November 2-3, 2019
Pastor Joe Wittwer
You can do this!
Find someone you love
“You can do this!” We say it all the time.
- To our kids when we’re cheering them on at a game.
- To a friend when we’re encouraging her to take on a challenging task.
- To ourselves when we’re tired or discouraged.
“You can do this! You can do this!” Today, I want to say that to each of you regarding God’s mission. God wants us to be His hands and feet, to represent Him and do His work in the world. It feels overwhelming. “I don’t know how. I’m not good enough. I’m not a professional Christian like Joe.” But…You can do this! And I’m going to show you how!
Introduction and offering:
Let’s start with a very important Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20 (p. 857)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is called “The Great Commission.” In these final words to His followers, Jesus gives them and us our mission: to make disciples of all nations. To help everyone everywhere follow Jesus and do what He says.
That is why at Life Center, we say our mission is to help people find and follow Jesus. This is the mission Jesus gave us.
But there are two big problems. First, many Christians are not convinced this is what we should do. Second, even those who are convinced find it difficult and intimidating. Let me briefly address those two objections.
First, many Christians don’t think we should evangelize. Live and let live. Don’t push your religion on others. A recent Barna survey revealed that almost half (47%) of millennial Christians think it is wrong to evangelize (to share your faith with the hope of helping the other person believe). And it’s not just millennials. I recently talked with a friend who is a Boomer and a very devoted Christian who said she is not convinced it’s right to try to convert others. The idea is that we should respect everyone’s beliefs and not try to win them over to ours. That sounds so…nice! But let me show you why it’s wrong.
The first reason we must help others find and follow Jesus is because Jesus commands it. If you are a follower of Jesus, you do what He says—and He clearly says to do this. Make disciples of everyone everywhere—starting at home. Jesus says, “Believe,” and we believe. He says, “Be baptized,” and we get baptized. He says, “Love your neighbor,” and we love our neighbor. He says, “Make disciples,” and we say, “I’d rather not.” Sorry—not how it works if you follow Jesus. First, Jesus commands it.
The second reason is more compelling. It’s love—not only love for God, but love for people. You all know: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus came to bring us eternal life—life to the full, abundant life now and forever. Without Jesus, without that life, we perish. There are the two options: eternal life or perish. Which one do you want? What do you want for those you love?
ILL: Have you heard of Penn and Teller—the illusionists? Recently after a show, a man approached Teller and after chatting briefly, gave him a Bible with a nice note written inside. Teller said the man looked him in the eye, was kind, respectful, and complimented him on the show. And then he gave him the Bible. Now, Teller is an outspoken atheist. What was his response? It may surprise you! He said:
“If you believe that there is a heaven and hell and that people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them others because it would be socially awkward… How much do you have to hate somebody to not tell them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
If I believed that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it, but that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.
This guy was a really good guy. He was polite and honest and sane, and he cared enough about me to tell me and give me a Bible.
Evangelism is an act of love. Not everyone feels like Teller does—but evangelism is an act of love. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. It is an act of love.
The first problem is that some Christians don’t think we should make disciples. I think we must—we must because Jesus commands it and it’s the loving thing to do.
Second problem: it feels difficult and intimidating. It’s seems awkward, daunting, scary. But what if it wasn’t? What if our mission was simpler than you thought? You can do this!
ILL: In the early days of Life Center, we tried all kinds of ways to help people find Jesus: street witnessing, door to door, concerts, crusades, using tracts like the Four Spiritual Laws, and more. Most of them were awkward and difficult. I even did a 12-week personal evangelism series with a one inch notebook to equip our church. At the end of the 12 weeks, I discovered I hadn’t equipped them; I’d paralyzed them! Why? Because anything that takes 12 weeks and a one inch notebook to explain must be difficult! “Leave it to Pastor Joe.”
One day we evaluated all the things we had tried. We used a very simple measure: who is in our church who came to Jesus because of this effort? Over and over, we could think of no one. But there were lots of people who had come because a friend invited them, they met Jesus and stayed. We realized that we were putting all of our effort into these things that didn’t work, and none of our effort into this one that did. If we were a business, what would we call that? Stupid! We made a decision that forever changed our church: we stopped doing all those things that didn’t work, and focused all our effort on doing the one thing that did work. We called it “Find, tell, bring” and we found it in the Bible!
1. How do we help people find Jesus?
John 1:40–42 (p. 912)
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
What was the first thing Andrew did? Find, tell, bring. The first thing he did was find his brother, Simon. Then tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And bring him to meet Jesus.
The same thing happens in the next few verses. The first thing Philip does after meeting Jesus is he finds his friend Nathaniel. He tells Nathaniel, “We have found the one Moses wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth.” Nathaniel says, “Nazareth? Can anything could come out of Nazareth?” And Philip says, “Come and see.” And he brings him to Jesus.
