Come & See: Invest & Invite
According to a recent statistic there were 2.18 billion Christians around the world. As the population grew in the past 100 years, the population of Christians has done the same and the overall percentage has stayed the same (about 32%).
That is a lot of people. 2.18 billion people are followers of Jesus Christ.
How did this happen? How did we get here? That’s a long way from where things started. How did we get from one man in Judea 2000 years ago to a multitude of people who follow this one man?
I believe the answer is probably multifaceted and perhaps complex, but I believe that one very important component of that answer lies in one very simple phrase: come and see.
Turn with me in your bibles to John 1. John is in the NT; it is the 4th book. Matt, Mark, Luke, John. These first four books are known as the gospels and the word gospel simply means good news. So these four books are the gospel according to Matt… the good news of Jesus Christ as recorded by these men. They contain the historical account, the narrative about the life, teachings, miracles, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in fulfillment of all that had been written about him in the OT. Each one of these gospel messages begins with a guy named John the Baptizer who was baptizing people in the Jordan River and calling his people to repent of their sins and prepare their hearts for what God was about to do in and through and for Israel and through Israel, the world.
Now John was becoming quite popular and more and more people were coming to be baptized. There was a lot of curiosity and even speculation as to who John was. So people began asking him, “Are you the prophet? Are you the Christ? Are you the one we are waiting for?”
No, I’m none of those. Well, who are you, then? I’m not the guy. I’m the guy who was sent to prepare the way for the guy and point people to the guy.
We will begin in John 1:29where we see this John the Baptizer with his disciples.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God (or God’s Chosen One).”
Again, John had the opportunity to grow his own following, but he pointed people to Jesus, exalted Jesus, and testified to what he had seen. John had seen and he directed others to come and see.
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.
Starting with John the Baptizer, growing the church requires an outward focus.
John wasn’t trying to gather a large following for himself, but for Jesus. John didn’t want people following him, but directed them toward Jesus.
John could’ve taken the spotlight and made it about him. He could have started a church and called it First Baptist (hey, that’s catchy). He didn’t, though. He said I’m not the guy; I’m just here to pave the way for the guy and point you to the guy and tell you to come and see the guy. Behold, the lamb of God. When John pointed people to Jesus, he lost followers while Jesus gained them. John’s followers left John to follow Jesus.
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.”
The invitation to Jesus’ first two followers came when John pointed them to Jesus, made the path straight for them and then with Jesus’ words to come and see. Come and see where I’m staying. Hang out with me a bit.
So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
They spent the day with Jesus. Look what happens after a day with Jesus – after experiencing a person.
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.
Andrew, who used to be John’s disciple, but is now one of Jesus’ disciples, spends a day with Jesus and is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. Notice that the first thing Andrew did was NOT to go to Simon Peter and say “Listen, we found the Messiah. Let me explain to you why this is the guy. First, he was born of a virgin, thus, fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 behold the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. Second, his lineage can be traced back to David. Third, he was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the prophecy in Micah 5:2).” He could have done that but he didn’t. Instead it was come & see. The first thing he did upon finding Jesus was to bring someone to Jesus. Notice that it wasn’t some random person or some stranger, but his brother. Someone in whose life he had already invested.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
Phillip was also like Andrew in another way. Remember the first thing Andrew did? He found Peter and said we found the one. Come and see. Look at the first thing Phillip does.
45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
Notice that the first thing Phillip did was NOT to begin a doctrinal debate with Nathaniel. He didn’t give a dissertation about how something good can come from Nazareth and Jesus is it. He could have but didn’t. Instead it was come & see. Phillip didn’t find a random person or a stranger, but someone in whom he was invested, someone with whom he already had a relationship.
So as the result of Phillip’s invitation, Nathaniel comes and sees. He experiences a person. And it is this experience that leads him to believe.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
In a very real sense for these first followers of Jesus, seeing was believing. If we look at how John 1 ends with Nathaniel’s Jesus experience, we see beginning in verse 50 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
It wasn’t Phillip’s superior intellect or ability to articulate arguments that caused Nathaniel to follow Jesus, it was the invitation to come and see that allowed Nathaniel to experience Jesus for himself in such a way that led him to believe.
