Sunday, March 10, 2013

Invitational Evangelism

Invitational Evangelism

John 1: 35 – 42.


I have always had a special interest in the Apostle named Andrew.  I have always wondered who he was and what he must have been like.  And, I’ve always been a little disappointed.  We don’t know much about Andrew from the Bible…Andrew sort of drops out of sight as the story of Jesus and his disciples develops.
Andrew was the younger brother to Simon Peter.  They grew up to take over their father’s family fishing business, but they left their family business to become Jesus’ disciples. 
Simon Peter and Andrew were one of two sets of brothers that Jesus called to be his disciples.  The other set was James and John—the Sons of Zebedee. 
So far, the story of Andrew is a pretty good story.  Andrew was one of the first disciples of Jesus and started out as a member of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples—Peter, Andrew, James and John.  But, what happened to Andrew by the end of the Gospels?  Andrew seems to drop out of sight.
At the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus took three of his disciples to the top of the mountain.  Those disciples were given a vision of Jesus glorified by his Father in Heaven and standing alongside Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament.  Jesus took three of his disciples: Peter, James and John.  What happened to Andrew?
On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Jess took three of his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asked his disciples to stand guard while he was praying, but those disciples could not stay awake.  Jesus took three of his disciples: Peter, James and John.  What happened to Andrew?
After the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, his disciples gathered in Jerusalem to wait on the gift of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples, they began to preach the Gospel and spread the Christian faith from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the Ends of the Earth.  Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost and 3,000 new believers entered into the Christian faith.  Peter and John went to the Temple and healed a 40 year old crippled man.  In the Book of Acts, we read about Peter, James and John.  What happened to Andrew?
Truthfully, we don’t know what happened to Andrew.   But we can draw some conclusions from the biblical story.  Peter, James and John stepped into the spotlight as the Christian faith exploded throughout the First Century world.  Peter, James and John were Christian celebrities of sorts…But, not everyone can be a celebrity.  Perhaps Andrew did not have a celebrity personality.  Perhaps he preferred to work behind the scenes, away from the spotlight. 
We may never know what Andrew’s personality was like, but I would like to suggest that we do not need more Christian celebrities like Peter, James and John.  Instead, I believe we need more people like Andrew, who are willing to work faithfully behind the scenes to help the Gospel spread around the world.
In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Andrew shows up only two times.  Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us about how Andrew became a disciple and then list him among the twelve disciples.
However, the Gospel of John tells us three stories about Andrew.  Interestingly, there is a common thread running through these three stories.  Andrew invited other people to meet Jesus…

John 1: 35 – 42.

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter[g]).

In the ancient world, discipleship was a common form of education.  A young man would find a master-teacher who taught and modeled what the young man wanted to do with his life.  Then, he would affiliate with that master by becoming his disciple, student, apprentice.  Apparently, Andrew wanted to learn how to become a Jewish apocalyptic preacher…Because he affiliated himself with John the Baptist and modeled his life after John the Baptist’s life.
There is a lot we can say about John the Baptist.  He was a radical who called the Jewish people to repentance and baptism.  He lived out in the desert and wore strange clothing.  And, John was the man who baptized Jesus…
At the baptism of Jesus, John the Baptist learned who Jesus truly is.  After Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended on Jesus like a dove.  The voice of God boomed overhead, “This is my Son, whom I love.  In him I am well pleased.”  John immediately knew who Jesus was and is.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is the Promised Messiah, who would establish God’s Kingdom on earth.

John Pointed to Jesus.

