In John 1:43-51 is an interesting exchange between Jesus and one of his earliest disciples, Nathanial. Nathanial was a straight-shooter, a doubter, and a cynic. And because of those three characteristics I like him a lot! Lets just say I can relate. Phillip, who had just met Jesus, wanted Nathanial to meet Jesus too; and Nathanial was immediately skeptical. When Phillip told Nathanial Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathanial responds with perfectly skeptical words, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
I have used those exact same words–tongue-in-cheek–about countless other places or circumstances. I’m pretty sure people in Omaha say the same thing about Council Bluffs and vice versa. As an Oregonian I used to often say, “What good can possibly come from California?” . . . then I experienced the weather in southern California and said, “Oh . . . ”
Jesus won over Nathanial of course, but it was only because Phillip directed Nathanial to “Come and See.” Nathanial obeyed and everything changed for him. Because the monthly theme is “obedience” I really want you to focus on those words of Phillip’s: Come and See.
I honestly think we have entered a time and space where church is the place where people perceive there is nothing to learn. The attitude is “can any good come from going to church?” We are surrounded by skeptics and doubters. In fact we are probably outnumbered. And in the face of that social pressure it can be easy to sell yourself short. It goes like the following. Your friend shares with you how he or she doesn’t really like sermons; they are too boring and too long. You respond, “well, yeah, sometimes they can be; I hear you.” But how you should respond is “come and see.” A family member had a bad experience in church when he or she was younger by breaking a confidence about something very private. You respond compassionately (which you should) saying “unfortunately that sometimes happens at church.” But perhaps you should also say, “come and see; lets try again.”
Sometimes it can be easier to just nod and smile. But as I’ve told you before–and I intend to stand on this soap box for a while–church is where the good news is found. Sometimes if you only nod and smile you actual end up reinforcing beliefs that keep people away from the gospel. Those who know me understand I’m not advocating a confrontational style of evangelism. I’m not interested in telling people they are wrong about how they feel about sermons or how they should interpret their own experiences. Those responses would be arrogant. But what if we side-stepped the arguments like the one Phillip could have launched with Nathanial and simply said, “you know what friend, just please come and meet the man and decide for yourself.”
Do not sell yourselves short fellow friends of Jesus. We may not do everything perfectly, and our church is certainly not the right place for everyone. But if we are to be obedient to Jesus we should invite others. And . . . we should come and see ourselves.