1/20/02, Ep2A

“Friends don't let friends miss Jesus

(35) "The next day (after Jesus' baptism) John again was standing with two of his disciples, (36) and as he watched Jesus pass by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" (37) The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (40) One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. (41) He first found his brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which is translated Anointed). (42) He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of > John. You are to be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter). (43) The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.' (44) Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. (45) Philip found Nathaniel... (46) Philip said to him, 'Come and see.' (50) Jesus said, 'You will see greater things than these." (John 1: 35-37; 40-46, 50, NRSV)

Today's story gives us a quick glimpse into the recruiting techniques used by Jesus' first disciples. Of course they did not have all of the modern techniques that we rely upon: television, newspaper and Yellow Pages ads, signage around our church building, and of course our wonderful web site. Think what the Apostles could have accomplished if they had had all of the technology available to us! But wait a minute, look at what they did accomplish in building a world wide Christian Church out of just two cousins talking on a river bank. Perhaps we should take another look at how they helped create the Church. There must be something here that we can add to our armament of church growth techniques.

The day after John's baptism of Jesus we hear John recommending "The Lamb of God," Jesus the long expected Jewish Messiah, to two of his own followers. This was obviously John's permission for two of his loyal disciples to go and become his cousin Jesus' initial followers. John had been reared by parents who had prepared him to be a forerunner of Jesus. John perhaps had mixed emotions about letting go of his own ministry, but he did do so because of the instruction from his parents. We can appreciate John's willingness to play his part for we have all known persons who would have held on with hope that they could possibly win the leading role. John let two of his best go play what would become supporting roles in the events of the ministry of Jesus.

One of John the Baptist's released associates was named Andrew, who immediately went and found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. When Jesus first saw Simon he seemed to know that he would become a leader of the inner circle of Apostles and renamed him Cephas, or Peter, which means "rock." Later in the gospels we learn that upon Peter's Solid Rock faith the Church would be built. Of course our minds wonder what would have happened if sibling rivalry would have prevented Andrew from sharing his newly found Messiah with his brother.

Next we find Jesus going home with Andrew and Peter and in Galilee where Jesus found their neighbor Philip. We can assume that the brothers introduced Jesus to Philip, or maybe the extroverted, always friendly, Jesus just struck up a conversation with Philip in the marketplace. Or, perhaps Philip initiated the conversation by saying something like, "My it's hot out today, I hope it cools off tomorrow!" Who knows how it actually transpired, but it just seems like a chance encounter much like we have every day. Maybe you and I have missed the deeper significance of our casual conversations with strangers, or with newly introduced friends. But obviously, Philip did not miss his chance to become a friend of Jesus. It must have changed his life for immediately Philip brought his friend Nathaniel to meet Jesus too. Nat was reluctant to believe that Philip had really met the true Messiah, at first. Jesus recognized Nat's potential for what he said indicates that he was a true example of the very best in a young man, "Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nor deceit!" (47). Young Nathaniel believed in Jesus' Messiahship and replied, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God!" (49).

What a natural flow there is to this narrative. It all just seems to happen about like events in the days of our lives. There is no contrived plot, or seemingly prearranged plan, it just seems to transpire similarly to the stuff that happens to us every day. It's like an episode of a modern television situation comedy where there seems to be no obvious story line or plot, but things just appear to occur in the lives of a group of friends, coworkers or families. Do we have something here that could help us bring more people to our church and to Jesus?

Notice that friends are bringing friends; or we might say, "F.R.A.N.s" Nathaniel was brought by his Friend Philip. Andrew brought his Relative Peter. John had sent his Associate Andrew. Andrew and Peter brought their Neighbor Nathaniel.

We have utilized this familiar acronym, "F.R.A.N.," off and on for nearly five years as a way of reminding ourselves that the most effective approach to evangelism is the one that Jesus used in the first days of the Church's existence. Jesus had a kind of natural, likable, charismatic approach to persons and always seemed to be himself. He was not preconscious, and neither were the Apostles. It all just seemed to fall naturally into place.

Although we theologically believe that God somehow knows how things will turn out we also believe that His foreknowledge does not limit human freedom to choose. Every FRAN that we potentially can influence must be treated as persons with the freedom to decide for themselves. Note that none of the Apostles were forced, or coerced into following Jesus. Likewise, a simple invitation, or a positive statement about our beloved church, will bring more persons to visit than any contrived advertising program. The reason that churches have to resort to ads is that most church members never invite anyone to visit. In our case many of you do and we try to supplement those whom we miss with ads and PR. We all could bring someone to worship. Then, once they are here we will let the Spirit keep them here forever.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

1/20/02, Ep2A