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Preach the Gospel: Come and See

John 1.35-46

Joanie glanced at her phone and realized how late it was getting.  The table of friends at Free State had not even thought about breaking up for the night, but she knew she had to go.  She stood to leave, explaining, “the youth at First Baptist are going to be looking for their Sunday school teacher in the morning, so I’d better go.”  Little did she know how much longer it would be until she would walk out the door.

The table erupted.  One voice across the way shouted, “Baptist? You go to a Baptist church?  Aren’t you all the ones out there protesting funerals, waving signs and screaming at children?  Aren’t you the ones who believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant?  That Africans are lucky that they were enslaved? How could you go to a place like that?”

Another voice chimed in across the table, “How could you be a Christian at all?  What do you have to say for yourselves for all of the violence that the Church has caused throughout your history?  For the ways that Christians treated Muslims, from the Crusades to today?  For the way that Christians treated the Indians in our own country, systemically killing, stealing, and brainwashing them for generations?”

After that conversation had blown up and slowed down again, yet another topic spun out of it: “I’m not much of a joiner, period.  I am spiritual, but I don’t feel the need to give my money and time to feed an organization.  Why feed the institution – especially one with such a checkered legacy – when I can just do good things and be nice to people?”

An hour after she had tried to leave, Joanie realized that she still hadn’t left for the night, and now it was really getting late.

A lot of people out there think that we are more than a little nuts.  The fact that we give our time and money to an organization such as the church is crazy to many within our culture.  Remember our old buddy Sam Eaton, who gave us all those horribly depressing statistics about young people in the church that I flashed on the screen last week?  He goes on in the article to say that younger people are skeptical of the church institution, of our mission statements and our business practices.  Eaton is reflecting a lot of the culture, not just young people, when he names this skepticism.

But that skepticism is not new.

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced the passage that I just read.  It is from the first chapter of John, and it details the first week of Jesus’ ministry.  He is going around, inviting people to follow him and be his disciples.  And while some follow right away, others are not as sure.

Nathanael is like a lot of people out there.  Philip came to him and told him that he had met Jesus, who was the fulfillment of the Scriptures they had read since they were children.  Immediately, his skepticism kicks in.  Every weekend, there was a new Messiah.  But Philip persisted: “No, his name is Jesus, and he’s the son of Joseph of Nazareth.  And this is where Nate explodes with laughter.  “Nazareth?  That no-name town out in the middle of nowhere?  Did you find him at the Dairy Queen?  Was he cruising the town square in his pickup truck on Friday night?”

His skepticism is rather apparent.

Not unlike those who doubt that Baptists, or Christians, or institutions are the answer to any of life’s problems.

 

But watch what Philip does here.  He doesn’t get defensive.  He doesn’t get embarrassed. He doesn’t try and argue with Nathanael.  He tells him, “Come and see.”  See for yourself.

Come and see the Jesus that I met.

Come and see the community that he is creating.

Come and see the Gospel that has changed me.

And in the first week of Jesus’ ministry, that is exactly what happens:

John invites his disciples and says, come and see.

Philip invites Nathanael and says, come and see.

Andrew invites Peter…

Some of us have probably heard about the disciple called Andrew.  But just about all of us have heard about his brother named Simon Peter.  Andrew told Peter, “Come and see.”  And the church was forever changed.

Each of these invites another in simple terms: “Come and see.”

And the effect was profound.  By the time that Nathanael had met Jesus, he was on his knees worshiping him: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel!”

And Peter will eventually become the most important voice in the Early Church.

All because they said, “come and see.”

 

It is a pattern that begins here and continues throughout the Gospel…all of the Gospels…really throughout the history of the Church.  When people find their way to the church, it usually doesn’t happen because someone gets overly anxious and defensive and unloads on Facebook to show them that they aren’t crazy.  They just say, “Come and see.”

Come and see the Jesus that I met.

Come and see the community that he is creating.

Come and see the Gospel that has changed me.

When people find their way to church, very often it is because someone offers them an invitation to a building…as a way to offer them an invitation to a person.  The person of Jesus.  The building is simply the conduit for them to meet Jesus, for them to participate in Gospel ministry, for them to “come and see.”  I think that Eaton and others is right that we get too hung up on the institution sometimes.  On the organization.  On defending our history instead of agreeing that our past has indeed been a checkered one.

Our job is not to save the church.  Our job is to point to Jesus, and tell the world, “come and see.”

 

 

Joanie was exhausted by all the arguing and posturing and arrogance, and she really just wanted to go to bed, so that she could see her kids in the morning.  She finally got a half a moment of silence, and jumped in:

“Listen, I would love to have an answer to why over the last 2,000 years not every Christian has reflected Jesus.  Or why for the last 400 years, not every Baptist has reflected Jesus.  But that’s not why I get up early on a Sunday morning and go to church.  I get up because it is there that people love me.  They help me.  They challenge me.  They support me.  And together we talk and sing about a God who has done all that for longer than any of us can imagine.  If you don’t want to come with me, that’s fine.  But if you do, I’d love to see you there.  I’ll even give you a ride.”

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