The Radical Call of Jesus (Mark 1:16-20)

Imagine. Imagine a church that is a welcoming and safe place where everyone feels loved, accepted and cared for. Imagine a church where doubters, seekers and believers feel welcome. Imagine a church of every age, race and colour, becoming one in Christ. Imagine a church of fully devoted, spiritual, Christ followers, passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God. Imagine a church where the praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God. Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds up the church family and equips members to live for Christ. Imagine a church impacting the lives of children, youth and students from all areas of the local community to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Imagine a church where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service. Imagine a church family informed, inspired and eager to meet the needs of local, national and international mission. Imagine a church in which members are regularly being called into ministry, locally, nationally and internationally. Imagine being part of such a church. Imagine helping to build, to create such a church. Imagine. 

In my former parish of Virginia Water, our Vision was built on three words that summed up our purpose – Win – Build – Send. Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission. In our Bible reading from Mark 1, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “Come, follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17). Here the order is Build – Send – Win. That is because this is a cyclical mission strategy and so it doesn’t matter where we begin. And similarly where you are on your spiritual journey, there is a message here for you. Today we will discover the origins of the Christian ministry strategy. Evaluate your church or mission agency against that of Jesus.

1. Build: The Call of Jesus is for Discipleship 

“Come, follow me…”

1.1 This was a Passionate Call

This was a command not an invitation. “Come,” literally means “come here…. your destiny is to follow me!”  For the disciples this meant leaving their nets (verse 1:18), their father, their boats and hired men (1:20).  In 1st century Palestine it was the norm for disciples to choose their rabbi. Like the way people tend to choose their church for a particular style of worship or preaching. Here Jesus reverses the tradition and does the choosing. He calls. This was a passionate call.

1.2 This was a Purposeful Call

“Come, follow…” conveys the idea of following as a learner, committed to imitating the one being followed. 

That is why churches should place such an emphasis on Sunday clubs and bible study groups. This was a passionate call. A purposeful call.

1.3 This was a Personal Call

“Come, follow me” Jesus calls us to follow him, not a denomination, not a sect, not a theological system but himself. But some make the mistake of assuming being a Christian is simply believing in Jesus. As a result, in much of the world Christians have given Jesus a bad name. 

When I visit Muslim majority countries I encounter a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding as to what a Christian is. One way I try and cut through the confusion is to quote Jesus “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Then I say, a follower of Jesus is someone who follows the teaching of Jesus. 

If someone is not following the teaching of Jesus they are not following Jesus. The Apostle Paul said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  This was a passionate call, a purposeful call and a personal call. The disciples’ obedience was immediate: they left the nets, and followed Jesus. Are you willing to follow him, wherever he leads in 2024? After his resurrection and ascension, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus says,

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  (Revelation 3:20). 

Jesus is calling you just as He called Peter, James and John by the Sea of Galilee. Build: The Call of Jesus is to discipleship.

2. Send: The Commission of Jesus is for Mission

“Come, follow me, and I will send you…” Jesus called the disciples to be his representatives, his ambassadors in other places.  God always chooses His representatives. 
He chose Noah and Abraham, he chose Moses and David. He chose the prophets. He chose Israel herself to be “a light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6). Jesus told His disciples, 

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16) 

When Jesus called the disciples, He also equipped and empowered them. In the “Great Commission”, his last words on earth, his final benediction just prior to his ascension, Jesus said.  

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). 
How would he be with them for ever? By his Spirit. 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8).

That is why churches should place an emphasis on mission. But you don’t have to go full time or travel abroad to engage in mission. There are many opportunities to serve through your local church and in your community – working with asylum seekers, English language classes, or food banks. So far we have discovered that the call of Jesus is to discipleship. And the commission of Jesus is for mission. The third element is

3. Win: The Concern of Jesus is for Evangelism

“Come, follow me, and I will send you to fish for people.” From the beginning Jesus plan was to use disciples to win disciples, which is why the direction of this sentence runs from build, to send, to win.  It is cyclical but it is also a catalyst for multiplication rather than simply addition. 

He would command His disciples to do other things, but their first priority in following him, was to “fish for people” My father was a part time fisherman.  

He would often go out all night fishing off the beach at Lowestoft, in all weathers with his rods, his flask and tilley lamp.  We didn’t have a freezer in those days, so, if it was a good night we would eat fish for days, as would our neighbours.  In the same way the good news of Jesus is for sharing.  A few years ago, we asked  church members what or who was most influential in their becoming a Christian. Here are the survey results:

1. Parents  27%
2. Relative or Friend 23%
3. Youth Leader 6%
4. Youth Camp 6%
5. Bible reading 6%
6. Alpha/Christianity Explored 6%
7. Pastor 5%
8. Sunday School Teacher 4%
9. Dream or Revelation 4%
10. Christian book 4%
11. Church Service 1%
12. Evangelistic Mission 0%
13. Evangelist 0%

Half of all those surveyed, said a relative or friend was most influential, with parents the largest category. 

Next in significance, 10% attributed their conversion to a youth leader or youth camp. In total, church based staff, programs and events, accounted for just 20%. What does this tell us? Special events are a useful means to introduce family and friends to Jesus, but they are no substitute for genuine friendship and witness.  That is why it is so important we all heed the call of Jesus today.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect: (1 Peter 3:15)

What was the impact of Jesus call that day?

“The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:27-28)

This was the basis for our strategy in the two churches I pastored for 30 years – in Guildford and Virginia Water – to win – build – send. To win people to Christ. Build them in the faith. And send them to do the same. Imagine what your Church could be like when we are fully devoted to Christ, irrevocably committed to each other.  Passionately committed to reaching lost people with the good news of Jesus Christ. We will be an unstoppable force for good in our community, an inspiration to other churches, and a testimony to the world of God’s unfailing grace. A Church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail. Welcome to the future.