“TESTING THE WATERS”
By Catherine Brown
Jesus Christ was intentional about selecting His disciples, and in particular, those He called to be “leaders of leaders.” It was not a haphazard operation but a clearly defined apostolic process, from which we can glean much. As we consider Luke Chapter 5, we identify seven steps within that apostolic process of leadership selection and alignment, which the Lord followed in choosing those whom He would mentor and disciple. Christ provides us with a blueprint for apostolic process in leadership selection, revealing a procedure of apostolic alignment through coming alongside potential disciples.
1. OBSERVATION AND ACTION
5 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
Jesus noted there were two ships by the lakeside and that the fishermen had departed from them and were washing their nets. It is obvious to Him there are workers, there is activity, but there has been no productive output that evening i.e. no catch of fish. Jesus noted two ships, but elected to use only one. In His observation Christ recognised the need of the multitude and was also connecting on another level to potential leaders/disciples. The capacity of any leader, and especially an apostolic leader, to observe and make a decisive plan of action based on observation, is crucial to effective leadership, discipleship, team building and advancement of the Gospel. Our observations as leaders must result in intentional action. We must be intentional in identifying and responding to pivotal moments to raise up emerging leaders. Christ’s interaction with the community of Gennesaret was catalytic in solving the problem of lack at that time. Apostolic leaders are problem solvers who know how to observe, position and empower others to be competent and fruitful in their fields of endeavour.
2. INTENTIONAL SELECTION
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Jesus chose one boat in which to make the first pioneering step. He then chose one man from among the group, Simon, to row the boat. Christ was intentionally selective in His identification of a potential leader of leader. He came along side one amongst a group of equals. He deliberately “singled” him out, yet all would later be blessed and benefit from one being chosen ahead of others. As an apostle, Christ had the capability of identifying leadership potential in Simon, specifically a grace to become a “leader of leaders.” The notion of being intentionally selective is not always a popular one, but time and again, we see how Christ chose specifically to set apart certain ones for mentoring in the first instance, in order to prepare them as part of an apostolic team to reach and bless multitudes. This is an essential aspect of apostolic alignment. Apostolic leaders are able to identify, equip, properly position and align forerunner leaders.
Perhaps like me you have been involved in raising other leaders and may have experienced that not all who say, “Teach me” are teachable; and not all who appear to be reachable can be reached. Potential mentees may use appropriate language but their hearts and minds can be far from being ready for mentorship. It is important to have a process whereby we can sift potential mentees to identify both their leadership potential, commitment and character. Our time is a precious commodity and we cannot afford to waste time by investing in those with those who are not ready to be mentored.
Jesus observed the situation and made an initial assessment. The Lord noted both physical resource (the two boats) and human resource (Simon and the other fishermen). Based on this He then created an initial plan of action to meet the needs of the multitude by preaching and teaching and in so doing He laid a Kingdom foundation. The hunger of the people for the word of God created an atmosphere for transformation. The Lord also made a personal interaction with the potential disciple (Simon).
3. PERSONAL INTERACTION
Jesus interacted personally with Simon and walked him through a progression from observation to invitation. Ture mentoring is centred around Christ and Kingdom relationship. Too often we rush from observation to invitation in mentoring without observing due apostolic selection process and permitting interactions that prove or disprove our initial observations and assessment of potential leaders and their commitment to discipleship. The process of intentional leadership selection is one method that can lead to meaningful vertical and horizontal alignment.
4. INITIAL INSTRUCTION
Having made a personal connection with Simon, Jesus then instructed him to thrust out a little bit from shore. The initial interaction with a potential mentee is a way of assessing capability and character in the mentee. Every apostolic leader needs to understand this process. Sidestepping it could lead to a lot of problems later on. Christ gives an instruction to Simon to thrust out a little into the water. Now Jesus is able to observe if Simon is willing and able to respond appropriately to instruction. The Lord was also able to assess if Simon exhibited the characteristics of being a front runner among forerunners, by his responses to instruction. We must learn how to “test the waters” of our potential disciples in similar fashion. I have found this principle of initial instruction to a mentee extremely helpful in separating genuine potential disciples from others.
5. FURTHER INSTRUCTION
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
Christ now turned His attention from the multitude to fully interacting with Simon one-on-one. The Lord issued a second instruction to Simon, which is much more of a “testing” than the first, requiring greater faith and trust. Please note that Jesus is now speaking specifically only unto Simon. Simon answering said “we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing:” Simon says “we” but Jesus is not speaking to “we”, for the Lord was addressing only “he” i.e. Simon Peter. Pausing Simon then said, “Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” Simon chose to act on the word of Christ. There is a moment of breakthrough between potential mentors/mentees, students/teachers, fathers/sons when the response to instruction either proves or disproves the validity of the relationship. In this moment Simon’s response cemented what Christ had observed as potential leadership grace in him. You cannot truly mentor a person who is incapable of appropriate and timely response to instruction. However, all things are possible with those who know how to follow God-given instruction.
6. IDENTIFICATION AND TESTING OF LEADERSHIP CAPABILITIES AND CHARACTER
vs.6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
vs. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
In Simon’s response to the second instruction, Christ was further able to observe and identify a number of important aspects, which included Simon’s leadership capacity in his ability to instruct others; his ability to work with others in a team; and his capability to mobilise a wider group of partners to a specific work. Simon worked with his partners James and John as well as the wider group of fishermen in order to bring in the miracle catch. The narrative of the text (verses 6-7) clearly revealed that he was able to meet all three of these significant leadership imperatives. Jesus saw that Simon had equity in his relationships with others that could be used for the Kingdom cause. He was not so insecure as to exclude others from being partakers of the miracle anointing. He had enough wisdom to understand that the miracle catch would have been lost without Kingdom partnership. He was not passive in the outpouring, but a willing participant, a hard worker and good steward of what heaven poured into his hands that day. All excellent leadership qualities! Simon was a work in progress but he had tremendous potential. As apostolic leaders we seek to identify and nurture such potential in other emerging leaders.
Overwhelmed and astonished by what he had witnessed, Simon fell down at the feet of Christ and acknowledged he was a sinful man. Thus Christ was able to observe Simon’s character, another essential component in the calling of leaders. Simon proved himself to be a God-fearing man and most humble in this regard. It is important to engage with process in the assessment of our potential mentees.
7. INVITATION - CALL TO MINISTRY AND KINGDOM SERVICE
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.
Now and only now after the due diligence of apostolic process in leadership selection, does Christ make an invitation and call Simon to ministry. Simon, having passed through the selection process is brought into apostolic alignment with Christ for the purposes of Kingdom ministry.
The process of calling a leader of leaders is not the same as others. It is necessarily more intensive and penetrative. The capacity to weight bear is an indicator of maturity, and Christ was able to observe this in Simon throughout the course of the Gennesaret testing in more ways than one.
Christ as a type of Apostolic Father, identified an apostolic son in Simon, who was able to mobilise and lead an apostolic team under Christ’s tutelage, who in turn could then mobilise other partners in the work of the Kingdom. This is a powerful apostolic blue print for Kingdom governance, expansion and transformation.
In the process of intentional leadership selection Christ revealed how leadership capacity, character and calling can be initially assessed, tested through circumstance and confirmed as legitimate. Thereafter, Simon and the others gladly left all and followed Christ.
It is my prayer that as apostolic fathers and mothers, we can grasp the import of the alignment process and walk in the kingdom principles of leadership selection modelled by Christ that day by the lake at Gennesaret.
© 2018 Apostle Catherine Brown
Founder/International Director, Gatekeepers Global Ministries / www.gatekeepers.org.uk