You see, when it comes to bringing people to Jesus, it isn’t as much about articulating an argument as it is experiencing a person. It was Nathaniel’s experience with Jesus that that caused him to believe.
Historically, Christianity has been called a religion. And that is a perfectly legitimate term to describe Christianity in its denotative sense. Because if you look up religion in the dictionary it is defined as a set of beliefs. And Christianity is a set of beliefs that have their foundation in the Bible (we spent 9 weeks discussing a biblical worldview, which is a set of beliefs). However, religion, while having a neutral denotation has a negative connotation. People have a sour taste in their mouth toward the word religion. So in recent history many have undertaken to shift people’s thinking by saying “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship – a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.” That’s only partly right and I agree with the spirit of that approach. But, while Christianity is a relationship, it is also a religion in the sense that it is a set of beliefs.
So Christianity is both a religion and a relationship.
These first followers of Jesus came to believe, not through a clear explanation of a set of beliefs but an invitation into a relationship. Adherence to a certain set of beliefs about Jesus came later. For you and me today, it is similar in a sense. We invite people into a relationship with Jesus, a come and see, type of invitation, because experiencing a person – experiencing the living Christ is more effective than articulating an argument.
Rarely (if ever) is anyone argued into the Kingdom.
While it is helpful to be able to articulate our worldview and defend our faith, it really does come down to faith. And according to Paul, faith is the gift of God and according to Heb 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God.
The burden of proof is not on us. You can take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. Peter says to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope that you have, so we should be prepared to do that and we should do that, but that and that alone is not what is going to bring people to a saving faith. Don’t get hung up on having your theological ducks in a row or becoming an expert in the Bible so that you can give a sound theological explanation.
Their worldview is not likely to change because you sat them down and proved to them the consistency, coherence, and cohesion of a biblical worldview, or sent them the link to listen to my messages online. That may help, but their worldview is more likely to change by first experiencing the person of Jesus and reading the Scriptures on their own. Again, God may use us in the process. We may have some good conversations and they may ask us questions and our answers may get them rethinking some things, but that alone is not likely to change their paradigm and it’s not nearly as effective as come and see.
And just how effective are debates? Debates have the potential to be healthy and even edifying but they are often done in the wrong spirit, in a prideful, let me show you why I’m right and you’re wrong spirit and it usually doesn’t do much good for the cause of Christ. What does do well for the cause of Christ is come and see. You know what, I don’t know the answer to that, I’ve often wondered the same thing myself. I’d love to study that further and discuss it with you. Maybe we can study together.
While I don’t know the answer to that I do know what I have seen. I’ve seen Jesus and he is glorious. Not with the eyeballs in my head like Phillip, Peter and Andrew, but with the eyes of my heart (Eph 1:18). I’ve seen how Jesus changes lives for the better, brings forgiveness, healing, peace, and joy, how knowing Him answers life’s big questions of who am I and what is my purpose and why there is so much evil in the world and what the solution is. I have seen the transforming power of the gospel.
Again, the burden of proof is not on us. Our role is to invest and invite, to tell people to “come and see.”
While knocking on doors and talking to strangers on 6th street may have resulted in people coming to know Jesus, I believe the most effective evangelism occurs in the context of a relationship in which trust has already been established, in a relationship in which we are already invested. Notice the first disciples and what they did immediately. They went to their friends, their brothers, people they knew, people who knew them and trusted them. We should do the same. Invest in relationships and then invite them to come and see.
That is our role. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
It is God’s role to open their eyes that they may see. God will do the work on their hearts.
And it is with the eyes of their heart that others will see Jesus today. We don’t have the luxury that Andrew and Phillip had of bringing people down the block to hang out with Jesus in the flesh.