I believe it was because John had a good understanding of who Jesus was and is that he was able to point his own disciples toward Jesus.  One day, while John was teaching his disciples, Jesus walked by.  John made a simple, yet profound, statement about Jesus.  He said, “Look (Behold)!  The Lamb of God!”
Since John was a good Jewish teacher and preacher…And since John’s disciples were also good Jews…We need to interpret John’s comments about Jesus as a Jewish statement.  In other words, we need to consider what First Century Jews would have thought of when they heard the expression “The Lamb of God.”
Some people would have heard John call Jesus “The Lamb of God” and would have immediately thought of an Apocalyptic Lamb.  The Jewish view is that one day we will all worship the Lamb, and the Lamb will rule over Heaven and Earth.  In this sense, Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth who now lives among us.
Some people would have heard John call Jesus “The Lamb of God” and would have remembered the Jewish sacrificial system.  There are several ways we can think of the Jewish sacrifices.  God prescribed an elaborate sacrificial system for the Jews.  Slaughtering a lamb, pouring out its blood on an altar, and burning the dead body of the lamb had mystical and religious significance.  The sacrifice was one way human beings could please God.  It was an act of obedience.  It was an offering to appease the anger / wrath of God.  It was the method God gave for our sins to be forgiven and our relationship with God restored.  In this sense, Jesus is the perfect and final sacrifice who once and for all takes away the sins of the world and offers us a right relationship with God.
Some people would have heard John call Jesus “The Lamb of God” and would have remembered the Passover Lamb.  When God rescued the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, God sent ten plagues.  The final plague was the death of the firstborn.  This death affected every Egyptian family, but did not affect the Hebrews.  The Hebrews were spared, because each family slaughtered a lamb, ate the meat, and painted the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes.  Death “passed over” all the homes who had the blood of the lamb, and Pharaoh drove the Hebrew people out of Egypt ad out of slavery.  In this sense, Jesus is like the Passover lamb, because Jesus has set us free.  Jesus sets us free from the sins of our past; sets us free from sin’s influence on our present; and sets us free from the effects of sin on our future.
John knew that he himself was nothing more than a preacher of the Good News.  Jesus is the only one who can change a person’s life.  Therefore, John preached about repentance and encouraged his disciples to become disciples of Jesus.  Two of John’s disciples immediately left him in order to become followers of Jesus. 

Come and See.

I really like the exchange of words between Jesus and these two (former) disciples of John.  Jesus asked them, “What do you want?”  The disciples answer, “Where are you staying?”  Jesus answered, “Come and see.”
It seems obvious to me what these disciples are looking for.  They are looking for something that only Jesus can satisfy.  They were looking for forgiveness of sins; a right relationship with God; eternal life; the Lamb who would rule over Heaven and Earth.  They were looking for the Lamb of God.  John pointed them toward the Lamb, and his disciples left everything to affiliate with Jesus.
John had told his disciples about Jesus.  But, there is only one way to know who Jesus is.  This is found in Jesus’ words, “Come and See.”  Jesus invited them to experience for themselves and make their own decisions.
This is one of our basic beliefs as Baptists, and one of the things that separates us from other Christian denominations.  We believe that every man, woman, teenager and child must make his / her own decision about Jesus.  Your parents do not get to decide what you believe about Jesus.  Your spouse does not get to decide for you.  Your church does not get to decide for you.  Everyone must respond to Jesus’ call to “Come and See.” 
There is only way your life can be changed by Jesus…You must have a personal encounter with Jesus…You must see for yourself who Jesus is…

