Today is the 2nd in a 4-part series entitled “Why Church?” Because many Christians are uncomfortable inviting others to worship, the aim of this series is to help us become a more invitational congregation by equipping us with an understanding of why it is important to invite others as well as a some practical ways to issue an invitation to people we know.
Today is also All Saints Sunday on the Christian Calendar.
Sermon #1: “Do You Know Your Own Story?”
Sermon #3: “Why Church?”
Sermon #4: “Welcome!”
Scripture: John 1:35-45
In your mind’s eye, picture a NAMEPLATE. Whatever comes to mind for you when you think of a nameplate, go with it. In your mind, try to see it as clearly as possible with as much detail as possible. What color is it? Where is it located? Does it have any writing on it? If so, is it engraved or is it printed? How big is this nameplate? Wherever it’s located, is there anything else going on around it? Try to create as much detail as you can, and see it as clearly as you would if you were looking at it with your physical eyes. Do you have a nameplate pictured in your mind? OK, you tell me what I’ve asked you to see in your mind…(nameplate)
Now, on top of that nameplate I want you to see a HOUSE….details. What kind of house is it (Ranch, Colonial, modern) Bricks…wood…type siding….color of siding…is there a porch? How many windows on the side you’re looking at? If looking at the front, where’s the front door?… color? See the details… What’s the first thing you’re seeing in this exercise? (nameplate) On top of that nameplate is a…… (house)
OK, now I want you to see a GROUP OF PEOPLE standing on the roof of that house, and I want you to picture them with their hands up in the air. Roughly, how many? Where on the roof? What are their ages? Are they people you know?… family members? Different culture, ethnicity? Hair styles? Color of their clothes? See as much detail as possible.
First thing I’ve asked you to see in your mind? (nameplate)
On top of that nameplate is a….(house)
On top of that house is ….. (a group of people).
Believe it or not, in the 2 or 3 minutes to do this simple exercise, you’ve just learned how to go from meeting a stranger and commenting on how cold it is outside to meeting a stranger and begin building the foundation of a simple relationship. And I tell you this because I myself have used this method more times than I can remember. I, a self-avowed, practicing introvert, have used this imagery that you’ve just committed to memory to get to know more about persons I’ve never met before than I ever would have before.
This image you’ve just committed to memory is the trick to building relationships. Remember last week I said that the crux of evangelism is building relationships? Well, the first question people often ask is, “How do I build a relationship with someone I don’t know?” The answer: use the method I’m about to explain to you.
Each of these three images represents something easy you can find out about someone you’ve just met for the first time. Nameplate = their name. House = their home or the location of their home.
Group of people on the house = their family. In my experience, these 3 conversation areas alone can be enough to have a 3-5 minute enjoyable, meaningful conversation. Conversations about the weather last a few seconds to a minute. We’ve all had that conversation. I had a weather conversation with a guy this week at the Centre. It lasted about fifteen seconds. But incorporating these conversation areas – name, home, family – can be very helpful in getting past the social pleasantries.
Where I’ve often utilized this is at a restaurant with the server. Because they always have a name tag on, that first conversation area is taken care of. But something I’ve discovered is that if you ask them about their name—especially if it’s out of the ordinary, it’s usually easy to get them talking for a couple of minutes. Let’s say you have a server name Mandana. You might begin a conversation like this: “Mandana – did I pronounce that correctly? That’s a lovely name, not one that I’ve ever heard before. Is it a family name? Is there a story behind it?” Sometimes there is a story, and nine times out of ten they’ll love telling you how they got their name.
When we took our youth group to Cedar Point in August, our group met up together for dinner and we crammed ourselves into a booth. From her accent as well as her name (on her nametag), it was clear that our server was from another country. So after getting the correct pronunciation of our name – showing interest in her – we asked her where she came from – her home, the next conversation area.
As expected, she was happy to talk about where she’s from. We found out that she’s a college student. That this wasn’t her first season at Cedar Point.
In my own experience, if I’m in a college town like Adrian, and I have a young server, I’ll often ask if they’re a student at the nearby college. If they are, that affords me a number of “conversation extenders.” A short conversation might start this way, “Neat, what year are you in school?” “I’m a junior.” “Ah, yes, I remember my junior year was the hardest one for me. How’s this year going for you?” You can ask about their major in school, what kind of job they hope to get when they graduate, a location they hope to land for their first job, etc. Cleary, you need to not ask where, specifically they live; that would be experienced as creepy and intrusive!
And, if it’s appropriate, you can even ask about family. If the person you talking with mentions their children, you might inquire about them. Oh, how old are they? I recently had lunch with a colleague at Frickers, and as I was talking with our server (using this method), she told us she has three or four children under the age of six! I used that opportunity to encourage her! Anyway, after a couple of minutes of dialog, tell them it was great to meet them, and then move on. The point isn’t to pump them for lots and lots of personal information, but to simply move beyond the surface. Learning a few simple things about them – their name, a little about where they’re from, and their family – is probably enough for a first time introduction.
