“’Come, follow me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll show you how to fish for people.’”
Matthew 4:19 (Common English Bible)
We are all living a deeply entangled, complex life. As complexity increases, so does our exhaustion. We run faster, master complex planning calendars that were designed to make life less cumbersome, and come to the end of many days feeling that we have been defeated. Present is a growing nostalgia for a simpler world – a desire for a plainer, clearer path forward. This general desire includes the spiritual realm. The hope is that the church would provide a rediscovery of God, a reclaiming of God’s strength for daily living, and direction for a larger purpose for which we may attach our lives. Unfortunately, what many find are cumbersome requirements for membership and multiple invitations to serve on committees that multiply our exhaustion. With church participation we discover that there are now more oars in the water that requires our attention.
How can we return to a simpler time? Jesus is instructive. Notice that Jesus does not invite people to register for a six-week new member class. Jesus does not make committee assignments. Jesus does not examine doctrinal purity or demand conformity to creedal statements. Jesus quite simply asks that we follow him. To follow Jesus is to share life with Jesus in the fullest sense: to go where he goes, to listen to what he taught, and to participate in practices and disciplines that were important to him. An invitation to follow is the suggestion that there is something of value to be found. Naturally, to accept such an invitation begins with an acknowledgement that the present life isn’t working anymore. Unless we really believe that another approach to life is required, we will continue trying to make the present one work.
The one other thing that Jesus asks is a posture of humility, a desire to learn, and willingness to participate in Jesus’ work: “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” All the work of Jesus is about one thing – looking for those who have wandered far from God and bringing them back home to the Father. As with any great work, there are multiple functions that must be accomplished. None of us are asked – or equipped – to do them all. Some of us are to be teachers, some will show hospitality, and others will be administrators, caregivers, and evangelists. Others will provide care and comfort to the broken. The various jobs to be done are many. But one goal remains: “to fish for people” that they may return to God. Jesus will show us the way.
None of this suggests that boards and committees are without value to Jesus. Leadership boards must be populated with those who have demonstrated the capacity to respond to the promptings of God, to show people where Jesus is moving and call them to follow. Committees provide a responsible means for organizing a great work force for accomplishing all that Jesus seeks to do in a particular community. But, in this over complicated world, the church must not add unnecessary complexity to the simple call of Jesus to follow him and to participate with him in his grand redemptive purposes: a cup of cold water to the thirsty, a helping hand on the roadside, an encouraging word softly spoken. These are all within our reach. Nor are we called to carry the whole world on our backs. Our chief function is to point to the one who does, Jesus Christ. That is the Gospel, plain and simple.