October 25, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
I Once Was Lost
#2—Find: It starts with friendship

 

Introduction and offering:

Did you know that we have planted 11 churches, and those have planted 5 more—16 churches total—and that 15 of those are in and around Spokane? And today, several thousand people will meet in those churches. Those church plants cost thousands of dollars to launch—some well over $100,000. That happened in part because of your generosity—your offerings have funded these church plants. There are still many more people to be reached, and more churches to be planted. That’s just one more thing you are helping make that happen when you give. Thanks for being generous.

This is part 2 of “I Once Was Lost”—a four-week series on our mission. Let’s start with our mission: We help people find and follow Jesus. Jesus left His followers with the command to make disciples of all peoples—wherever you go, in all your going, make disciples. We represent it this way:

 

0 ———————————————–=——————————————-100

Lost Found      Follower

 

How do we help people we love move from lost to found to follower—from someone who is far from God to someone who loves and follows Jesus with all their heart? This whole process—moving from lost to found to follower—is making disciples. So we say: We help people find and follow Jesus. We make disciples. If you are a follower of Jesus, that is your mission too—this is every Christian’s mission. You may have other individual missions or callings, but this is one we all share at Jesus’ command.

We talked last Sunday about the why. Why bother? Why not live and let live? Why do we insist on helping others find and follow Jesus? We saw last week that we are lost without Jesus, and that lost people perish. This is why Jesus bothered, why He came—you were perishing and He came to find you and bring you back to God. Then he passed that mission on to you—to all of us. We were lost; now we’re found and we help others find and follow Jesus. God loves lost people and is on a search and rescue mission—and he’s enlisted us as part of His mission. This is why we do it.

How do we do it? How do we help people find and follow Jesus? It all starts with friendship. That’s what I want to talk about today. Let’s be friends.

The Big Idea: Most people find Jesus because of the influence of a trusted friend or family member. It starts with friendship.

We trust our friends, and so we’re open to new ideas from friends.

  • How do you feel when you get an unsolicited sales call in the evening? How do you feel when you get a call from a good friend?
  • How do you feel when there is a knock on your door on Saturday morning and you see two young men in white shirts and ties on bicycles? How do feel when there is a knock on your door on Saturday morning and it’s your best friend?

Friendship makes the difference. This is why we stopped using intrusional methods a long time ago—they rarely work. Most people come to Jesus because of the influence of a trusted friend or family member.  The gospel is shared naturally in relationships. Here’s how we do it.

 

  1. Find, tell, bring.

If you have been at Life Center very long, you have heard us talk about find, tell, bring. It’s how we’ve been introducing people to Jesus for a long time.

I think it was 1988. I was reading my Bible one day, and something jumped out at me. I was reading in John 1 and it said that the first thing Andrew did when he met Jesus was to find his brother Peter, tell him what had just happened to him (meeting Jesus), and bring Peter to meet Jesus. I noticed the verbs: find, tell, bring. And I thought, “That’s how we help people meet Jesus too!” We find people we love, we tell them what we know, and we bring them with us to church to meet Jesus.

About that same time, a group of leaders here met to evaluate our work. We started with evangelism: how were we doing at helping people find Jesus? We made a list of everything we had done in the last 10 years: street evangelism, door-to-door cold calls, concerts in church, concerts in the park, talent shows (I’m not making this up), 12 week personal evangelism training courses (“this is difficult”), crusades with Billy Graham and Luis Palau. We listed a couple dozen things, and then we rated each one based on one criteria: did we know anyone who was following Jesus and part of our church because of this particular approach? For most of them, we couldn’t identify anyone who was following Jesus because of that approach—not a single person. Bt there was one exception: there were dozens of people in our church who had become Christians simply because a friend had loved them, talked with them and brought them to church. They had come to Christ in our church and stuck and were growing.

Here’s the crazy thing: we were putting all our time, effort, energy and money into these approaches that didn’t work. And we were putting none of our intentional time, effort, energy and money into the one thing that did work. There’s a word for that! Stupid! We had this aha moment, and thought, “What if we start putting all our time, energy, effort and money into the one thing that’s working?” Duh!

So I’m reading John 1 and see Andrew lead his brother to Jesus using find, tell, bring. And I think, “That’s exactly what’s been working for us.” I got excited.

Then I read on, and in the next few verses, I read that the first thing Philip did when he met Jesus was to find his friend, Nathaniel, and tell him what had happened (meeting Jesus), and then bring him to meet Jesus. “Come and see for yourself,” Philip told him.   Here it was again! Philip used find, tell, bring to introduce Nathaniel to Jesus.

I wondered if there were other examples. Yep. In John 4, Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman at a well. The first thing she did was run back to her village, find her neighbors, tell them what had happened (meeting Jesus), and bring them out to meet Him. Find, tell, bring.

