May 25, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 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. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
The example of Jesus challenges us to consider how we picture the people in our lives. Do we use our imaginations to see people’s potential? Or do we see them in a rather static way? And if we see their potential, do we help them to grow? Or do we keep them in their place if it serves our own interests?
This devotion is part of the series, Imagination: Redeemed and Redemptive.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I reflected on the imagination of Jesus as reflected in his parables, especially the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Today I’d like to think about another way Jesus’s redemptive imagination operates.
When Jesus begins his messianic ministry, one of the first things he does, in addition to proclaiming the kingdom of God, is to recruit some followers. In those days, it was unusual for a rabbi to recruit his own students. Generally, students would approach a rabbi from whom they wanted to learn. Jesus imagined a different way, one in which he took the initiative.
More strikingly, the apprentices Jesus recruited were not the sort of people we might have expected. He didn’t go after those who were learned experts in the Torah. Nor did he seek out people of religious, political, or cultural influence. Rather, he chose as his first apprentices four fishermen, promising that they would soon be “fishing for people.” Now, if you’re like me, you grew up singing “I Will Make You Fishers of Men” in Sunday School. The story of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John is so familiar that his choice of fishermen feels utterly normal.
But, for a moment, use your imagination to consider the following example. Suppose your church called a new pastor. One of your pastor’s first tasks was to recruit a staff. But, instead of going for people with church ministry experience and training, imagine that your pastor went out and found some day laborers to be on the staff. This, I expect, would seem odd to you, even wrongheaded. I know I’d be puzzled by such behavior from a pastor.
We don’t know all of what was in Jesus’s mind when he chose four fishermen to be his first disciples. But it does seem likely that Jesus was exercising his imagination. When he saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John, he didn’t see mere fishermen. Rather, he saw potential followers who had the strength to endure difficult circumstances. He saw future students who would be eager to learn. He saw communicators who, in time, would preach the good news far and wide. And he saw leaders who would one day help get the church off the ground. He saw all of this, not with his physical eyes, but with the eyes of his imagination.
The example of Jesus challenges me to consider how I picture the people in my life. Do I see their potential? Or do I see people in a rather static way? And if I see their potential, do I help them to grow? Or do I keep them in their place if it serves my own interests?
I have seen bosses who appear to have little imagination for the growth of their people except insofar as this growth serves the boss’s interests. But I have also seen bosses who imagine what those they supervise might become, and work to this end, even if it costs them personally.
For example, my first full-time job was working on the staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie was our senior pastor and my boss (well, at first, my boss’s boss). I was still in graduate school and without seminary training. But Lloyd saw more in me than was obvious. He imagined my potential and, crucially, helped me to develop it. He gave me opportunities to help me develop as a pastor and a writer. He worked behind the scenes to move along my ordination. He affirmed and encouraged me. His effort was not self-serving. In fact, it meant that I was called to another pastoral position sooner than Lloyd would have preferred. So much of who I am today as a pastor, writer, and leader can be traced to Lloyd’s influence in my life. This influence was fueled by his imagination.
That’s the kind of leader I want to be, one who sees potential in others, one whose imagination helps them grow and flourish. Yes, I want to lead like Jesus.
Can you think of a person in your life who imagined your potential and helped you to realize it? If so, who is that person and what did they do?
Are there people in your life whom you are helping to grow professionally and/or personally? What do you imagine for them and their future?
If there is someone whose imagination for your life made an impact on you, reach out to thank that person. Talk with them about the difference they made in your life.
Gracious God, thank you for the imagination of Jesus. Today, I thank you in particular for the way Jesus saw potential in his disciples. Where others might have seen “mere” fishermen, Jesus saw leaders for the early church.
Help me, Lord, to be like Jesus. Help me to see the potential in people and to work to activate that potential. May I be an encourager, a coach, and a mentor. May I want what’s best for others no matter how it impacts me. Amen.
Banner image by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Calling of the First Disciples (Mark 1:16-20).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.