[The two disciples] said to [Jesus], “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” [John 1:38-39]
Dave Daubert is a pastor, a church consultant, workshop presenter, author, and in his spare time, sometimes works for the ELCA. A couple years ago, he served as interim Director for Evangelical Mission for our Northeastern Ohio Synod when we were in between DEM’s.
A while back he wrote a little book called, The Invitational Christian, a handy little “how-to” book full of practical advice for people who want to do a better job of inviting people to church but don’t quite know how to go about it. In church talk, we call that evangelism, or witnessing, or sharing our faith.
The book is a quick read, full of interesting stories, reference to scripture passages, and questions to reflect on as you go along. I bought several copies and gave them away to people who were interested because the book makes it seem almost too easy. There’s a problem, however, and that problem is…well, it’s us. We have a real difficult time mustering up the courage to talk about our faith, let alone invite others to church.
Sharing good news is perhaps one of the most natural things we do. Whenever we read a good book, or see a fascinating movie or a program on television, we can’t wait to share the news. Whenever we buy a new car, or a big screen TV, or a new I pad or some other electronic gadget, we can’t wait to tell others about it.
But when it comes to sharing our faith, or inviting someone to church, we put up every excuse imaginable. We’re very uncomfortable even with those terms. We tell ourselves things such as: “I’m afraid I may not know what to say. They might ask me a question I cannot answer. I might fail. I am not gifted in evangelism. That’s the pastor’s job, isn’t it? I am afraid.”
I thought about Dave Daubert’s book as I read the Gospel lesson for this Friday after Ash Wednesday. We usually hear the Gospel reading for today on a Sunday during the Epiphany season. It is a familiar one in which John sees Jesus and tells two of his disciples, one of whom is Andrew, “Behold, the lamb of God!”
What John is doing is called witnessing. The two disciples follow Jesus and ask him where he is staying and he tells them, “Come and see.”
They stay with him for that day. That compels Andrew to go find his brother, Peter, and bring him to Jesus. Although it is not in our reading for today, a few verses later Philip invites Nathanael with the same words, “come and see.”
I like to call this the “come and see” method of personal evangelism. All of us are capable of doing it. We don’t need any special qualifications. In fact, you are perhaps more effective at inviting than the pastor. Research shows that lay people will always be more effective at making disciples than the pastors or the paid professionals. What I am suggesting to you is that God always uses common and ordinary Christians to do God’s work in the world, and non-professional religious people are usually more authentic and real than professional pastors.
That is why Jesus picked twelve fishermen to be his first disciples; he did not pick twelve rabbis. Jesus wanted to change the world and God changed the world through common and ordinary non-professional Christians. That is the way it always works.
The early church was a group of ordinary people, a community of ordinary people willing to witness to what they saw in Jesus and the difference he made in their lives. That’s how they thought about things.
And that’s how we are to think about things, as a community of people whose job it is to introduce people to Jesus, the lamb of God, through this community known as the church – to encourage them to develop a relationship with Christ and other Christians.
And that relationship can begin with just three simple words, “Come and see.”