I was so pumped! This is what we were doing that was working—and it was right here in the Bible the whole time!

So we began to teach this to our church.

  • Find someone you love.
  • Tell them what you know.
  • Bring them to church.

We stopped doing all the things that weren’t working, and we started doing this. We drummed this into everyone’s heads until everyone could repeat it. Find, tell, bring.

  • Find someone you love.
  • Tell them what you know.
  • Bring them to church.

It was simple. It was memorable. Most important: it was doable. And because of that, from 1988 to today, 4676 people have been baptized at Life Center! And that doesn’t count all the people who have been baptized at our 16 church plants. It’s a lot of changed lives, and…

 

  1. It starts with a relationship.

The first step is find—find someone you love. Reach back into your existing network of relationships. When something wonderful happens to you, who do you tell first? Those you love. Look again at who these people found.

  • Andrew found his brother.
  • Philip found his friend.
  • The Samaritan woman found her neighbors.

Brother, friend, neighbors: all trusted friends and family. Please hear me: when we talk about evangelism, some of you get nervous. You don’t want to be that pushy person, buttonholing unsuspecting strangers, passing out tracts on a street corner. We don’t want you to be that person either! We just want you to love your family, love your friends, love your neighbors, love your co-workers and classmates. That’s all. Just love people. And then see what God does. The gospel always travels along relational lines. Always. It was true in the Bible.

There are back-to-back great stories in Mark 2. Let me tell you these stories.

In the first story, Jesus is teaching in Capernaum, a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Galilee. He is in a home, probably Peter’s, and not only is the home jammed full of people who want to listen to Jesus, but the doorway and windows are blocked by crowds of people. Four men bring a friend on a stretcher—he’s paralyzed—they’re hoping that Jesus will heal him.   But they can’t get to Jesus; there is no way through the crowd. Some say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, these guys got inventive!

In that time and place, people lived in small homes with flat thatched roofs. There was usually a staircase that led to the roof, which people used like a deck. These four guys hauled their friend up the stairs onto the roof, estimated where Jesus would be sitting below, and started digging. When they had a hole big enough, they lowered their friend into the room in front of Jesus.

Imagine the scene inside. Dirt and straw start falling through the hole. Peter starts shouting, “Dudes, what are you doing to my roof?” People start laughing, including Jesus. Finally, the hole is big enough to lower their friend down. I think the hole was probably just big enough to lower him vertically, not horizontally; so they would have sent him down feet first. “Hi! Nice to see you! Shalom!” The people inside carefully helped lay him down, and then looked up in the hole in the roof to see this: four expectant faces framed against the sky.

Jesus forgave the man’s sins and then healed him and sent them all home praising God!

But here’s what I want you to notice: who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus? His four friends. The word “friends” isn’t anywhere in the text, but you know its true. Who does this? Who picks up and carries a paralyzed man so he can be healed? Friends. Who refuses to be turned away, but is so determined that they dig a hole in someone’s roof? Friends. Without these friends, this man would have never gotten to Jesus. His friends brought him to Jesus, and he was forgiven and healed.

And that’s how it still works today. Friends bring friends to Jesus. It starts with a relationship.

Second story: Jesus stops by a tax booth and calls the tax collector to follow Him. The guy’s name was Levi—maker of famous jeans. He begins to follow Jesus and guess what he does? He throws a dinner party at his house and invites all his friends to meet Jesus. Well, tax collectors weren’t very popular, so guess who his friends were? Other tax collectors. It was a motley crew, and when the religious leaders protested and asked why Jesus was hanging out with such low-lifes, He responded:

Mark 2:17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Here’s what I want you to notice: how did all these tax-collectors get to meet Jesus? Their friend Levi introduced them. Without Levi, they wouldn’t have met Jesus. Friends bring friends to Jesus. It starts with a relationship.

Why is the relationship so important?

 

  1. Trust is essential.

I’ve been reading a book called, I Once Was Lost, by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp. (It’s where I got the title for this series.) They interviewed 2000 young adults who had become Christians. As they listened to their stories, they identified five distinct shifts, or thresholds that each person crossed in their journey to faith:

  • Trusting a Christian.
  • Becoming curious.
  • Opening up to change.
  • Seeking after God.
  • Entering the Kingdom.

These are five stages a person typically goes through moving from lost to found:

0 ———————————————————-=——————————–100

Lost      Found      Follower

Trust Ù CuriousÙOpen to changeÙSeekÙDecide

What is the first step? Trust. For most people, their first step toward God is simply trusting a Christian. Today, many people are hostile toward Christianity, and very suspicious of Christians. I’ve met people who were very warm and open until they found out I was a Christian, and suddenly they became cold, distant, and cautious. Has this happened to you? What can you do?

