It’s just…it’s not mine.
It’s not really my speed because I don’t exactly have the patience required, I don’t think. I get antsy after a few minutes. But like, this is not fishing’s fault…I had the same problem with baseball when I was little. I tried to like baseball…I really did…I just got bored standing out there in right field. I’d drift away, daydreaming about something else, and totally just miss the very catchable and very playable ball that would land like, right beside me. I was kind of like Smalls from The Sandlot. Coordinated, but just not there. I’d lose interest. …Soccer was more my speed…
But it’s important to know that what we think of as a leisure activity was not what Simon, Andrew, James, and John were doing. These are 2 very different types of fishing. Rather than fishing for enjoyment, these folks along the Sea of Galilee are fishing for their livelihoods. This is the clothes on their backs and the food on their tables. This is their work. And so when Jesus calls them away from that…particularly James and John, being called away from their father, Zebedee, and the other hired workers…Jesus isn’t just messing with their work and their money…Jesus is sticking his nose into the family business…Jesus is mucking things up for Zebedee and his fishing enterprise…this is a problem…
And the way they were fishing was different, too. We think of bait and hooks and sinkers and bobbers. Fishing for fun is about the leisure of it…kicking back and taking your time, no rush… Fishing for your livelihood is about getting as much as you can as quickly as you can. They were using nets, dragging the water, trying to get as much fish as they could get. There’s skill involved, but honestly, it’s kind of ham-handed…you throw the net out, and you bring the net back in…then you throw it out again and bring it back in again, over and over. Hardly leisure.
It was back-breaking work, and so it’s not really a big surprise that Simon, Andrew, James, and John take Jesus up on his offer. “Yeah, sure…I’ll leave this behind to go and follow you, doing whatever it is you’re doing. Seems reasonable…”
But Jesus still extended the invitation. It wasn’t that Jesus was just so charismatic and people were just drawn to him…Jesus extends the invitation to these fishers, “Follow me.” Like we heard last week, “Follow me.”
God’s reign is at hand…repent…turn around…and trust…and follow…
In my heart of hearts, I wish it were that simple.
I wish invitation were that easy. I wish that the work of church were as uncomplicated as turning, trusting, and following a new way.
I wish it were quick…like throwing a net off a boat and hauling in a bunch of fish. I wish it didn’t require me to have patience.
I struggle with patience…as you probably heard me say earlier… I want this pandemic to be over with. Like, yesterday. I want to go to restaurants and travel and gather together with people again. I struggle with the fact that things sometimes take a bit longer…
Church is slow work. It takes time and care. C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison in their book Slow Church talk about the need for churches to be rooted deeply in their places. And that rootedness takes time. It takes time to grow deep roots that extend far outward. It takes time to nurture relationships in your community. It takes time to cultivate meaningful ministry in your neighborhood.
I want church growth to be a quick thing…like there’s some kind of switch I can flip and all of a sudden we’ve got hundreds of new members and a gajillion new ministries…just like that… But that, too, takes time.
And it also requires invitation.
I wonder, church…who invited you to New Hope…?
Think back…think about when you came to New Hope, whether it was 40 years ago or 4 years ago or 4 months ago when you joined us online…who invited you?
Unless you’re one of the very few who have been here as long as New Hope and you were invited by Pastor Ed Steinbring or Pastor Steve Quill, it’s much more likely that you were invited by someone else. A friend. Someone you trust.
And you accepted that invitation because you trusted that person.
And you’re still here…
43% of visitors to church came because someone invited them. A personal invitation from someone they know and trust.
Less than 10% came because they saw an advertisement. Over 90% visited your website before either showing up at the Sanctuary or joining you for worship online.
The overwhelming majority of people found their way here because someone invited them.
So who have you invited, church?
This isn’t a rhetorical question, think about it, write it down, pray about it this week: Who have you invited?
And who might be waiting on an invitation from you? Who can you invite?
Because here’s the thing, I can make cold calls through the phone book all month, but they don’t have a reason to visit because they don’t know me. Your friends and neighbors know you, church. Your invitation means something.
It’s slow work…it’s work that is formed out of trusting relationships…but you are called to this work of invitation. If you want to see new people, you have to invite them.
And truthfully, it’s never been easier. Invite your friends to worship with you…I say it every week in my announcements…it’s literally as simple as sharing a link on your Facebook page or in an email. Better yet, set up a Zoom meeting or a facetime…and worship together. Sing together, pray together, share a meal together… Be the church, church.
I know folks who, when the chance comes up, on their neighborhood Facebook page, they make it a point to tell people where they go to church and what they’ve found at New Hope—what they enjoy about New Hope.
What have you found here at New Hope, church?
Who are you going to share that with?
“But all my friends already go to church, PC. It’s no use inviting them.”
You never know until you extend the invitation. Maybe they do…but maybe they’re open to looking… Simon, Andrew, James, and John weren’t necessarily looking either…but they still followed…
I know you don’t like the “e”-word, but it’s just true, church, you are all evangelists. You are the ones sent out to do the inviting. You are the ones sustained, uplifted, encouraged, and sent out into the world to be the hands and feet of Christ…to invite the whole world to experience that same freedom and healing and restoration that you’ve found here.
It’s guaranteed to be slow work.
But you’d be surprised what happens when you start casting your net.