Following Jesus 

As people who live and lead within missional communities, church planters and pastors often bear the weight of keeping the vision and mission in mind on behalf of their people, but in the midst of all the busyness of leading and caring for others, we sometimes miss keeping the main thing the main thing.  What is the “main thing” in missional communities?

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. 

Mark 1:14-20

Simon Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James and John left everything and followed Jesus.  They left their careers, their families and friends, and their home towns of Galilee and followed Jesus. 

They left their expertise and what they were good at, their closest relationships, and the world that they knew and followed Jesus. 

In looking at the gospels, the main thing is this: Following Jesus.

If becoming a follower of Jesus is the main thing, it is important to understand what it means to say yes to following Jesus. 

What it Means

Consider his first followers. They left their occupations, their loved ones, and pretty much their everything and followed Jesus before the crucifixion and the resurrection happened.

If you asked Peter or John why they follow Jesus, they actually wouldn’t say, “Because Jesus died for me and saved me from my sins.”  It didn’t happen yet. They didn’t follow Jesus because of a message about salvation and earning a golden ticket to Heaven and living the rest of your life sort of just twiddling your thumbs waiting for that ticket to be cashed in.

And they didn’t follow Jesus because he offered them a lucrative job offer, a higher social status and networking power, or a luxurious new destination.  They followed Jesus because of two things and two things only: the good news and the personal invitation. 

Why Follow?

Do you know why you follow Jesus?  Would you be able to answer it without saying, “Because Jesus died for my sins.”  Jesus absolutely did, but that’s not it. It can’t be it. The disciples followed Jesus because of the good news about something and because of His personal invitation to that something. 

The disciples followed Jesus because he told them that the kingdom, the rule and reign of God, had come. And the disciples followed Jesus because He was personally inviting them into it.

Dallas Willard calls the Kingdom of God, “the range of effective will,” Jesus’ effective will and how far it reaches, or, wherever Jesus’ influence takes effect. 

Kingdom Come

The Kingdom of God, which brings with it a society where everything is restored, peace and joy beyond belief, goodness and prosperity where every single person involved thrives – this was at hand and had come. And Jesus was personally offering it to them. It’s never been done before.

The prophets of old had only told them what God was saying to them.  The kings of old have only ruled them in place of God. And the teachers, the scribes and the pharisees, have only guided them on what they needed to do to follow God’s instructions. But Jesus was offering that God is directly speaking to them, directly ruling them, and directly guiding them. The Kingdom of God at hand meant that God was making Himself directly and personally accessible to them.

Accessible God

Are you aware of the truth that Jesus’ Kingdom has come?  Do you follow Jesus because you want to participate in His Kingdom?  Are you aware that He is personally inviting you to come join Him in it?  Do you follow Jesus because you’ve been personally invited to have relationship with Him for the sake and value of having a relationship with God?  

If we live as though we follow Jesus only because He’s died for our sins and we have a golden ticket to Heaven, then life is just a waiting game.  Waiting for retirement in Heaven. Feeling safe about our own retirement plan and holding on firmly to that golden ticket. Without a care in the world – you won the jackpot.  There’s really nothing left to do.

But, if we live as though we follow Jesus because His Kingdom has come and He’s personally invited us into a vibrant and vital relationship with Him and into His Kingdom, then there’s a lot of life left to be lived.  It’s not a retirement plan; it’s a reclaiming and restoration and renovation plan – the main thing.

About the Author

Eun Strawser

Rev. Dr. Eun K. Strawser is the co-vocational lead pastor of Ma Ke Alo o (which means “Presence” in Hawaiian), a BGAV Watch Care Church with missional communities multiplying in Honolulu, HI, a community physician, and a Movement Leader at the V3 Movement, the church planting arm of the BGAV. She is also the author of Centering Discipleship: A Pathway for Multiplying Spectators into Mature Disciples (IVP 2023). Prior to transitioning to Hawaii, she served as adjunct professor of medicine at the Philadelphia College of Medicine and of African Studies at her alma mater the University of Pennsylvania (where she and her husband served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) after finishing her Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Dar es Salaam. She and Steve have three, seriously, amazing children.

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