Love people. Be a true friend and you’ll win their trust. Don’t react to their distrust or suspicion. You might be tempted to defend yourself, or argue with them, or just avoid them. Don’t react; just be a friend.

Trust develops over time. The more you love them, the more trust will grow. Here are a few things you can do:

Pray for them. For years, we’ve had “Love Lists”—and we’ve given you another one today. What’s a Love List? It’s a list of people that we’re praying for every day. There is nothing that will change your heart towards someone more than praying for them regularly. As you pray for them, God will change your heart, and may give you ideas how to help them and love them. It starts with prayer.

Learn about them. Ask them to tell their story. People are fascinating! Everyone has a story—I love hearing their stories! Ask good questions and be a good listener.

Do something together. One of the quickest ways to bond with someone is to simply do something together. Help them with a project or ask for their help on yours. Do something fun together! BBQ first, or have a Super Bowl party, or go to the kids’ soccer game together.

None of this is rocket science. It’s Friendship 101. And here’s a great example of it!

Video of Mary and Kari

That’s why we do this! Mary’s life is forever changed. It started in a gym, just being friends. Doing something together, learning each others’ stories. It’s how friendships grow and trust is built—and lives are changed! So…

 

  1. Let’s start with our neighbors.

All the verses listed on your outline say the same thing. Here it is: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Once, when Jesus said this, a man asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” You might be asking the same question. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, and then asked the man, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the man lying in the road?” Jesus’ reply suggests two answers to the man’s question.

First, it’s more important that you be a neighbor than define a neighbor. Who acted like a neighbor? It was the good Samaritan that epitomized neighborliness. So be a neighbor.

Second, a neighbor is the person next to me—anytime. It might be the person I meet on the road, as in this story, or at the store. It might be the guy in the car next to me, or in the cubicle next to me at work, or in the desk next to me at school. And Jesus’ story makes it clear that the guy’s race and religion don’t matter—the person next to me is my neighbor, no matter who they are.

So a neighbor is the person next to me—at work, at school, and certainly at home. Whoever else may be my neighbor, the people who live closest to me certainly are my neighbors.

Here’s an idea: when Jesus said, “Love your neighbors,” what if He meant our actual neighbors? The people who live next to us! What would happen if Christians—all of us—did this? What might happen if every Christian simply started loving the people on their block?

Let’s start with our neighbors. Love you neighbor and see what happens! And the starting point is simply to get to know them and starting praying for them. So here’s the first step. You were given a “My Neighbor Love List” when you came in. Explain front. Explain back. We’re going to give you a few minutes to fill this out right now. Write down what you know about the five neighbors closest to you. Write down these three things:

  • Personal info—something you might know if you’ve spoken once or twice, not just observation you can make from your driveway. For example, “drives a red car” doesn’t count; “teacher” or “two kids” does.
  • In depth info—something you would know from connecting with someone. For example, “heart surgery” or “hates job”.

You can see the example on the front of the card: “Clive Smith, teacher, 2 kids, heart surgery.” Clear? Go!

Ok, how many of you were able to write names in all five boxes? Two to four? One or none?

How many of you were able to write personal info in all five boxes? Two to four? One or none?

How many of you were able to write in-depth info in all five boxes? Two to four? One or none?

Don’t feel too badly if you didn’t do so well. Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, in their book, The Art of Neighboring, report on doing this exercise with thousands of people—except they do it with 8 houses instead of five. We’re much nicer than them! Their findings:

  • About 10 percent of people can fill out the names of all eight of their neighbors.
  • About 3 percent can fill out personal information for every home.
  • Less than 1 percent can fill out in depth information for every home.

We don’t know our neighbors. We live in a culture that has lost its neighborliness. We pull into our garages, the door goes down, and we if we outside again, it’s on our back deck. We used to sit on our front porches, and visit with each other. Most homes don’t have front porches anymore. We’re isolated.

ILL: One family with young children wanted to meet their neighbors and had this idea. What if instead of playing in the back yard, we let the kids play out front? So they did—they went out with the kids to the front yard. Soon, other kids came out to play, and then the parents came out. It completely transformed the neighborhood from strangers to friends—just by playing in the front yard instead of the back.

We don’t know our neighbors. So don’t feel bad if you didn’t do so well; I didn’t either. We don’t know our neighbors, but we can change that! It starts by simply meeting your neighbors.

So here is your challenge: meet your neighbors. See if you can’t meet your five closest neighbors and have a conversation. Learn about them. Ask good questions. Then start praying. This is your neighbor Love List!

Let’s love our neighbors and see what God will do!