Our mission is to help people find and follow Jesus, who will then help others find and follow Jesus (ad infinitum). How do we do that?
March 17-18, 2018
Pastor Joe Wittwer
ILL: You got an apple when you came in—time to get out your apple! Who is this fabled character? Johnny Appleseed. His real name was John Chapman, and he became famous as Johnny Appleseed, the man who wanted everyone to enjoy apples. So what did he do? He didn’t go across America passing out apples. He planted apple trees—actually, he planted nurseries of apple trees. And what do apple trees produce? Apples—and something else: more apple trees, whole orchards of apple trees. Johnny Appleseed understood the X-Factor! He was a multiplier.
The apple in your hand is a multiplier too. Inside your apple are tiny seeds, and each seed could potentially grow into an apple tree that would produce thousands of apples. There are thousands of apples in your hand! But even more, every one of those seeds that can grow into apple trees that not only produce apples, but thousands of other apple trees. There is an orchard in your hand! In fact, there are countless orchards inside the apple in your hand. That’s the X-Factor, the power of multiplication that God built into the world.
You are like that apple. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have seeds inside you, seeds that can grow into other Jesus-followers, seeds that can grow into whole churches full of Jesus-followers. There are Jesus-followers and churches and movements inside you!
Lest you think I’m crazy, Jesus talked about this. He told four stories about seeds in Matthew 13 and Mark 4. The most famous story was about a man who went out to plant his crop, and as he scattered his seed, some fell on the hard ground of the path, some on rocky soil, some on weedy soil, and some on good soil. The first three didn’t produce, but what fell on the good soil multiplied 30, 60, or 100 times over! That seed is the good news of Jesus, and when it lands in your heart and grows, it multiplies into hundreds of other seeds that can be planted in other’s hearts.
Jesus even referred to Himself as a seed that was full of multiplying potential.
John 12:23–24 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Jesus was the Seed (capital S) that died. His death resulted in a harvest of many seeds—us—billions of us! And each seed has unlimited potential to produce more. Peter wrote:
1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
There is an imperishable seed growing inside you, and you may produce 30 or 60 or 100 times over…or more! You have world-changing potential because you have the Jesus-seed inside you! Even the most humble among us has this multiplying potential.
ILL: Billy Graham just passed away a couple weeks ago. You all know who Billy Graham is, and that he preached the gospel to over 200 million people. But do you know who led Billy Graham to Christ?
Edward Kimball was a dry-goods salesman and a Sunday school teacher in Chicago. He spent his free time getting to know the boys in his class, trying to win them for Christ. He felt special concern for one of them, a young man named Dwight. So he went to the shoe shop where Dwight worked, but outside, he lost his nerve and was going to leave. He overcame his fears and found Dwight in the back of the store, where Kimball shared Christ’s love with the boy, and asked him to follow Jesus. Dwight came to Jesus because of that visit in 1858—we know him as Dwight L. Moody, an evangelist who preached to over 100 million people, and founded Moody Bible Institute.
But that’s not the end of the story. In 1879 Moody introduced a young man named F. B. Meyer to Jesus. Meyer also grew up to be an influential preacher, and he led a young man named J. W. Chapman to Christ. Chapman eventually shared the message of Jesus with a baseball player named Billy Sunday. As an athlete/evangelist, Sunday held a revival in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was so successful that a few years later, another evangelist by the name of Mordecai Hamm was invited to Charlotte to preach. It was while Hamm was preaching that a teenager named Billy Graham gave his life to Jesus—and he preached to over 200 million, including many of us.
So Mordecai Hamm led Billy Graham to Jesus. But it all started with a dry goods salesman and Sunday school teacher that you’ve never heard of: Edward Kimball.
You may think, “I’m no Billy Graham.” But what if you’re an Edward Kimball? Maybe you are the person who shares Jesus with someone who does become the next Billy Graham!
That’s the X-Factor—the power of multiplication. And if we’re going to win our world to Jesus, it will happen because of every one of us gets in the game and lets God multiply us!
