Fishermen as Disciples

Matthew 4:18-22 tells the story of Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John. It is a matter of some disagreement whether these fishermen were rich or poor. Some argue that their owning boats implies a level of wealth. Others argue that fishermen from Capernaum are not among the elite of Palestine. Whether they were wealthy by worldly standards, just getting by, or as more likely, somewhere in between, the point is that they left their only means of financial sustenance to follow Jesus.

Interestingly, both sets of brothers were busy doing the work of a fisherman. Simon and Andrew were actually casting the nets, while James and John were busy with the necessary repair work to prepare for active fishing.

Perhaps Jesus chose so many fishermen to be disciples because they knew that the time on the dock is as important as the time in the water. If we spend all our time on the dock perfecting our nets, making them more than adequate, we will catch no fish. We need to launch. On the other hand, if we spend all our time on the water, we will eventually fail. Both our nets and our backs will weaken. A disciple of Christ needs to find the proper balance of active fishing on the water and active preparation on the dock.

People often joke (?) that a preacher only works half an hour a week. That sermon time is his casting the nets. Prior to that, there was a lot of net repair. A minister who rises to preach without doing the necessary work at the dock will find himself frustrated when his net is inadequate for the job. Expanding this analogy to the life of any modern day disciple, we may not often have the opportunity to speak a word for Jesus, but when we do, we would be well-served to have done ample preparatory work so that our active ministry will be enhanced. Or when we face faith-stretching trials like disease or even death, our faith will survive the strain much better if we have put in the necessary preparatory time to strengthen our nets.

Would we consider leaving a career to follow Jesus more closely? Consider how quickly we conclude that such radical discipleship is not necessary. “You have to provide for your family or you’re worse than an infidel!” Or even just, “Don’t go to extremes.” What would Simon and Andrew and James and John’s response have looked like had they taken this approach? Could any of the four of them be assured that they were not placing their families in a worsened financial situation? Might any of the four of them be accused of “going to an extreme?” Does the passage of 2,000 years mean that our “reasonable service” to the Lord would not require the risk of finances and/or career? How much did safety and security factor in their decision to follow Christ? How much does safety and security factor into mine?

Grace and Shalom

Steve Kenney has been married to Leslie his whole adult life, and they have three wonderful children, JaneAnn, Erin, and Scott, and one grandchild, Caroline. They have four cats and pleasant memories of many more. Steve earned an undergraduate degree in missions from Abilene Christian, and his graduate degrees from Pitt (J.D.) and Lipscomb (M.Div.). He and his family have rooted for the Reds, Bengals, and Buckeyes, but always root for the home team wherever they live. That means Steve has cheered the team from Dallas that shall no longer be named by him and the team from DC that shall no longer be named by anyone. He’s also cheered the Steelers despite his Bengal roots. So yes, he’s also a miracle-worker.

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Author:  Publish Date: August 4, 2017

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @

2017-18 CHARIS Editorial Board:
Dr. Carisse Berryhill
Dr. Jason Fikes
Karissa Herchenroeder
Mac Ice
Chai Green
Tammy Marcelain
Molly Scherer
Dr. John Weaver

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