Wesley’s Questions: “When Did I Last Share My Faith?”



Wesley’s Questions: “When Did I Last Share My Faith?”
A Message on Mark 1:16-20
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
March 31, 2019
By Doug Wintermute

Mark 1:16-20 (NRSV)

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. 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 he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

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There’s a story about a doctor who loved to fish. Anytime he had any spare time he went fishing. He became well known in the area for the huge fish he would catch.

Well one day he was out on the lake fishing when his cell phone rang. It was his office, telling him that a woman on a farm real close to the lake had gone into labor and things were progressing so fast that she didn’t have time to get to the hospital.

He paddled to shore (in my story I make him a kayak fisherman), loaded up his kayak and equipment, got in his truck, and drove to the farm where, indeed, the woman was very close to delivering the child. The doctor’s training kicked in and he helped the woman deliver a healthy baby boy. After it was born the doctor asked the farmer if he had any scales to weigh the baby, only to find out that he didn’t. The doctor said, “Hey, I have a digital scale that I use to weigh fish that I catch. It’s out in the truck, let me go get it.”

So he goes and gets the scales, comes back inside, wraps the baby up securely in a blanket, and weighs the baby. And would you believe it? That baby weighed 28 pounds! [source: http://www.jokes4us.com/sportsjokes/fishingjokes.html]

When it comes to fishing there is kind of a common myth that fishermen tend to exaggerate the quantity and quality of their catches. It has made its way in to many jokes about fishing and fishermen.

But then it comes to following Jesus command for his followers to make “fishers of people” there is no joke.

The scripture we read today from the Gospel of Mark shows Jesus calling four fishermen, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, to quit fishing for fish and to follow him and fish for people.

We find this calling of the fishermen in all three of the synoptic gospels: Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, and Luke 5:1-11.

In Mark’s gospel we find the calling of the fishermen to be one of the first things Jesus does. Mark’s gospel begins with John the Baptist, then proceeds quickly with Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and then comes Jesus calling the fishermen to become disciples.

I have said before how significant it is that Jesus called fishermen to be disciples. There are 12 disciples, right? Of those 12 disciples, four of them, one-third of them, had the same occupation. That is substantially more than any other occupation the rest of the disciples might have had.

And I think it is important to remember that Judas, the disciple that betrays Jesus, is NOT a fisherman. Hmmmmmmmm…

So why fishermen? Why not tentmakers, or farmers, or shepherds, or even Jewish religious leaders?

Here’s my theory: Fishing is about faith and hope. Fishermen are hard working people that know how to deal with disappointment. And yet they still have hope. They may fish all day and/or all night and not catch anything. Yet they keep fishing, they keep trying, having faith and hope that they will catch fish even during those times when they don’t. There is a drive, and optimism, that translates well into making fishers of people.

Now most of you know I love to fish. I tell people that I try to only fish on days that end in “y.”

I’m not sure why I love fishing so much. I have liked it since I was a small child and my dad took me fishing for the first time. And I find many parallels between fishing and evangelism.

As a matter of fact I have an entire presentation titled something like “Ratt-L-Traps and Weenie Worms: Bass Fishing Techniques for use in Evangelism.”

Here’s one of those tips:

“Bump-a-stump.” When fishing you have to throw your lure to where the fish actually are, not where you want them to be. Very rarely are they right at your boat (or in my case, kayak). Fish love cover such as underwater limbs, stumps, and even grass. It is more difficult to get your lure in those places, but that’s where the fish are and so that’s where your lure needs to be. Often times I have been fishing an underwater tree or stump and won’t get a bite until I “bump it,” actually hit it with my lure.

Likewise in evangelism we are called to go where the people are who don’t know about Jesus Christ. We can just sit here in our “boat,” this church building, and some people will come and visit, but to be truly effective we need to go where the people are. We need to “fish for people” in places that are difficult. That’s what Jesus means when he says, “Go and make disciples.”

See? Get the idea?

I had the honor of attending an Evangelism workshop two weeks ago over at Lakeview. The young man leading the workshop was Ryan Alberson, who just happens to be the son-in-law of our district superintendent, Marlin Fenn.

Ryan, his wife, and their children have served as a church planter in India the past couple of years. He had a goal of starting 200 new house churches (defined as 10 to 20 people who meet weekly in homes) within a period of three years. They exceeded that goal by more than double, creating more than 500 new house churches.

His workshop at Lakeview taught us the techniques they used in India. It is simple and easily duplicated. And very, very effective.

He and his friends taught it to us at the workshop, but now I’m going to teach it to you!

