Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bring a Friend to Church--or to Jesus--or Both

There is a story in John's Gospel that we will examine in worship this week that tells the beginnings of Jesus calling the disciples to follow him.  This week, however, we do not see Jesus walking by the seashore calling out for people to learn how to "fish for people".  Instead, we see Jesus just walking by the banks of the Jordan River where John the Baptist continues to be busy with his baptizing business when suddenly John proclaims, "Look, here is the Lamb of God."  Two of John's disciples (yes, he had disciples too) looked up to see who John was referring to and then they wandered off to meet this elusive lamb person.

We do not know the names of both of those disciples but we know the name of one, Andrew, who stayed with Jesus where he was staying after receiving the invitation, "Come and See."  Andrew must have been very taken with Jesus because the scripture then says that Andrew found his brother, Simon, and took him to meet Jesus, telling him, "We have found the Messiah."  Jesus recognizes that Simon has some special aura about him and tells him, "You are Simon, son of John.  You are to be called Cephas (which is translated Peter)."  Jesus immediately changes Simon's name to Peter better known as "The Rock".

I have always admired Andrew because he was the first person to bring another person to meet Jesus.  Andrew brought his brother to meet Jesus once he had met him and was very impressed by what he learned from and saw in this teacher.  Andrew wanted Peter to know Jesus in the same way that he had learned to know him from his short visit with him.  I have to believe that Andrew was excited about the prospect that he had latched on to the man whom he believed was the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel, who would bring freedom to the people of Israel.

Most mainline Christians that I know are very shy about telling anyone about their church or their Christian experience.  It may be because they have encountered very zealous Christians who want to tell everyone they meet about Jesus and they have embarrassed many by their enthusiasm out in the public sector where everyone can see them.  Even if it was not out in public, many enthusiastic religious people have strong-armed others into listening to a lengthy testimony about their faith or required others to make a "decision for Christ" right then and there, much like a used car salesman wants a potential buyer to make a decision to buy the car on the spot, lest it get away from them and someone else purchases it.

So, many people who grew up in mainline Christian churches are a bit shy about sharing their Christian testimony with other people.  They may not have the language to do so or feel ill prepared to tell others about their feelings regarding their Christian experience.  So, they do not do this at all.

Jesus' words to Andrew and the other unnamed disciple who asked Jesus where he was staying was direct---"Come and See" and perhaps that is a better way to invite people to know more about Jesus or our church then in words---"Come and See".  It invites them to experience for themselves what you value about going to your church or believing in Jesus.  It invites them to see and hear and relate to the experience you find meaningful for your life.

Friendship Evangelism was a movement many years ago that encouraged people to simply invite their friends to attend their church, with them.  "Come and See" was a good motto for the movement as it expressed the idea that "Seeing is Believing" when it comes to knowing more about an experience that is very personal and unknowable, at least when any personal experience cannot be truly known by another person until that person has the experience for himself/herself.

Invite someone to come to church WITH you, to sit beside you during worship, to gather cues from you as to what we do in church during worship in case they have not attended a church before.  Invite them to stay for coffee during the fellowship hour that follows to get to know others and stay by their side to give them the security that they are not alone in this new and strange place.  Simply be with them and for them as they experience what it means to be part of a Christian community of faith.

"Come and See" may be the only words you need in order to tell someone else what your faith means to you.  

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