I've spend the day today at the Baptist General Association of Virginia's annual meeting. Our keynote speaker, Ross Clifford, has been speaking about sharing the truth of Jesus' resurrection without changing culture, in relevant and engaging ways. Today, he delivered great messages from 1 Corinthians 15:17-24 and Acts 17:16-31. Today's Gospel reading seems to follow along the same lines--sharing the Gospel with people who are outside of our immediate sphere. In John 12:20-26 (ESV), we read about Jesus sharing His truth with some Greeks.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
What we have to realize is that there are people who really want to know God, but for some reason they find themselves on the outside of God's people. These Greeks were what we call "God-fearers." They weren't Jewish, yet they admired Judaism and the Hebrew God so much that they came up to participate in Jewish feasts. There are people like that today, as well--folks who are yearning for a relationship with God, who may even participate in the activities of the church, but who for one reason or another are on the outside. What will be their experience of Jesus, if they can't seem to get through the crowds in order to find Him?
Today, Lora Gravatt, Pastor for Family Life at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, asked how many of us had come to our churches within the past five years. A good many of us raised our hands. She said, "Try to remember the first day you walked through those doors. You didn't know anybody there. You didn't know where the sanctuary or the Sunday school classrooms were." She reminded us of that experience so we could put ourselves into the shoes of newcomers. In our churches, we just sort of expect new people to come to us, and to figure out where they're going. We expect them to take the initiative, like these Greeks who approached Philip, asking to see Jesus. Really, that's probably not the best strategy.
Philip didn't know exactly what to do with these newcomers, so instead of taking them to Jesus, he told Andrew about it. Thankfully, Andrew knew enough to go and get Jesus Himself. And Jesus told them about eternal life.
I wonder what Jesus thought about all of this. Was He pleased with the way is disciples handled the situation? Is He pleased with the way we deal with newcomers in our churches? He'd probably be even more pleased with us if we did more than just give them a gift bag and get them to fill out a visitor's card. In fact, He'd be most pleased if instead of waiting for them to come to us, we went straight to the people who need to meet Him.
Most churches have ushers--people who are designated to greet people at the door, help visitors find seats, and hand out bulletins. Jesus wants us to do more than usher people into the church. He wants us to help usher them into the Kingdom. And for that, He needs willing disciples. Will you be a willing disciple who brings others to Him?