The same thing happens in John 4, where Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well. She went back to her village, and the first thing she did is find her neighbors, and tell them, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” And she brings them to meet Jesus at the well.
They each naturally do the same thing. Find, tell, bring.
Find someone you love.
Tell them what you know.
Bring them with you.
This is so simple and natural. When something really cool happens to you, what do you do? You find someone you love and you tell them. “Guess what!” It’s natural. No one has to tell you to do it—you just naturally do it. No one told Andrew or Philip or the woman at the well to do it—they just did. It’s simple, it’s real, it’s natural. When you meet Jesus and He changes you, this is what happens! You find, tell, bring.
Find someone you love: a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker or classmate. It’s natural.
Tell them what you know: what happened, what you experienced. It’s natural.
And then you bring them with you: “Come and see. Come with me! You’ve gotta experience this.” It’s natural. It’s simple. You can do this!
So I want to unpack some simple ideas on how to do this—this week, I’ll focus on finding someone you love.
2. Find someone you love.
Here are three practical ideas on doing this—all really simple.
Find people in your networks of relationships.
This is where we start. Andrew found his brother; Philip found his friend; the woman found her neighbors. They all found people in their networks of relationships. We start with the people we already know and love. We “find” them like Andrew did—we go to them where they are to share what has happened to us.
ILL: When I was in the 8th grade, a friend from school, Don Lang, found me: he knocked on my door one Saturday morning and invited me to a youth rally at his church. I didn’t want to go—but he was my friend and I didn’t want to disappoint him. So I went—and was ambushed by Jesus. The speaker that night was a young college student, Sam Owen, who talked about Jesus like he knew Him! He was funny and winsome. They invited people who wanted Jesus to come forward. I didn’t go, but walking home that night I prayed my first prayer. “God, I don’t know much about you, but I know that what that guy has, I want. Here…here’s my life.”
I woke up the next morning, and thought, “Now what?” Well, it was Sunday, and one thing I knew was that Christians went to church on Sunday. So I walked back down to that little church, and went to the junior high Sunday school class where we sang Michael row the boat ashore and If I had a hammer. And my life started changing, and friends at school asked, “What happened to you?” I said, “I’m religious.” Gag! I just didn’t have words for it yet.
I met Jesus because Don found me. How did he find me? He just literally came to my house and found me. That simple! He didn’t find a stranger on the street—awkward! He found a friend from school. He came to me where I was.
ILL: A few months later, our church held a revival—kind of like a youth rally on steroids for grown ups. Guess what I did? I found my friends—several of them. I talked to them at school or called them on the phone—I found them and invited them to come with me. And at the end of the service, at the altar call, I turned to them and said, “Come on!” And led them up front!
Some of my friends met Jesus because I found them. I literally found them at school, or found them at home on the phone—simple.
This is where we start. Who do you know, who do you love, who needs Jesus? Who needs life to the full? Who needs to know there’s a God who loves him or her? Think of your networks of existing relationships: family, friends, neighbors, class-mates, co-workers. Who do you love? Go find them!
Here’s an interesting fact: After two years of following Jesus, many Christians have few or no close pre-Christian friends. Why? Their social circles have changed and they hang out mostly with believers. And often, they’ve naturally done Find-Tell-Bring with their family and friends, and many have come to Jesus. If that’s you—then what?
Build friendships with pre-Christians.
Most of the people in my orbits are Christians. I’m a professional Christian. I work at the church. Last time I checked, all of our staff are Christians. So I have to intentionally move into orbits where I can build friendships with pre-Christian people.
One example: When our kids were in school and playing sports, we made lots of friends with other parents sitting out in the cold for hours on end!
ILL: One of those parents was John. We met at a game and started sitting together, and became good friends. And when I finally invited him to church, he and his wife came—and then they kept coming. And one day, when we were doing an amnesty baptism service (anyone could get baptized on the spot), John came up and tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to baptize him. It was one of the best moments of my life!
Another example: it’s more convenient for me to work out at home, but I go to the gym because it’s an opportunity to meet people and build friendships. The gym is a mission field—an orbit where I can make pre-Christian friends!
Another example: I walk my dog in our neighborhood, and I wave at every car that goes by. Some of them stop and talk. Other neighbors come out of their homes and visit. I’m building relationships and making friends.
The point is simply that if all your friends are already believers, you may have to be very intentional about moving into orbits where you can build friendships with pre-Christian people. One note: they need to be genuine friendships, which means that even if they never become Christians, you’re still friends.
One last idea…and you’ve heard me say this a lot!
Move toward the other.
One of the best ways to build new relationships is to move toward the other. When we enter a room we look first for someone we know. If we don’t see anyone we know, we look for someone like us: our age, our gender, our race. Someone that we’ll be comfortable with.
Instead, try moving toward the other. Move toward the person different from you. Move toward the person who is standing alone. Move toward the person on the margins, the overlooked, the lonely, the different, the person who is not part of your group, the other.
