Listen in as Darren Prince, one of the leaders of Novo’s order among the poor, shares powerful truths about the Church’s call to make disciples who make disciples. Why? Because Jesus really is compellingly good news.
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The fisherman’s shoulders ache. His face and neck are cracked and dry from relentless winds and salt-water spray. Fingers numb from the cold; feet impossibly wet after a long morning of baiting, casting, waiting, and reeling. Eyes, scanning the waterline as the sun creeps up over the ridge. He’s had some early bites, a struggle even, just before daybreak. First a gentle touch on the line, then a stronger testing. Gripping the pole tight, the fisherman tugs in response, hearing only the rippling of the water as he stiffens his back. He braces his feet against the side of the boat for balance. A dance begins: at one moment breathless and fierce with strength, another moment still and quiet. All focus, aimed here. Other cares and concerns left at the shoreline. Watch…as the catcher practices the art of catching.
Only, in this fishing story, the fish are people. The boat is a dusty soccer pitch. The salt-water spray is the blazing South-African sunshine. And the fisherman is a young man named Tsepo. Tsepo lives in a crowded township called Soshanguve. Only a few years ago he was a thief in the area, in and out of prison multiple times at a young age. Tsepo and his siblings had been orphaned by AIDS, left to survive for themselves in a place with very little meaningful work.
But as he came to know the people and work of our CRM team in Soshanguve, Tsepo began to hear the call of the good news. Through relationships and through exposure to the Bible and stories about Jesus, Tsepo responded in obedience and become a follower of Christ. Things changed. He asked forgiveness from the families in the township from whom he’d stolen in the past. He became an agent of transformation in his community as he obeyed what Jesus asked of him as a disciple.
He started a soccer club for boys and a netball club for girls—he found it a great way to establish relationships with others far from God, people whom he longed to introduce to Jesus. At his invitation, 39 local youths filled his house to discover what all the Bible has to say about this man—Jesus—the person who had so radically transformed the life of Tsepo, the local thief. Jesus, had not only called him out of darkness and into light, but had commissioned him to share this good news with others.
And so the fish becomes the fisherman.
The caught one becomes the catcher.
I’ll admit: Too often when I talk about “evangelism” I find myself only telling one side of the story. “Come follow me,” Jesus says. And I tend to stop there.
But then I remember that the full invitation of Jesus to his disciples has two parts: “Come follow me . . .” and with his very next breath, he says, “and I will make you a catcher.”
Now, why would he do that?
I mean, everybody loves, “come follow me.” Because it means we get to hang out with Jesus, right? Walk where he walks. Eat what he eats for breakfast. Front row seats on the big spectacle that is “Jesus the Messiah!”
But when his invitation is joined by a call to make disciples, I can suddenly find my schedule is, unfortunately, a little too squeezed that night. “Sorry, Jesus. I just don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Or, “Gosh, I’d really love to, but I think I need to get some more training first.” I love the way Francis Chan puts it, “Gee, it would be great to get a group together to talk about what it might look like for us to make disciples.”
Meanwhile, Jesus stands on the shore and calls out in clear voice, adding no extra words to get in the way: “Come, follow me. And I will make you fishers of people.”
Evangelism and Discipleship Go Together
Jesus once told Peter, one of his most experienced fisherman, to go out to the lake and throw out a line. “Take the first fish you catch,” he tells Peter. “Open its mouth and you will find a coin.”
Now that’s kind of a weird fishing story, but my real point is this: every coin has two sides to it. So think of it like this: Evangelism and Discipleship. Two sides of the same coin. We can’t separate them. The very invitation to be a follower of Jesus is also a commissioning to be a catcher for the Kingdom. Two realities; one coin.
“Alright,” I can hear you saying. “Got it. Evangelism is more than just ‘come follow Jesus.’” So how does CRM do this? And what does this have to do with movements?
My first response would be this: movements become possible when we accept and activate both sides of the coin. In CRM, we have seen time and time again that movements happen when called people become commissioned people;when followers become fishers.
Jesus knew it. He knew that apart from commissioning the twelve to become fishers of people he would have ended up with a very nice home group, but not a movement.
Maybe you’ve seen it for yourself in churches or ministry settings where evangelism gets relegated to a “special ops” team, where people become satisfied with the slow drip of growth by addition rather than multiplication. But when fully committed followers become faithful catchers, a movement can spread like wildfire.
