I was having a conversation with someone on the topic of evangelism. As we talked we recalled Jesus calling the disciples and an image popped into my heads: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John all with their arms outstretched saying, “Yeahes, Mas-ter.”
Because, really, that is how the gospels depict the calling of the first disciples: Jesus says “Follow me” and immediately they follow. There is no “Where are we going?” No “How long will this be?” No “Who? Me?” So, of course, we think about these first disciples as just getting up and going — because that is what the bible tells us.
But… is that really the way that people work? In fact, the rest of the gospels the disciples are constantly mucking things up and not believing what Jesus is telling them. The characters that the remainder of the gospels depicts are ones that never do anything blindly!
More likely than not, there was some sort of relationship that Jesus had with these fishermen. I don’t know: maybe they had all been following John the Baptist around? Or they had met at a ancient music concert? Or Jesus had been teaching in the local synagogue. Somehow, these people knew each other… and so it made sense to leave everything.
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.Mark 1:16-20
Why do I care? Because I think that we take that example of the zombie disciples and think that this is how evangelism works! We think that if Jesus could get people to follow him with a sentence, then certainly this will work for us. Or, that what Jesus had to say was so compelling, people just had to follow; and so all we need do is find the “right” and “compelling” things to say and people will come to our churches.
But… if Jesus and these fishermen had relationships beforehand, then our evangelism becomes all the more difficult. Because now we have to develop relationships with people. And that is so much more time consuming, right? Having the magic phrase to say (i.e. “Follow me”) is much easier and we can mass produce that. But, to develop relationships? Well, that takes time.
Jesus took the time. Jesus was all about relationships. In fact, God is all about relationships. We see that over and over in the bible where God chooses relationship. Sure isn’t easy, but is seems to be the way of God.