The First Thing Andrew Did…

Andrew and the other disciple spent a whole day with Jesus.  And, there was something about that one day that changed their lives.  We just don’t know exactly what happened during their 24 hours with Jesus.
Did Jesus sit down and explain all the Old Testament prophecies and how they would be fulfilled in Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection?  Did Jesus demonstrate mercy, compassion and Grace to the two disciples and pronounce that their sins were now forgiven?  Did Jesus give them a new spiritual understanding of the Kingdom of God?
All we know is that 24 hours with Jesus changed their lives.  We know it changed their lives by the way they responded when the 24 hours were over.  Andrew could not keep his day with Jesus all to himself.  He had to tell someone.  He had to tell his brother Simon.
In some ways, it makes sense that Andrew would want to tell Simon about Jesus.  After all they were brothers, and they loved each other.  Andrew loved Simon and wanted Simon to have the same experience with Jesus he had.
In other ways, it is a little surprising that Andrew immediately told Simon about Jesus.  After all they were brothers, and they were constantly comparing themselves and competing against each other.  Andrew loved Simon but probably wanted something he could call his own.  He was tired of living in Simon’s shadow.  He was tired of all his school teachers asking him, “Are you Simon’s brother?”
Andrew may have wanted something he could call his own.  But, Andrew could not keep Jesus to himself!  And Andrew wanted the most important people in his life to know Jesus as he knew Jesus.  Andrew did not change his brother Simon’s life.  Jesus changed Simon’s life.  But Andrew invited Simon to a place where Simon could meet Jesus.  Then, Jesus did the rest.
This is a great story about Andrew, but it is not the only time Andrew shows up in the Gospel of John.  There are actually two other stories about Andrew. 
The next story about Andrew appears in John 6.  It is the story about Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000.  At the end of a long day of preaching to the crowds of people, the people were tired and hungry.  It was too late in the day to send them home.  And, the disciples did not have enough money to buy the crowd something to eat.  Jesus asked the disciples to find out how much food was in the crowd.  Andrew found a small boy with a small lunch—five small loaves and two small fish.  And, just like with Simon Peter…Andrew brought the young boy to Jesus.  Jesus performed a miracle.
Andrew did not feed 5,000 people.  Jesus performed a miracle and fed the crowd.  But Andrew invited a small boy with a small lunch to a place where he could meet Jesus.  Then, Jesus did the rest.
The last story about Andrew appears in John 12—the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion and Resurrection.  The Jews were getting ready for the Passover celebration, and there were some Greeks in Jerusalem observing the interaction between Jesus and the Jews.  Some of the Greeks told Philip that they wanted to meet Jesus.  These Greeks were non-Christian, non-Jews who wanted to meet Jesus.  Philip did not know what to do, so Philip took the Greeks to Andrew.  Can you guess what Andrew did?  He introduced the Greeks to Jesus!
Andrew could not cause the Gospel to spread to the non-Christian, non-Jews.  Jesus is the only one who could reach outside of traditional boundaries.  But Andrew invited the Greeks to a place where they could meet Jesus.  Then, Jesus did the rest.
Simon Peter is a Christian celebrity who did a variety of things in life and ministry.  Many of Peter’s adventures are recorded in the Bible.  Peter walked on water.  Peter preached at Pentecost where 3,000 were converted, and a few days later preached in the Temple where 5,000 were converted.  Peter performed miracles and was led by a vision to begin preaching the Gospel to Gentiles.  Peter did a lot of different things…
Andrew only did one thing.  Andrew invited other people to meet Jesus.  Andrew helped other people come into contact with Jesus so that Jesus could change their lives.


Sometimes, I wonder if we try to make evangelism too difficult.  Andrew knew that he was not responsible for changing people’s lives.  All he could do was to invite someone to a place where they could encounter Jesus…and Jesus could do his work!
How could you invite someone to be in the presence of Jesus?  The obvious answer is that you could invite someone to come to church with you.  (Of course, that all depends on whether or not your church talks about Jesus, if your church introduces people to Jesus, and if your church believes that Jesus still changes lives.)
According to a book by Thom Rainer—The Unchurched Next Door: Understanding Faith Stages as Keys to Sharing Your Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003)—82% of unchurched people are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to attend church when they are invited.  Thom Rainer also points out statistics that show only 2% of church goers ever invite other people to church.[1] 
Think about that…98% of our church goers will NEVER invite someone to church this year.
I want you to notice something as you exit the Sanctuary this morning.  In the foyer of our Sanctuary you will find several chairs and benches.  Do you know why we have chairs and benches in our foyer?  I suppose they are decorative…But they are so much more than that.  We have chairs and benches in our foyer to give you a place to sit and watch the doors while you wait for the person you invited to meet you at church.
I want to be the kind of church where each week we talk about Jesus, where each week we introduce people to Jesus, where each week we see Jesus change people’s lives, and each week our members sit on the chairs and benches waiting for the people they invited to meet them at church.

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