Mission Impossible

Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of Alpha and Vicar of HTB in London, shares perspectives to the mission we have all been given.

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At first sight, the mission that Jesus has given us seems totally impossible. Jesus said to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations”. That is a big mission statement. And yet our mission has been given to us by Jesus and it is not impossible. Jesus says to Peter (in Luke 5), “From now on you will be catching people”. This is about far more than just fish. This is about the central mission of the Church, and in this passage, Jesus gives us some essential guidelines.

In Luke 5:4 Jesus said to Peter, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch”. Simon answered, ‘Master we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’.” They hadn’t caught anything, but that did not mean that there were no fish to catch.

The Potential is Vast

In his commentary on this passage, William Barclay writes, “In the Sea of Galilee there were phenomenal shoals which covered the sea as if it was solid for as much as an acre”. There were masses of fish out there, but they had not caught any.

As we look at the world today, there are hundreds of millions of people out there who don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And yet there is a great spiritual hunger. I do not think it is just my imagination.

One of the highlights of my week is listening to the discussion in the Alpha small group I help with. It is fascinating to hear people’s thoughts and feelings about the big questions of life. Again and again, people talk about this spiritual hunger, this desire to find purpose. There is a longing, at times recognized and at times hidden, for a relationship with God.

Nothing is impossible with Jesus

The point that Jesus was making to his disciples was that there were masses of fish out there but they were going about catching them in the wrong way. It is so easy to go about things in ways that are clearly not working. So often, we do things the way they have always been done, because this feels safe and comfortable and because we are human and fear risk or failure.

“We have seen people’s lives transformed hundreds and hundreds of times.” – Nicky Gumbel

It interests me that verse 5 does not end with Peter saying, “Master we have worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything…” but I do believe what follows this statement is a long pause, and during that long pause, Jesus was looking at Peter. And after the long pause, Peter said, “But because you say so, I’ll let down the nets”. And to his credit, he did. He was willing to believe Jesus. He let down the nets and Jesus made what seemed impossible possible. And Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever – and that is what he is doing now.

A Life Worth Living

In 1994, we had a vision for 5,000 Alpha courses by the end of the century. It seemed so impossible that it could not happen, and we feared it would incite ridicule if we even mentioned it. If it did not happen, we would feel bad and people would feel let down. So we were very hesitant about referring to it.

Yet our faith was far too low. By the end of the century, we saw nearly 7,000 courses running in the UK and almost double that around the world. It was not about people doing a course but about people coming to faith in Jesus Christ, having their lives transformed. Now around 29 million people around the world have completed Alpha – and the numbers are continuing to grow. It is amazing to see what God is doing. The potential is vast. And nothing is impossible with Jesus.