Monday, January 12, 2009

Follow Me John 1:43-51

The Gospel this week offers us a great time to ask a pesky question. "Where and when do I start following Jesus?"

At first glance I try to deflect this sort of question, "Following Jesus has been part of every day. I was raised in a church going home. My wife and I are intentionally raising our daughters in a home where worship is a part of each week and prayer is a part of each day."

The deflection works for a while. Then pesky facts start to creep in. George Barna and other sociologists tell us that most people in this generation don't live in homes where faith is part of weekly and daily rhythms. Anecdotally I know that most of the kids I've confirmed in 4.75 years in ministry in my current call aren't worshiping here weekly. The longer I'm a pastor its clear how distant people who live near me, who are members of the church I serve, are from the church. Maybe the best response to the pesky question, "Where and when do I start following Jesus?" isn't to look within; but is to go out and find people on the outside and invite them to "come and see."

Jesus invited many people to follow him. Some were deeply religious and others were outside the community and story of faith. Early in ministry He called some of John's followers to come. Next he called Philip. Philip invited Nathaniel. But now I am asking my self, "Where and when do I start following Jesus inviting somebody to come and see?" Its been a while since I've been out door-knocking. Sure I make connections through school, but Jesus and Philip invited people on purpose. This pesky question, "Where and when do I start following Jesus?" isn't answered by saying I am a pastor. I am called as a believer to imitate Christ, and imitating Jesus' ministry means inviting others to come and see.

Discipleship starts with an invitation. Read John 1. Watch as Jesus personally invites men to come and follow him. They became His friends; and, just as Jesus promised, they witnessed God's power. John and Robin McCullough-Bade wisely observe in the bible study Daily Discipleship© 2005 ELCA,

It is clear from this passage Jesus is not going to wait for people to find him and discover his message. In this situation, Jesus decides to go to Galilee and find Philip. It is unknown if Jesus already knew Philip. Perhaps, Jesus went looking for him on the recommendation of Andrew and Peter. They were all from the same home town. It is possible there was no previous connection. The key aspect of the story is one of invitation.
When Jesus finds Philip, he simply invites him by saying, “Follow me.” (John 1:43 NSRV) There is no mandate. There is no theological discourse. It is a simple invitation: “Follow me.”
Jesus' example in John 1 is simple. The pesky question's still here, "Where and when do I start following Jesus?" His model is clear. Will we take the risk and invite others to, "come and see"?


Ivy said...

Let's hope so...otherwise our churches will wither and die. It is the way the ancient church grew and is the most effective way to grow the church. Blessings.

walk2write said...

I struggle with the modern concept of the church. Didn't Jesus intend the "church" to be a body of believers and not a building? And why must worship take place once (Sunday) or twice a week maybe and only in the company of other believers? I worship God every day in every thing I do, say, think, feel, believe. My spirit is already with Him, incorruptible, while my body, corruptible, falls apart and wages war with my spirit. I'm not saying it's not important to commune with other believers on a regular basis. But why not eliminate the constraints? Life itself is so constraining that many people are turned off by what they perceive as even more limitation. I think Jesus meant for a relationship with him to be liberating. God the Father says to Jesus the Son: "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:6-7.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

you're absolutely right about the church being believers in the body and not a building.

The hard question is about our connection to Christ. For many their claim to Christ is based on an even looser affiliation to a group who worships every week. Most of the kids my congregation confirms don't worship with us or anywhere. The disconnection between God and these young people (and many of their parents) is palpable. Meeting with a family like this to plan a funeral is tough. They need the story to be told right now, its too late for the person who's lost to tell them the story. We must trust them into God mercy. The good news is it's not to late for the family or for the people around us. The best hope I have is that we will follow Jesus boldly into the world and find people as they are really at and not like we wish they were already.

walk2write said...

Are there a few kids (high school age) in your group of believers who could act as mentors for their peers (with adult supervision, of course)? My daughter is one of those rare individuals who is willing and able to help her peers find and maintain a relationship with God. She prays unceasingly for their salvation and, most importantly, becomes their friend when no one else will. Some of these people she has befriended over the years come from extreme poverty, often with alcoholic, abusive, or neglectful parents. They have no basis for comparison when told they have a loving Father in heaven and tend to not believe it coming from an adult. The teen-mentors learn to become disciples at a critical point in their lives when they are developing life-plans and soon find that discipleship becomes the foundation on which they will build their adult lives.