First, start a conversation with someone. It’s not as hard as you think. It can be about anything: the weather, sports teams, etc. Just begin a conversation. (Note: I find it ironic that people find it easier to begin conversations in a bar than in church. Maybe that’s why people would rather go to bars than to church?) Start these conversations first with people that are within your sphere of influence: co-workers, neighbors, people whose kids are on the same sports team as yours, etc.
Usually sometime during that conversation that person will talk about something they are having difficulty with. Don’t interrupt to tell them how much worse you have it than them (we all know people like that, don’t we?) but just listen. This isn’t a contest about who has it worse. Just listen.
When the time is right, tell them something like, “Can I tell you a story that gave me a lot of hope?” Get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Make two circles. Draw this (draw two circles.) Tell them of a situation that caused you stress and trouble, something that caused brokenness in your life. And no matter how hard you tried to get through this on your own, these worldly thing of brokenness kept pulling you back down like a bungee cord. Tell of what your life was like before your relationship with Jesus. (Draw this on the first circle.)
Then tell them of the difference Jesus made in your life. (Now you have to be truthful here. If having Jesus in your life has NOT made a difference in your life, then we need to talk. Seriously. Call me.) Tell them how by turning to God and believing in Jesus Christ things became better, not necessarily that the situation itself got better but that your attitude and view of the situation changed. Tell them how your relationship with Jesus gave you peace, comfort, and courage. (Draw this on the second circle.)
Tell them how it’s only through Jesus that we can overcome this brokenness. It’s only through a relationship with Jesus Christ can those bungee cords be cut so that they don’t continue to pull you back down into brokenness. (Show them this on the second circle.)
Then ask them “Do you have a story like that?”

That’s it. Really! Using the paper and drawing circles helps with those who are visual learners, and telling your story make it personal, something they can relate to.

One of the keys for sharing your faith is to be able to tell your story simply and in a short amount of time. At the workshop they called it the “15 second speech.” Some people use language from the business world and call it an “elevator speech.” They call it this because you should be able to tell the story of the difference Jesus made in your life in 15 seconds, or during the time it takes to take an elevator to go from one floor to another. (I like the term “elevator speech” better because of the imagery it creates in my mind that what you say in that brief period of time may determine if the person you are speaking to “goes up,” or “goes down,” if you know what I mean.)

Now the temptation is to tell your story with lots of details, with specific dates and experiences. But don’t. Keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it focused on the main point: the difference Jesus made in your life.

During the workshop we even practiced telling each other our “elevator speech.” It wasn’t that hard, and the more you do it the easier it becomes. And again, make sure it’s short and to the point.

So, why should we do this, anyway. Why tell someone our story to help lead them to Christ? Why “evangelize,” especially when the word “evangelical” gets so much negative press today?

The word “evangelize” actually means to proclaim the good news. That’s it. Unfortunately the word has become political, especially the word “evangelical.”

But as Christians we are called to share the good news. We are called to evangelize. We are evangelical (in the true sense of the word, not the political one).

Jesus called the disciples and taught them how to fish for people, to introduce them to the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Here are some of the things Jesus had to say about evangelism:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — Acts 1:8

Here’s another: “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.’” — Mark 16:15

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” — Matthew 9:37-38

So you see, if we are going to be followers of Jesus Christ, if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, then we must share our faith with others. It’s not optional. It’s the great commission and we are to all abide by it.

John Wesley and his classmates of the “Holy Club” at Oxford University certainly thought it was important to tell others about their faith. They considered it so important that they included it in their list of 22 questions they and the club members asked themselves every day. As a matter of fact it’s number 10 on the list: “When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?”

Now it’s important to remember that they didn’t ask these questions of themselves weekly or just when they met. No. Theses were questions they were to ask themselves every day!

So my challenge to you this week is to be like Wesley’s Holy Club: ask yourself these 22 questions every day. Ann has created these bookmarks that you will find in your bulletin. Take them with you and place them somewhere you will see them daily. Take the time to go through and ask yourself these questions every day.

And this week as you do that I want you to be especially mindful of #10: “When did I last speak to someone else about my faith?” Think of your sphere of influence and who you might be able to share your faith with. Remember to listen more than you talk and to have your “elevator speech” ready. Remember that we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and the best way to do that is by sharing what knowing Jesus has done in our lives.

I have some homework for you today. As you leave today find someone you don’t know (no, it can’t be your spouse or child) and share your “elevator story” with them. Seriously. Do this. It doesn’t take long and is good practice. So share your “elevator story” with someone today as you leave.

Oh, and if you ever have a baby and the doctor wants to weigh that baby using fishing scales, don’t let the doctor do it.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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