‘To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.‘ – Sir Winston Churchill
We are living in unprecedented times surrounded by so much uncertainty and hopelessness. In this context I believe that there is such a need for the gospel, and now is the time for us to redeem the moment, seize the opportunity to reach the lost, sharing with them the life transforming message of the gospel.
To accomplish this, I believe that there are four key qualities that every evangelist, young and old, wherever they are, needs to have and live out, to be effective in their ministry.
In the gospel of Luke, chapter five, we find an account of Jesus’ call to the early disciples as they were washing their nets after a long night’s fishing in the Lake of Gennesaret. Jesus joins them at the water’s edge and a crowd begins to gather to hear the teacher who taught like no one they had ever heard before and who lived in such a way that it drew them closer and closer to him. They couldn’t get enough of his teaching and ministry.
Within this passage of scripture we find the four qualities that those early disciples needed to become “fishers of men” and I submit to you that we need these same qualities today, to fulfil the Great Commission.
Read: Luke 5:1-11
Quality #1: Availability
Throughout the scriptures we find men and women who made themselves available to the opportunities that God provided that would become their finest hour:
- Noah was asked to build an Ark and he made himself available at great personal cost and humiliation.
- Abraham was invited to go on a journey not knowing the destination, and yet he made himself available.
- Moses was called at the site of a burning bush to go and lead the Israelites out of captivity towards the promised land and even though he was reluctant at first, and made a few excuses, he was available for the task.
- Esther made herself available to speak to the king and that initiated a plan to rescue the Jews from the evil Haman.
- Mary, the teenage mother of our Lord, made herself available after receiving the angelic invitation.
Not only do we find some great examples in the pages of scripture, but also as we look back over history, we see people like Martin Luther who made himself available to initiate the reformation that shook the church and changed its trajectory forever, we see William Wilberforce who stood up against an unjust slavery law, or Mother Teresa of Calcutta who humbled herself to be available for the poorest of poor.
May I encourage you to stop making excuses and urge you to continually make yourself available for the opportunities that God will continue to present.
Quality #2: Faithfulness
After Christ had finished speaking to the crowd he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4) and you can hear the frustration in the reply of Simon: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…”
And to be fair I can’t blame him because I would have reacted in a similar way. I have been working hard, I have even been working smart and yet I have not yielded the necessary results. And maybe as you read this article today you are, or have been, in a similar space as Simon and are just as frustrated because you have tried everything, worked hard, put in an all-nighter, and yet yielded nothing. But my prayer is that our response should be the same as Simon’s, as he shows the quality of faithfulness in his follow up response: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
This is the language of faith “…but because you say so…”
We have received a negative diagnosis and the prognosis does not look favourable …but because you say so…
We have been sharing the gospel in a particular community amongst a certain people group and yet we have not seen a single soul cross the line of faith … but because you say so… we will continue to share.
May we have the faith of the friends who ripped open the roof so that they could get their paralysed friend to Jesus. As we read Mark 2:5 “when he (Christ) saw their faith…” we are inspired to the have the same faith as these men. The type of faith that says, ‘We have tried everything, but we know there is one who can heal, who can set free and who can transform.’ So let’s do whatever it takes to get people to encounter the living Lord and Saviour.
Quality #3: Teachable
In recent years I have come to realise the importance of posture in my faith journey, and one of the key postures that I have learnt is that of a lifelong student; a posture of learning in humility from everyone. As Bill Nye, the science guy, once said, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.”
Consider for a moment the posture of learning that Simon assumes here. After some resistance he gives in and is willing to learn from Jesus. Simon is a fisherman and had probably been one ever since he was young boy. He would have learnt the trade from his father, as was the primary custom of the day, and with that reason in mind, there is a strong possibility that Jesus would have learnt about carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph, for it is recorded in Luke that he was the son of a carpenter.
With this as a background to the engagement between Jesus and Simon you can understand Simon’s frustration at the instruction to let down the nets into deep water. I can almost hear the subtext, “You, the son of a carpenter and a teacher, trying to tell me, a fisherman for the longest time, how to fish?” I can almost hear Peter saying beneath his breath “I’ve got this.” But he allows himself to be teachable and to learn something from someone that he respects and admires.
Quality #4: Responsive
Every encounter with the living God leads to powerful transformation and starts with complete surrender. Simon falls to his knees while still on the boat, pleading with Jesus to get away from him because he is a sinful man. Yet Jesus calls for another, more meaningful response than the one that is drawn by his initial appeal to let down the nets in deeper water.
Before they reach the shoreline, their boats still complete with its overwhelming haul of fish, they receive a two-part challenge from Jesus: firstly, to leave everything and then secondly to follow him, and in return for their positive response, he will make them fishers of men.
They don’t hesitate. They surrender it all, pulling their boats up onto the shore, and leaving everything to follow him.
Pause for a moment and consider their response to his invitation. They don’t call a special meeting, they don’t consult their fellow fishermen, they don’t delay in their response. They leave everything – everything! Remember that both boats were filled to such capacity that they started to sink – from a business perspective this was an unbelievable provision. They could have become the main distribution hub for fish in that region, they could have supplied many Galilean “fish & chip” shops and yielded a great profit, yet we read in Luke 5:11 “they left everything and followed him”.
Today he is making the same appeal to you and me, to follow him, and he will make us fishers of men.
Will you be an evangelist who will be prepared and qualified for what will be your finest hour? Will you make yourself available, will you be faithful, will you have the posture of a lifelong learner, and will you surrender all in response to his invitation?
1. Spend some time reflecting on the four qualities listed above – are there any that you feel particularly stand out as ones which you know you need to grow and mature in?
2. Is there anything you sense the Holy Spirit inviting you to give up, to leave behind, to set down and to let go of, so that you can wholeheartedly follow Jesus?
3. Do you have a time in your life where you now can see that Jesus was shaping you and growing you to be more of the son or daughter that he called you to be? Write that moment down and share it with someone as an encouragement of God’s goodness and faithfulness.