Movements happen when sinners become saints and saints become sent ones. When the called become commissioned, guys like Tsepo can’t just can’t stop at his own redemption, he’s compelled to pick up his pole and go back in to rescue more just like him.
For decades now, CRM has grown in skill and expertise related to the later stages of movement dynamics: church planting, leadership development, and cultural transformation. All of these are essential to seeing gospel movements flourish and thrive. But if the fuel of movement is the Church activated by prayer, its dual-engine is evangelism and discipleship. When we cease to multiply disciples who multiply disciples, the engine sputters to a halt. Momentum is lost. And no matter how beautiful and slick the car may be, nobody wants to push it to the destination.
The Disciple Making Strategy of the Master Fisher
Okay, so what does this disciple-making look like for CRM? Or maybe a better question would be, how do we want to see new disciples of Jesus shaped and formed? Our evangelism and discipleship looks like the good news of Jesus proclaimed in words, displayed in loving actions, and manifested in Holy Spirit power. If you’ve been around CRM for a while, you’ve probably heard us talk about this as a “holistic” or “integrated” gospel: Word, Deed and Power. Of course we didn’t come up with it, we learned it from the Master Fisherman who taught us everything we know.
How did Jesus make disciples? He proclaimed the truth about himself, pointed to the Hebrew scriptures prophesying about the Messiah, and called people to repent and surrender under the authority of a new King and a coming Kingdom. He used words. We do this when we form Discovery Bible Studies and call people to a life of simple obedience to what they see in scripture.
But Jesus didn’t stop there. He authenticated his words with a gospel lived out in servanthood among the forgotten peoples of the world and the least of these. Similarly, CRM missionaries enact the good news we proclaim by loving the lost in practical, tangible ministries of mercy. This is the gospel in deed. I’ve found in my own twenty year journey with CRM, that the church visibly at work among the poor is often the best apologetic for our faith. For a skeptical western world, the gospel lived out in our deeds serves to amplify the words we proclaim.
So Jesus proclaimed good news (word), and he authenticated it with his actions (deed). But he did all of this with the accelerant of supernatural authority and power. In CRM we take as truth what Jesus meant when he commissioned his disciples with the task of evangelism: “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me...and I am with you, always.” So where you see us proclaiming gospel truth and demonstrating it in loving action, I think you’ll find us doing so with the anointing of the real presence of Jesus Christ. We pray for healing. We claim the authority of Jesus in strongholds of spiritual darkness. We welcome the commissioned protection of heaven as we go about the work of disciple making.
So as CRM, we evangelize in word, deed, and power. And we disciple people in word, deed and power. So that they can turn around and continue what Jesus started.
So I hope you’re getting the picture of our “all of the above” approach to fishing. We know there’s more than one way to bait a hook, so our tackle-box is stocked with some tried and true methodologies, but also a willingness to innovate as the seas change and the weather shifts.
We’ve learned how to capitalize on the strengths of those on our staff who move fast and furious with big nets and high-powered boats. And we’ve come to appreciate the staff who specialize in plopping down on the banks of one fishing-hole for a really long time, armed some spare line and a little bit of extra patience.
We’re learning how to maximize casting our nets both deep and wide, because we know that this is really God’s work, and it’s a really big ocean.
If there were more time, I’d love to tell you more of our fishing stories:
Of long mornings serving pancakes and praying for homeless people in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park
Of fishing expeditions proclaiming Good News and praying healing for people on the streets of London
Of huge catches of fish-turned-fishermen in Indiana’s prison system
Of a haul so big in the Middle East that the nets are nearly bursting…
How can this be possible? We believe it’s because Jesus of Nazareth really is compellingly good news. Headline news so good that all the bad news in the world right now, gets moved to the second and third pages in comparison. News so good it compels us to dream bigger dreams for the people and places we know and love so much. News so good that as soon as you’re rescued out of the water, you throw a life jacket on and jump back in to rescue more.
Darren Prince lives in London, UK with his wife, Pam, and their three increasingly British-sounding children. Darren and Pam live in Tower Hamlets, a government-owned housing complex that is home to immigrants from various countries. Darren has ministered with InnerCHANGE, CRM's missionary order among the poor, since 1997, and is now serving as their general director.