It was an invitation that changed my life profoundly. In those few short months, I learned to lead worship, had my first (and second) cross-cultural ministry experiences, memorized 200 scriptures, and learned new spiritual rhythms. But the most life-changing shift for me was being given six young people under my charge, who I called affectionately, “my disciples.” It was like finding Jesus all over again. It was like a missing part of my purpose snapped into place.
Even if I hadn’t gone on to become a pastor, I would forever see my primary calling as being a disciple-maker.
Had I known then all that was about to transpire, how drastically the course of my life was about to change, would I have accepted that invitation in that moment during that phone call with the nebulous David Newman? This is where my mind goes when I read about the invitation of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 4:18-20:
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
How would the lives of these brothers have turned out differently had they not heeded Jesus invitation (or for that matter, had He not decided to call them)? They would’ve been just four average fishermen from Galilee, not even an obscure footnote in the annals of history. Today we know that these four fishermen were key to precipitating a movement that literally changed the world.
How did they change the world?
Lately I have been gripped with the thought that whatever Jesus did in the gospels, he continued to do in the book of Acts, and still does today – primarily through his followers.
In his earthly body, He healed (Luke 5:24). In Acts He healed (Acts 4:10). Today, He still heals.
In the Gospels, He called disciples (Luke 5:1-11). In Acts, He called disciples (Acts 9:6). Today, He still calls disciples to make disciples.
If you’re reading this today, it’s probably because at one point or another in your life, you experienced that call. Maybe as a child you knelt at your parents’ bedside and invited Jesus to be Lord of your life. Or perhaps it was at an altar in a church, or a prison cell, or in your own room, or in a coffee shop, or gradually over time. Wherever you were, and whatever the circumstances, you heard and accepted a life-changing invitation – to come follow Jesus.
What did you imagine you would be doing now, on that day when you came to Jesus?
Perhaps that isn’t a fair question. People come to Jesus with all kinds of varied expectations and ideas about the everyday Christian life – or none at all. I know a good many people who came to Jesus at the very end of themselves, and discovered the disciple-making life slowly as Jesus and their new family helped them pick up the broken pieces. I have had many others describe for me a second spiritual awakening, as it were, after being forgiven of their sins, discovering that God has saved us for something, as much as from something. Many of those stories involve baptism in the Holy Spirit and empowerment to witness.
Did you know that even Peter had to be reminded? In the Matthew passage, Jesus plainly framed the invitation to follow Him in disciple-making language. Yet we read that even after the resurrection of Christ, Peter apparently has more interest in his old profession than his God-given commission (John 21:3).
Maybe it’s time to admit, like the disciples, that we haven’t any fish (21:5). Maybe Jesus’ instruction to throw our nets on the other side is about more than just food (21:6). Maybe there is someone reading this today who, like Peter, needs a fresh reminder that to love Jesus is to take care of His sheep (21:16). I hope you read this today as a fresh invitation to become a living invitation – a disciple-maker. Discipling someone will complicate your life in ways you can’t imagine. It will push you closer to Jesus than you’ve ever been before.
It is also what Jesus imagined you would be doing on the day that He called you.