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Welcome to Our Community - Pastor Dan Taylor

Pastor Dan Taylor currently serves at Hope Lutheran in Everly, Iowa. He grew up just down the road from camp in Milford, IA and spent a lot of time here attending camp and activities with his youth group. He and his wife Kara, who served on summer staff for a couple of years herself, were married in the Okoboji chapel. One of the more unique partnerships with camp for Hope Lutheran has been its participation in our Youth Ministry Team (YMT) program. The YMT program features a person contracted to work both at camp and at a local church during the school year. Most commonly, the church has this person work primarily as a part-time youth minister.

Back when I was growing up in the church, one of the many songs I vividly remember singing, both in Sunday school and at Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, is one that is rooted in Matthew 4:19. The song only has 11 words, and is very catchy – maybe you remember it too…

I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men;

I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.

If you follow me, if you follow me,

I will make you fishers of men if you follow me.

Now that I’ve got that stuck in your head for the rest of the day, let’s explore those words a little more deeply. They are words spoken by our Lord Jesus himself, and they were spoken towards the very beginning of his public ministry. Up until this point in Matthew’s Gospel, the recorded events of Jesus' life would include his birth, his baptism, and his move from Nazareth to Capernaum. So, before the miracles, the signs, the wonders, the parables, the Sermon on the Mount, and all the rest, what did our Lord Jesus do? He extended an invitation – an invitation to follow him.

Who initially received this invitation? The first two who heard it were Simon Peter and Andrew. The next two were James and John. Those four men all had something in common – they were fisherman! And fishing wasn’t just a fun hobby for them – it was their livelihood. Jesus first found them while they were in their fishing boats, not engaging in leisure, but working. But amazingly, when these individuals received these words from the Lord, just this brief 11-word invitation, the text says they immediately left everything – their nets, their boats, their careers, their families, everything – and they did just that – they followed Jesus.

When you really think about it, isn’t that shocking? If you put yourself in the shoes of those four, would you do the same thing? Would you drop everything in your life immediately and follow this man who came up to you and offered you an 11-word invitation? Would you leave your job? Would you leave your possessions? Would you leave your family? This is a truly remarkable act of faith, commitment and trust by Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. It can be hard to fathom doing such a thing.

Personally, along with serving as the pastor of Hope Lutheran in Everly, I also coach a college tennis team. And the past few months the college has desired and encouraged me to heighten our recruiting efforts to increase the size and success of the team and draw more students to campus.

Honestly, I’m a little more introverted in nature, so making calls and visits with players and families I don’t know has really stretched me and been a bit out of my usual comfort zone. But along with being a part of the tennis job, it has also been a bit of an eye-opening experience when it comes to faith, the church, and our efforts as the people of God with evangelism. The recruiting experience has actually compelled me to ask some big church-related questions, such as “Am I as a pastor, and are we as a church, reaching out and being Invitational on behalf of Christ, just as much as I have tried to be invitational about attending a school and playing a sport? Who ought we be approaching, and with what kind of invitation? Are we fishing in the way our Lord calls us to fish?”

After engaging in this athletic recruiting experience for a bit, what Jesus did, in a way, almost seems like cheating- like it was too easy! Coaches and recruiters can spend hours and hours on a prospect, making numerous calls and visits, sending countless messages, mailing an abundance of materials, and frequently the answer is still no. But all Jesus did was speak 11 words, and those four individuals immediately left everything and followed Jesus. It doesn’t seem fair!

But that’s because it’s not! It’s not fair because he is the Lord, and we are not. It’s not fair because the words of the Lord are more powerful than we can fully comprehend, and even just a few words from the mouth of the Lord bring about the amazing and the miraculous. Creation itself, for example, according to the opening chapters of Genesis, was spoken into existence. In Mark 4, when a storm arose while Jesus and his disciples were on a boat, Jesus spoke only three words, “Quiet! Be still!” and it became completely calm. And there are numerous additional texts in the scriptures showing that not only does the voice and word of the Lord accomplish the amazing and miraculous, but we also wouldn’t want it any other way.

It is wonderful to know that successful fishing in the way Jesus established it is not fully dependent upon us! If it were it would be highly frustrating and unfruitful. But because of the power of the Word of the Lord, and because of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord still uses us, imperfect as we are, to be fishers of men, to share the Gospel, and to extend the invitation. And we are also reminded in passages such as Jesus' Parable of the Sower, that our central calling as fishers of men is to go out and sow the seed of God’s Word, and it is the Lord, by his power and in accordance with his will, who will water the seeds of faith and make them grow. So do not be discouraged, hesitant, anxious or afraid of Christ’s invitation in Matthew Chapter 4. Simply follow Jesus, and by his grace he makes us fishers of men. May the Lord bless you individually, and bless your congregations, as together we follow our Savior, answer his invitation, and open our lives to be his joyful witnesses.

Follow Up:

- How have you responded to Jesus' call to "Follow Him" in your life?

- How do you invited others to follow Jesus?

- Serving as both a pastor and a tennis coach is part of the unique way Dan is able to meet new people and share, both in word and by his example, God's love with others. How are you uniquely situated in life to share God's love with people?

- Please feel free to comment when the "Fisher's of Men" song finally gets unstuck from your head!

Learn more about Dan's Ministry:

If you are interested in learning more about Hope Lutheran in Everly, IA where Dan serves as the pastor, please click HERE.

Know a potential college tennis player and want to make Dan's job of recruiting a little bit easier? Learn more about Buena Vista University and the Women's Tennis program by clicking HERE.


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