Our mission is to help people find and follow Jesus, who will then help others find and follow Jesus (ad infinitum). We talked about this mission last week—that we are called by Jesus to make disciples of all nations, and to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
How do we do that? How do we help everyone everywhere find and follow Jesus?
If we’re going to reach the world, we need an army; we need all of you. We need a simple, memorable and doable way of helping people find Jesus. Many years ago, we found a simple way in the Bible, and if you’ve been here very long, you know what it is: find, tell, bring.
We found it in John 1 where the first thing Andrew did after meeting Jesus was to find his brother Peter, tell him about Jesus, and bring him to meet Jesus. Later in John 1, Philip finds his friend Nathaniel, tells him about Jesus, and brings him to meet Jesus. Later in John 4, the woman at the well finds her neighbors, tells them about Jesus, and brings them to meet Him. Find, tell, bring.
There are many stories like this in the gospels. Another is in Mark 5, where Jesus casts demons out of a tormented man, and the demons entered a herd of pigs and they all dove off a cliff into the lake and drowned—a swine dive. The local citizens were upset—it was a huge financial loss—and they asked Jesus to leave.
Mark 5:18–20 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
So this healed and freed man goes home, finds his friends, family and neighbors and tells them what Jesus had done for him. Find, tell, but where’s the bring? Well, the next time Jesus comes to that region, great crowds came to meet Him and be healed. Remember, they had chased him off before, but now great crowds come—why? Because this healed man had found them, told them, and now brings them to Jesus.
Find, tell, bring. Let’s unpack them
- Find someone you love.
In each story, when someone met Jesus they immediately found people in their existing networks of relationships. Andrew found his brother: family. Philip found his friend: friends. The woman at the well found her neighbors: neighbors. The healed man went home and found all three: family, friends and neighbors.
Find someone you love.
This is so natural. When something wonderful happens to you, who do want to tell first? Those closest to you. You may end up telling lots of other people, but first you go to those you love. Ladies, when he finally popped the question, and gave you the ring, who did you tell first? I’ll bet you called your parents, or best friends, before you posted it on Facebook or Instagram. Men, when you got your first car, who did you tell first? When my motorcycle arrived in town in December 2004, I asked my son Jeff and three of my riding buddies, Paul, Brad and Bill, to come with me to pick it up! Family and friends! I wanted them to share my joy!
Isn’t this what we do? When we’re excited about something, we find someone we love to share it with them. It’s natural.
Find someone you love.
Finding implies seeking. It implies intentionality. When Andrew found Peter, it meant that he went looking for him, seeking him out. We go looking.
This idea of seeking and finding people is rooted in the very nature of God. When Adam and Eve sinned, what did they do? Did they go looking for God, seeking God—or did they go and hide? They hid. Who did the seeking? God did. God came looking for Adam and Eve, calling, “Where are you?” That’s what has been happening ever since. We hide from God; He seeks us out. We are hiders; God is the Seeker.
The ultimate expression of God seeking us out is Jesus. In Luke 15, Jesus told the story of a shepherd with 100 sheep, and one wandered away. The shepherd left the 99 to go look for the lost one. He searched until he found it and could bring it home. Jesus told the story of a woman with 10 coins and she lost one. She searched everywhere until she found the lost coin.
Jesus was telling these stories about Himself. He is the Seeker. He is the one sent from God to seek and find the lost. In Luke 19, Jesus said,
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus is the Seeker. We’re the hiders, and He comes looking for us. So seeking people is rooted in the heart of God. It’s what He does. And it’s what He calls us to do with Him.
John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Jesus was sent by God to seek and find the lost; and now He sends us to do the same. Jesus came on a search and rescue mission and has enlisted us to join Him! We were hiders whom Jesus found; now we join Him in finding others.
So go find someone you love. You are sent by God. You are on a mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost, and bring them back to God. We don’t wait for them to come to us; we go to them. We’re the seekers! So go find them. You are sent by God to go find people where they are.