But the Bible says there is a blessing in that because it requires faith and without faith it is impossible to please God.
After Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples saw him but Thomas wasn’t with them. So they told him“We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; (remember, in a real sense, seeing is believing) blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The people in the first century had their doubts. This guy here is often referred to as doubting Thomas. Thomas didn’t see what the other disciples saw, so he doubted. Jesus granted his desire to see with the eyeballs in his head and touch with his hands, but then he says that those who don’t have the luxury of seeing with their eyeballs but exercise faith will be blessed.
It was easier to believe that this Jesus was the Messiah when he told them things that no one else could tell them, when they saw Jesus perform miracles with their eyeballs, when they saw with their eyeballs Jesus go toe to toe with the religious leaders, leaving them dumbfounded by answering their questions with questions they couldn’t answer. In a real sense for them, seeing was believing, but again, we don’t have that luxury. What we do have is the opportunity to exercise faith, which is pleasing to God and for that we will be blessed. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Just as the first followers had their doubts, people today will have their doubts. When we share how God has worked in our lives and how the Gospel of Jesus has worked blessings in us people may respond with doubt because, like Thomas, they haven’t seen it. And much like Nathaniel’s reply to Phillip, they may say, “Can anything good come from religion?” Wars, judgment, oppression, schisms and division. Can anything good come from that? And like Phillip, the best response is not a detailed discussion or a theological explanation, but an invitation to know a person. Come and see.
Often, when we attempt to share Jesus with people, the conversation quickly departs from Jesus, and their response is targeted toward the failings of the church. They will be quick to point out that people have died in the name of religion and that the church has done a lot of harm historically. And the church is full of hypocrisy and judgment and it is simply an institution that man set in place to try to control people. Now, there is validity to their concerns. We can all agree that the church, historically has not always played her role well in many cases, the church has made her share of mistakes and blemished the name of Jesus.
You may be tempted to reply, “it’s not like that at my church. At New Covenant Fellowship, we have worked hard to cultivate a church that is more devoted to truth than tradition, more devoted to following Jesus than men, more devoted to the Bible than the creeds, a church that is full of grace and freedom, not bound by legalism or characterized by judgmental hypocrisy, a church void of the holier than thou approach, an imperfect church full of imperfect people who recognize that we are all a bunch of sinners in need of a savior, all equal at the foot of the cross, a church that is about faith expressing itself through love, a church that is about loving God and loving others, a church that is about doing to others what we would have others do to us. We have worked hard for four years to cultivate a loving community of Christians with a biblical worldview.”
You can say all of that. But do you know what is more effective than your 100-word word picture that you paint of NCF? Three words: come and see. Seeing is believing.
Invest and invite. Invite your friends to come and see for themselves and experience the love of Jesus through the love of the Body of Christ.
When we invite people to come and see Jesus and experience him with us at NCF the goal is not to steal people away from other churches. If they are already experiencing Jesus at another church we don’t want to take them away from that. We want to bring people to come and see Jesus who aren’t experiencing Jesus through another local church body of Christ. Not saying don’t do that but that’s not our goal.
When we invite people to come and see what God is doing at NCF, our goal is not to build the Kingdom of NCF by stealing people from other churches, but to build the Kingdom of God by bringing people to see Jesus. Invite them to come and see that they might believe because again seeing is believing.
So to answer our initial question of how. How did we get here? How did one man in Judea 2000 years ago come to have 2.18 billion followers? Because John said behold, the Lamb of God. And two people began following Jesus as he told them to come and see. Then Andrew told Simon Peter to come and see. Then Jesus found Phillip and told him to come and see. Then Phillip found Nathaniel and told him to come and see.
It wasn’t through debate, coercion, or theological expertise, but a simple invitation to experience a person.
It all started with just a few people saying come and see.
God can use us here at NCF to grow and expand the kingdom. While that may involve discussions that require explanations, the most effective and powerful means will be to invest and invite others into a relationship with Jesus initiated by the simple phrase, “come…and see.”