Come and see

The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.

John 1:35-46

When Jesus decided to grow a church, he doesn’t appear to have used any of the tools that we would consider necessary.

He didn’t have a TV show. He didn’t use podcasts or social media. He never took out any advertising.

So far as we can tell, there were no mass mailings. Most important, Jesus certainly didn’t hire any consultants! Somebody told me once that a consultant is just somebody with a briefcase, who comes from at least 100 miles away and tells you what you already knew to begin with. Jesus never used a consultant when he started to build his church.

Jesus did pretty well, by the way. I know some people like to talk about how things are going down, but I don’t see any shortage of churches in this country. There are still a lot of dedicated Christians. I’d like to see more, of course. But there are lots of wonderful people around. You meet them every day.

What really stands out, from when Jesus was getting started, is how simple it was. John the Baptist was preaching one day, and he saw Jesus walk by. “There he goes!” John shouted. “He’s the one I’ve been talking about all this time! He ranks ahead of me, ‘cause he was before me! I’ve been getting you ready for him all this time!”

John said, “He’s so much greater than I am, I’m not even worthy to tie his shoes! I baptize you with water, but he’s going to baptize you with the Holy Spirit! He’s the Lamb of God! He’s God’s own Son! He’s the Promised One, the Messiah!”

So a couple of John’s people decide to go and take a look at this guy, Jesus. Jesus sees them trailing after him and says, “What you looking for?”

They said, kind of shyly, “Teacher, where are you staying?”

Jesus told them, “Come and see. . .”

That’s a phrase we hear over and over in the Bible.

Jesus gets born in a stable. Shepherds out on the hillside see a bunch of angels. The angels say, “Glory to God in the highest! Come and see the baby, laid in a manger!”

Shepherds go to see the baby, stay a little while, and they come back singing at the top of their voices. Wake the whole town up, telling people what they saw.
Come and see.

Remember the story of Easter morning? Jesus been killed, his body’s buried. Everybody’s scared, everybody’s crying. Women go and find the grave’s empty! They run back home and say, “Come and see!” The church has been growing, ever since.

Over and over, the key to growth has been this simple invitation. Come and see for yourself what we’re talking about. Come and see what a good place this is. Come and see who Jesus is here.

I want to take one of my famous instant polls.

Hands up, anyone who came here because of advertising?
Hands up, anyone who came here because of a media campaign?
OK, hands up, who’s here because somebody you know invited you?

Keep ‘em up there. Look around the room. In survey after survey, more than 90% of people who come to church, come because somebody they knew said, “Come and see!”
It’s so simple. See for yourself how effective it is. 90% of people, in every church, are there because someone they know, invited them.

All through Jesus’ ministry, that’s how the church grew. People said to their friends, “Come and see what this guy is saying.”

People said to their neighbors, “Come and see what amazing things he does!”
People like Andrew told their family, “Come and see the Messiah!”

It’s the magic ingredient, the mystery technique, except that there’s no magic or mystery about it.

People ask their family and friends, because of their enthusiasm. And people come, because they’re curious. They want to come and see for themselves.

I’ve talked with so many people here at Springfield, about what you want for our meeting. Almost every time, people refer to the past. You talk about the old days, which could be anyplace from 20 to 80 years ago, how great the old days were, how many people were here, how much fun you had.

Well, I’ve got a couple of secrets to share with you. First secret is, the old days are in the past. We can’t turn back the clock. We can’t go back there.

The second secret is, if you look around, the people who are here today are pretty good people. And we’re capable of having a pretty good time.

Last Wednesday night, we had fifty people here for a really nice supper. Might not be the ham and egg dinner of thirty years ago, but it was good food. Some of our young adults made really tasty desserts. I figure that any social event that can get Donald Brower to wear an aloha shirt, or Denny Whitaker to play seat volleyball, is a good event.

Everybody helped. Everyone laughed. The kids had a great time – they didn’t want to stop going under the limbo bar. It was a wonderful evening. It’s the kind of event we do really well!

Any time we can get together like that, and have fun, and laugh together, and play together – that’s worth asking a friend to come to. You want to see what a happy group of people can do together? Come and see.