ILL: Laina and I spent several years following our youngest son, Michael, to school sporting events. We spent hours with other parents watching our kids’ sports, and over time, became friends with many of them. Those friendships afforded many opportunities to share Jesus, and several of those folks came to Christ.
You are sent by God to go find people where they are—sports, work, play, school, your neighborhood—go find them and love them!
We encourage you to have Love List—a list of people you love who are far from God. Pray for them that God will open their hearts, and that you will find opportunities to share Jesus with them. Would you take a moment and write a few names on your handout? Pray.
It starts with a relationship. The gospel travels along relational lines—it moves from friend to friend through our networks of relationships. So find someone you love. Then tell them what you know.
- Tell them what you know.
The first thing Andrew did was find his brother Peter and tell him about Jesus. Philip found Nathaniel and told him about Jesus. The woman at the well found her neighbors and told them about Jesus: “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.” We talked about this verse last week:
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The Holy Spirit will empower you to be Jesus’ witnesses to everyone everywhere—to the ends of the earth—to infinity and beyond! What does a witness do? You tell what you know.
Tell them what you know.
Ok, let’s be honest: This is the part that freaks some of us out. We can find people and love them—no problem. But talking about Jesus is…awkward. Witnessing—the very word gives some of us the heebie-jeebies! Why is that? Here are a few reasons.
First, we’ve been taught that some subjects are off limits for polite conversation. When I was growing up, I was told that you don’t talk about politics and religion. I can remember sitting in a barber’s chair when I was in high school, and I asked the barber if he was a Christian, and he said, “Two things we don’t talk about in here: politics and religion.” End of discussion. Some of us have grown up thinking that talking about Jesus is off limits. I think that’s bogus—we need to talk about both politics and religion—and lots of people do! No need to worry about that! And if you bring it up and someone doesn’t want to talk about it, they’ll probably just tell you.
Second, we are afraid of rejection. We don’t want to offend people, make people uncomfortable, or upset them. We are concerned—understandably—with what other people think of us. So we hold back. We’re silent. But most of the time that problem exists only in our head. If we love people, if we listen to their stories, if we show genuine concern and interest in them, the vast majority will be willing to engage in a conversation about faith. Most of the rejection happens to people who are button-holing others and being obnoxious, but if you’re thoughtful and kind, you’ve very little to fear.
ILL: This week, I was in LA for denominational meetings. My Uber driver from the airport was Tony. I asked Tony about his story. I asked a number of questions, and at one point, I asked about his faith. He said that he was a Christian, but hasn’t been following Jesus since his mother died two years ago. I shared with him that when my son died, I decided to run toward God instead of away from Him, and that was a huge part of my healing. I told him that Jesus was with him and wanted to help him if he would just ask. Then I asked if I could pray for him. He said yes, and while he was driving, I prayed. He thanked me—and that was that. But I prayed later that day, and believe that God will use that witness to help Tony back to God.
My point here is that if you’re listening and loving, most people are willing to engage.
Third, we don’t know what to say. I’m going to fix that right now. But I’m not going to give you a formula—I’m going to share some very simple and fun ideas.
Tell what you know. So what’s that?
First, tell your story. Tell the story of how you met Jesus and the difference he’s made in your life. Have you noticed we’ve been having people tell their stories each weekend—like Gabe today? They are inspiring, and we’re also modeling what all of us can do. You can do this! In Rooted, we help you to write a 2-3 minute version of your story, so that you can tell it quickly. On the Civil Right Pilgrimage two weeks ago, I told my 2 minute story between 6-10 times as I shared Jesus with people. The more you tell it, the better you get.
Stories are powerful. There is a reason that Jesus taught by telling stories. The gospel itself is the story of God seeking us in Jesus. And if you are a follower of Jesus, then Jesus is smack dab in the middle of your story. My story is a Jesus story. And every time I tell it, I am a witness to Jesus and what He has done in my life. And so is yours! So tell your story.
