By Shannon Baker, BCM/D Correspondent
NEWARK, Del.—Noting Jesus “did more and accomplished more in his last three years than any other human being did in a full life,” James Merritt urged Connect 2013 attendees to follow Jesus’ example in finding missing persons and making committed disciples. He spoke during the opening session of the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware on Nov. 10 at Ogletown Baptist Church in Newark, Del.
“The Son was sent for 33 years, but only the last three years were measured. What would you do in those three years?” asked Merritt, the lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and host of the broadcast ministry, Touching Lives. “When you make the purpose of His life the purpose of your life, you find the real purpose of all of life.”
He explained, “We have a missing persons epidemic in this country. Every hour… 100 Americans—both adults and children—will go missing.” That is 2,400 people a day, and 900,000 people a year who just vanish or disappear.
“God has an AMBER alert out on every lost person on this planet,” he said, pointing to Luke 5, where Jesus teaches Peter to be a “fisher of men” (v. 10b).
“When you study the life of Jesus, you’ll find His life revolved around finding missing persons,” Merritt said, outlining five steps to fulfill one’s ultimate purpose on the journey to a God-filled eternity.
First, “hear the Word of God.” Jesus used the lake water to amplify His words as “He sat down and taught the people from the boat” by the lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:3), said Merritt, speaking from the English Standard Version translation.
Next, “trust the Son of God.” Jesus instructed Peter to “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Though Peter questioned Jesus, he followed. “At your word, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5b), Peter said.
Peter then “experience[d] the grace of God,” the next step. The fishermen, though fishing in the daylight when fish traditionally hid themselves, “enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking” (Luke 5:6).
Merritt then urged his listeners to be like the disciples, who “follow[ed] the will of God” to catch men (Luke 5:10b). Merritt noted the subtle differences between fishing and actually catching fish. Jesus wanted Peter to do what Jesus did for him: “I want you to catch people just like I caught you.”
In the final step, “surrender to the call of God,” the fisherman “left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).
From now on, Peter’s life is going to be about two things, Merritt said, finding missing persons and making committed disciples.
“That is the will of God for every Christ follower … because every empty chair in your church represents a missing person.”