While these conversation areas are helpful when you initially meet someone – like your server – they’re especially helpful to get to know even better someone you already know. I’ve been using these conversation areas with the guy who cuts my hair. Over the past year, I’ve learned about his children, what their interests are, the sports they’re in, how long he’s lived in Adrian, that he went to Wednesday Night Live many years ago when he was a child, how he came to become a barber, and a number of other things. I didn’t learn all that in one sitting, but over time. And now that that relationship has been established, my plan is to invite he and his family to “give us try” on Nov. 19. My goal isn’t to get a commitment from him, but to simply issue the invitation.
Who have you been praying for this week? Who has the Lord put on your heart to consider inviting to Invitation Sunday?
Have you ever wondered how the Twelve Disciples of Jesus became a part of that small band of followers? I have. In fact, I’ve wondered about it a lot through the years. Here’s Matthew’s description of how Jesus called his first students to himself.
As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Question 1: It may seem obvious, but what was the occupation of Peter, Andrew, James, and John? (fishermen) Based on that, do you think they had considered the possibility of being the understudies of a learned rabbi? Most likely, no. From what we know about rabbinical life in Jesus’ day, it took years and years of formal study to become a rabbi (which Jesus was), and when it came time to take on disciples—or followers/students—they only called those who were on their own way to becoming rabbis themselves. And clearly these four men were not on the rabbi track; they were fishermen. So, it’s fair to say that they weren’t pining to become followers of rabbi Jesus.
Question 2: What, exactly, prompted their leaving their nets behind to do something they had no intention of ever doing? An invitation. A simple invitation. “Come.” Come, follow me. Each of the Twelve became one of the Twelve by accepting an invitation from Jesus to “come, follow me.” Through an invitation, their lives were changed, and our world was changed forever.
Now, I think there’s reason to believe that the invitation Jesus extended to Peter and Andrew on the beach happened only after they’d gotten to know each other. In other words, after they’d established a friendly relationship. Their encounter on the beach wasn’t their first meeting.
In John’s version of the call of Andrew and Peter—which was this morning’s reading— we find out that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist when he first met Jesus. John the Baptist pointed him out to two of his own disciples who were standing with him when Jesus walked by. “Look,” he said, “the Lamb of God.” One of these two was Andrew. These two disciples of John the Baptist decided to see where Jesus was going, so they inquired, “Where are you staying?” Jesus’ response? An invitation: “Come see for yourself.” So they went and spent the day with him.
Sometime after that, Andrew went and found his brother, Simon (whom Jesus later renamed Peter), and told him told him all about Jesus. “We’ve found Messiah,” he told him. At some point, then, Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus. And a friendship ensued. Then, later on, when Jesus happens across them while they were fishing, Jesus extended his invitation to follow him. Which they did.
Were there others Jesus invited to follow him? Probably. Most likely. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that Jesus invited many to follow him, but most of them had one reason or another to turn him down. But there will always be some who accept the invitation.
Who has God put on your heart? For whom have you been praying this week?
In today’s story, we read that the day after meeting Peter, Jesus “wanted to go to Galilee” (v. 43). We can only infer his reason based on what John tell us next. The next day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Jesus wanted to go to Galilee where he sought out and found Philip. And did what? Invited him to join him.
And what did Philip do? He went and told a friend of his about Jesus. Verse 45 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.’” Philip invited his friend, Nathanael.
Who is your Nathanael?
These initial invitations were just the beginning. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all describe how everywhere Jesus travelled, crowds of people gathered around him. In each of these instances, what prompted these gatherings? Clearly, word got out. They were invited. Hey, I heard that Jesus is in town, over by the well. Let’s go and listen to him.
After Jesus’ death, the church is born. We read in the book of Acts how the church grew, starting there in Jerusalem and spreading throughout the land. Church by church. Town by town. City by city. And how did this happen? Because people—one person at a time—invited a friend to come a check it out.
I’ve got to think that eventually it simply became a part of what they did on a regular basis. They were regular folks, just like you and me, regularly inviting people they knew to come check it out for themselves.
It was an invitation from Jesus that resulted in some of the Disciples coming to him. It was an invitation from some of those followers to their own friends which resulted in the compilation of the whole group. It was invitations that resulted in crowds of people listening and learning from Jesus. It was invitations that brought people together into small congregations, most likely in peoples’ homes. In was invitations that resulted in churches popping up all over, including, eventually, Northern Africa, then Europe, and the Americas. Please understand, the Holy Spirit is the one who ‘makes disciples’ of Jesus Christ. But it’s the likes of you and me who begin that process with an invitation to “come and see what I’ve found.”
May it be for us that in time every Sunday for us is an Invitation Sunday.