The week before last, we had 12 or 14 kids here for Vacation Bible School. Again, it was a good time. It might not be the old days, but that’s OK. The kids’ faces were lit up. We had plenty of volunteers. The organization was excellent. We could have easily had more kids, but the ones who came were great.

It was an imaginative program, with good energy. There was nothing depressing about it. It was something we could all be proud of.

You want to see kids learning, and laughing, and finding out that church can be a safe and loving place? Come and see.

Earlier this year, Tom Terrell decided to organize a new adult class. It wasn’t going to be like the old Sunday School classes. People today are busy, so he only planned for it to get together once a month. He wanted people to be able to talk about real issues, not curriculum out of a book.

After just two or three months, we had 25 or 30 people coming on the first Sunday to that class. That’s almost a quarter of our entire adult membership – over a third of our average adult attendance at worship on Sundays.

I know churches that would kill for that kind of enthusiasm. I know church leaders who would lie down in traffic for those kind of numbers. I know it’s not what it was like in the past, but that level of participation is great!

You want to see a church that’s alive on Sunday morning? Come and see.

“Come and see” is simply the most powerful outreach program there is. In fact, it’s the only outreach program that works. “Come and see” are the three words that make the church grow.

I enjoy listening to people here talk and share about the “good old days” at Springfield. I always learn a lot, and I can see the love on your faces and the pleasure it brings you remembering the past. It’s always the people you tell me about – the people who taught you, the people you worked with, the people who made you laugh, the people you loved.

But you can’t build a church in the past. You can only build a church in the present. We can’t go back. But we can go forward. And at the risk of repeating myself, the people we have right here, today, you, are pretty good people.

It means so much to me to hear the parents talk, about the challenges they face today, trying to bring their children up, about the pressures they face, and all the different things they have to try to balance in today’s world.

You want so much for your children and grandchildren. You pray for them, and you do your best to keep them safe, and try to help them to grow up sane in a crazy world.

I watch the teachers working with the little ones, and I think, “You are the saints that these kids are going to remember, years from now – the saints who were so patient with them, who spent so much time with them, teaching them the basics of love and faith.”

We could handle more kids here, and the families that come with them. You want your friends to share in the wonderful teachers we have? Tell your friends, “Come and see. . .”

It’s like that all down the line, in every area of our church life. We’ve got great food. We’ve got great people who actually like each other. We’ve got all the room we need for any program we want to put on.

We have facilities we can be proud of. We’ve got amazing ministries for a congregation our size. We have an island of peace and beauty in the middle of a noisy, crowded city.

What are we missing? We’re missing the invitation. We’re missing the words that are at the heart of today’s gospel – “Come and see. . .”

Many years ago, we used to have a big Golden Retriever. He was a champion, but when he got past a certain age, his owner couldn’t breed him, so he gave him away.

Rebel was this incredibly smart dog. He’d been trained to retrieve ducks. He used to practice by bringing back raw eggs. He was so careful, and so gentle – the eggs never got broken.

We had a cat in the house, and Rebel wanted so much to chase the cat and retrieve it. But he knew that he wasn’t supposed to bother the cat. The cat was part of the family, so it was protected. It was out of bounds.

So Rebel used to lie there, with his chin on the floor, and with his mouth wide open. He reasoned, that if the cat just walked into his mouth, it would be all right. You could see him, lying there, like this, hoping that one day he’d get lucky and the cat would walk in.

I know a lot of churches like that. They lie there, with their chin on the floor, and just hope that new people will walk in. Probably not going to happen!

I said at the beginning this morning, that I don’t think Jesus used ad campaigns, or social media, to grow the church. Jesus certainly didn’t pay consultants. But at the other extreme, neither did Jesus just wait around, and hope that people would just show up and follow him.

The secret lies in the middle. The secret is in those three words – “Come and see. . .” What we have is very good. We don’t need to be shy about it. We don’t need to be embarrassed about it. We don’t need to live in our past.

What’s missing, more than anything else, is the invitation. It shouldn’t be missing. It’s why nearly every one of us is here!

Every day, every week, in season and out of season, every opportunity, we need to be telling people, “Come and see. . .” If we do it, we will grow. If we fail to do it, we won’t grow. It’s as simple and challenging as that.

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