Human Relations Sunday - 1/19/03, Ep2B
hat are we looking and listening for? A biology professor was walking with a friend down busy Peachtree Street during heavy traffic, "Do you hear crickets?" the professor asked. "No, how can you hear anything over this traffic?" His friend responded. Then the biologist dropped a coin and people all around stopped and looked. We hear what we are listening for. We see that for which we are looking. Many folks are looking for a Savior.
In our story for this Sunday morning, we find Jesus having been baptized by John and beginning his period of active ministry by calling followers. Jesus journeyed to Galilee and found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Jesus did not offer him an armload of theological encyclopedias, or job security, Jesus offered discipleship. Today, we make the same offer. Through our persona, our hopeful attitude and real concern, we extend to others an opportunity to meet Jesus. God has decided to utilize those of us who have already committed our lives to Him as the vehicle for reaching those who have yet to respond to His call. Just as Jesus presented a simple and positive opportunity to a young man, so are we given the opportunity to do the same. Philip was ready and responded affirmatively by accepting Jesus' offer. I believe that Jesus must have known Philip beforehand. He had trekked all the way from southern Palestine up to the northern Galilee region. This was in the region where Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, with Philip in nearby Bethsaida. Perhaps Jesus had gone to Bethsaida on a carpentry job and had met Philip. The Bible does not say, but He probably knew that Philip was ready, willing and able to become one of His first dozen disciples. If we will think about it, and write down names, each of us most probably already know individuals who are ready to respond to a warm invitation to come to church with you and to investigate discipleship. You could stop by their cubicle at work, or invite them to lunch, or perhaps inject a simple sentence into a conversation, "I think you would fall in love with Atlanta First, why not visit with me this Sunday!"
Philip was not only ready to respond right away himself, but went and found his friend Nathanael and encouraged him to become a follower of Jesus. Nathanael was understandably reluctant at first and asked several appropriate questions, but Philip simply said, "Come and see." The sacred task of evangelism is often just that simple.
The Barkson boys, Noah and Nathan, invite their neighborhood buddies to come with them about every Sunday. It's a natural thing to do. They have been riding bicycles together for years. Their parents will never know about the adventures of these fellows; these best friends. It is a typical thing for friends to share with friends the things they like to do. They get them here and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to capture their hearts. Later the new boys will bring their parents, and the parents will invite folks from work. It's not unusual for such a thing to happen: And God takes usual things we do and uses them to build His Kingdom. We call it "friendship evangelism."
When we were in the seventh grade Jay Campbell invited me to visit First Baptist Church in Asheboro with him on a Sunday Night. My Daddy did not know why I was missing his church but Jay had bragged about two things at their youth group; they had the best hamburgers and prettiest girls in town. Jay and I had a great time, although we had more success with the hamburgers than with the girls. If I had not had so much loyalty to my Dad I would probably have become a Baptist. I remember Jay Campbell with great esteem. Indeed, when we were in the tenth grade all of the football team, and nearly everyone else from our high school, gathered at First Baptist Church for Jay's funeral. Jay, and his new girlfriend, were killed in a car wreck on their first date. I know that I will see him in heaven and we will say to each other, "Remember that great night we had at the R.A.R. Youth Group Meeting!"
This is holy ground that we are walking on as God gives us the opportunity to be used by Him in the Divine business of bringing in the sheaves. Calling new folks to Jesus is an extraordinary privilege that God gives to us. It can become your special calling and ministry.
Many of our unchurched family members, new neighbors, and people that we know at school or at work, are waiting for our invitation. Their main concern is usually not the distance for we all are used to driving out of the way to the malls, or to the FOX theater downtown: If the movie we want to see is only showing across the city we think nothing of jumping in the car and driving. The main influence that gets folks to visit our center city church, and to try it a second and third time, is the warm invitation extended by those who love it here and want to bring in new friends. It is so true that the best advertisement for a church is the smile of a happy camper. Most individuals, couples and families who visit here are looking for a spiritually contagious and openhearted place to worship, grow spiritually and serve. The standard text, turned into a popular song is, "They will know we are Christians by our love..." If we are to be an effective witness to help draw persons to our church we must reflect a loving attitude about our church. Indeed, the negative attitude is far more detrimental than the positive attitude is attractive to those who are sizing us up. A church cannot grow in bad soil.
If you are a "lifetime," or "longtime" member of this great church you have the opportunity to share one of the most significant things in your life with your friends, neighbors and associates. It is almost like inviting them to come home with you. Many of us were brought to Christ by our families. I was brought as an infant to an Altar similar to this one. However, like some of you perhaps, I resisted grace and rebelled. Yet, when I responded to God's call to preach the first person I phoned was my Dad, and the Altar I sought was his. It often happens that a part of coming home to Christ is also a coming home to our home Altar. Your friends will naturally sense your love for your church and want to share in it.
On this special weekend many of us remember how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. (Daddy King) used to love to tell what a great day it was when his son, Marty, shared with him his call to preach. Eventually, after an extended time of study, Marty came home to Ebenezer, our neighbor congregation in downtown Atlanta, to become co-pastor with his father. We can all relate to the joy that the Kings felt when this outstanding young preacher made Ebenezer his home base for leading a process of change that would dramatically alter the future of humanity, not just in Atlanta, and the United States, but throughout the entire world. How different our world would be if Marty had not responded to his family's nurture and returned to his home to fulfill his calling.
Evidently, God had His eye on the potential of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a similar way that Jesus had spotted Nathanael as a potential leader in changing the course of history. "Nathanael asked him, 'Where did you get to know me?' Jesus answered 'I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than these, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'"
Today is Human Relations
Sunday in our denomination and God's Spirit is challenging us to become
the kind of people that He can use in this holy process of building
up our church through relational evangelism. Each of us needs to examine
our loyalty to our church, and to our Lord, and make sure that we are
the example of discipleship that others will want to follow to church.
Jesus is calling us to reach our higher calling as His instrument for
bringing those within the sphere of our influence into His loving community
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor