Come and See

The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard what John said, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come and see.”

…The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.

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.”

Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Philip said, “Come and see.”

-John 1:35-39, 43-36

 

Over the past ten months, Council and I have been reading together a book called The Invitational Christian by ELCA pastor Dave Daubert. It’s a fairly quick read (we only took ten months because we went chapter by chapter at each meeting), but well worth the time to read and reflect. Pastor Dave’s main idea is that congregations grow by not just being welcoming, that is, having a pleasant atmosphere when visitors arrive, but by nurturing existing members who make a point of inviting others to be part of the congregation.

Genuine invitation, at its core, requires a relationship. A member of a church says to someone they know, “Would you come to my church with me? I really like the community/ preaching/ music/ VBS/ whatever, and I think you would, too.” Invitation means knowing the other person well enough to connect with what matters to them, and it means offering to be with them. Not just “you should try my church sometime” but “I’d like you to come with me.” See the difference?

Jesus knew how important it was to go alongside his disciples as they began to journey with him. When he called his first two disciples, John’s gospel tells us that he invited them to “come and see.” Discipleship begins with invitation, simple as it sounds, to come and see what is going on.

It isn’t just up to Jesus, though! By the very next day, Philip has become so committed to following Jesus that he goes looking for his buddy Nathanael. When he meets Nathanael, he tells him why Jesus matters, and then offers the very same invitation: “Come and see.”

I’ve sometimes wondered how the whole Christian church has gotten so confused and complicated about evangelism when Jesus and Nathanael make it so simple. Sharing the good news doesn’t require a seven-part strategy or a five-point tract or a detailed agenda. All that is required is a relationship and a simple invitation: “Something worthwhile is happening here. Come and see.”

This brings us back from Scripture to our lives. When was the last time you offered an invitation like the ones Jesus and Nathanael made? If you can’t remember the last time you told a friend or neighbor or coworker that something worthwhile was happening at church, what’s stopping you? If you can remember that last invitation you made, when will you do it again? 

Invitation matters. It forces us to ask, “what do I find meaningful about this congregation?” and then turn outward to someone else who needs to experience the transforming grace of God in Jesus Christ. It makes us share the hope we’ve found with people who are still looking for it. It’s not always easy, but it is simple: “At my church, I hear about a God who gives me new life. I find a community that loves and supports me. We make a difference in my neighborhood and around the world. Come and see.”

Jesus, you called us just as you have always called your disciples, to come and see what you are doing in the world. Make us bold and inviting to share that Good News with the world looking for hope, meaning, and belonging. Amen.