Second, tell Jesus’ story. Tell what you know about Jesus. We are witnesses to Jesus—so tell what you know about Jesus. Make it about Him. People will often want to make it about something else: religion, church, or some issue—but bring it back to Jesus. He is the issue. He is the message.
ILL: On the pilgrimage, I talked with a young lady who is a lobbyist in DC for Ford. I asked about her story: grew up in Detroit in a religious family that didn’t value education. So I asked about her own faith journey, and she told me that the church seemed irrelevant and out of touch, that she was asked to “just believe” without evidence. I agreed that the church can be that way, but that Jesus is never irrelevant or out of touch. And Jesus said the most important thing is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. We’re to love God with our mind! Jesus doesn’t want you to turn your brain off and just believe; He wants you to turn your brain on and love God with all you’ve got. I encouraged her to read the gospels and get reacquainted with Jesus. She was very receptive.
Make it about Jesus. Tell His story. Point people to Jesus. And then trust God to work. One last story:
ILL: At the end of the first day of the pilgrimage, I was thinking that I had lots of great conversations with people, but never got to Jesus with anyone. I had held back out of fear. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me the next day get to Jesus.
We got on a shuttle bus early the next morning. There were a group of 10 young high school students who were there with the Martin Luther King Center from Oakland, California—great young men and women. Their teacher said they like to start each morning with an affirmation. So one by one, they stood, said their name and what they were thankful for and what they hoped for the day. Several of them were thankful for Ghandi and the teaching of non-violence. When they were done, my group looked at me, and said, “Your turn Pastor Joe.” I thought, “If they can praise Ghandi, I can praise Jesus!” So I stood, said my name, and said, “I’m thankful for Jesus and the change He has made in my life. He has given me love for my neighbor, whoever that may be. Jesus brings us together to love each other, and I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you!”
They all clapped, and I thought, “What was I afraid of?” And the rest of the day, I got to Jesus with lots of people, including a couple of the students.
Tell what you know. Tell your story. Tell Jesus’ story. Make it about Jesus.
Find someone you love.
Tell them what you know.
- Bring them with you.
Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus; Philip brought Nathaniel to meet Jesus; the woman brought her neighbors to meet Jesus. But Jesus isn’t here in the flesh, so how can we bring people to Jesus? Here’s the deal: Jesus is here in the flesh. The Bible says that we are the Body of Christ. Jesus lives in us, and whenever we meet together in groups large or small, Jesus is there.
Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Each weekend when we gather here, Jesus is here. In your Rooted Group or Life Group, Jesus is there. Anytime you get together with someone because of Jesus, He is there.
So bring them with you. Bring them with you to church. Bring them with you to your Rooted group or Life Group or bible study. You’re following Jesus; invite them along with you on the journey. Be a bringer and includer. “Come with me.”
Be inclusive! When I’m doing something I love, I like to make sure others are included. It feels good to be invited and included. Be a bringer and includer. “Come with me!”
ILL: The gospels tell of 40 individuals who came to Jesus for healing. Of those 40, 34 were either brought to Jesus by a friend or Jesus was taken to the sick person by a friend. In only 6 of the 40 cases, did the sufferer find his own way to Jesus without a friend’s assistance. 85% of those people came to Jesus because a friend brought them.
It’s still true today. Very few people find their way to Jesus on their own. The vast majority of the time, a friend brings them. Be a bringer and includer. “Come with me!”
We say this all the time: Christianity is a team sport. No one follows Jesus alone. We do it together. So the sooner you can include your friend on the team, the better it will be for them.
You got an invite card for the Easter services. Who do you know that needs Jesus? Who is on your Love List? Make the invite: come with me.
Most of you know my story. An 8th grade friend, Don Lang, knocked on my door on a Saturday morning and invited me to a youth rally at his church that night. “Come with me.” I didn’t want to go—but I didn’t want to disappoint my friend. So I went—and I was ambushed by Jesus. My whole life changed because my friend simply included me, invited me: “Come with me.” Who do you know who might be one invitation away from a changed life. Make the invite!