ILL: A couple weeks ago, 27 of us from Life Center staff and NWLC went to our district conference in Bothell. The first night, we went for dinner to Chick-fil-A. How many think we need a Chick-fil-A in Spokane? I’m excited to tell you the good news! They’ve filed a building permit in N. Spokane. Let’s pause for prayer. So I’m herding everyone through the line—27 of us—when I see a stranger smack in the middle of our line. I explained to him that there were 27 of us on one order and he may want to go to the back of the line. He looked at me like I was crazy! So I improvised, “Stay right where you are and let me buy you dinner! Join our group!” He protested, but I insisted and bought his dinner. We ended having a lengthy conversation, exchanging emails and have been in touch since. He was “the other”—not part of our group—and moving toward him started a relationship.
Friends, it’s all about relationships. Here’s what we’re going to do.
When you came in, you were given a Love List. We’re going to take a minute to write down the names of people we love who need Jesus. Then we’re going to pray for them. Prayer. Take this home and put it in your Bible or on your refrigerator—whichever you frequent more—and start praying for these people you love.
I’ll finish with three key ideas:
3. Key ideas:
Relationships: Love them until they ask you why.
It’s all about relationships. The vast majority of people who come to Christ do so because of the influence of a trusted friend or family member. It’s all about relationships. We’re not asking you to do anything weird or awkward—just love people.
ILL: Let me paint a scenario for you. It’s Saturday morning. You’re relaxing at home with a cup of coffee when you hear a knock on the door. You look out the window and see two young men on bicycles in white shirts and ties. How do you feel? We’re not asking you to do that!
Same scenario: Saturday morning, you’re relaxing at home with a cup of coffee and you hear a knock on the door. You look out the window and see your best friend. How do you feel? That’s what we’re doing!
We’re being friends. We’re building relationships. We’re loving people. Do you want to help people find and follow Jesus? Just love people! Love them until they ask you why and then tell them what you know. The gospel travels along relational lines, from friend to friend. Let’s be friends. It’s all about relationships.
Intentionality: We are God’s search and rescue team.
The word “find” is a verb that implies intention. “Find someone you love.” It means that we go looking. Seeking. Seeking and finding is very intentional.
ILL: Several years ago, Janine Noll lost the diamond out of her wedding ring. Besides the monetary value of the stone, there was, of course, an even higher sentimental value: this was her wedding diamond. So an earnest search began. She and Rick carefully retraced their steps, looking everywhere for that diamond; they looked all day, but to no avail. The last place she remembered seeing the diamond was when they were riding in Rick’s car. Of course, they had already thoroughly searched the car, looking under the floor mats and seats—everywhere. But as a final act of desperation, Rick even took off the interior door panel. He thought that maybe the diamond had caught on the door as Janine got out of the car, and it might have somehow fallen inside the doorframe. Pretty implausible, but they valued that diamond and were in search mode. And there it was. They kept seeking until they found it.
What makes the story even better is that the car was a 1970 Ford Maverick that was on its last legs. Not long after, it died and Rick had to call several junkyards before he could find one that would take it. They offered him $60 or three hubcaps for it! If Rick hadn’t searched so intensely for that diamond, it would have been hauled out to the junkyard with the car—a $60 car with a $3,000 diamond in the door!
What makes someone search that hard? The value of the item they were looking for! Andrew went looking for his brother Simon until he found him—because he loved his brother. In the same way, we are seeking out our friends because we value them, love them. We are finding them with the intention to share the good news. Jesus said,
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus came on a search and rescue mission. He came to seek us, to find us and to save us. He is still on that mission, and we are His Search and Rescue Team! He loves and values people and is sending us to seek and to find them.
John 20:21 As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.
Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost; now He sends us to do the same. We are His search and rescue team, finding people that He loves.
Relationships, intentionality, and…
Initiative: this is the “Go” in the Great Commission.
In all three stories—Andrew and Simon, Phillip and Nathaniel, the woman and her neighbors—the person who knew Jesus took the initiative and moved toward people they loved. Andrew didn’t wait for Simon to come to him and ask. He found Simon and told him.
Initiative—this is the “Go” in the Great Commission. We are going to our friends, seeking them, finding them, telling them. We take the initiative.
To help me with this, I started a new practice a few months ago. (I’m always learning!). I call it a MAD meeting. Can anyone guess what MAD stands for? Make A Disciple. Each week, I schedule at least one meeting with someone who is far from God, someone who needs Jesus. It may be coffee, or lunch, or dessert, or golf. I’m intentional, I’m taking the initiative and finding them to build the relationship and have a gospel conversation. Sometimes it’s mostly about building the friendship. But most of the time, I try to have a gospel conversation (we’ll talk more about that next week). The whole point is that instead of waiting for someone to come to me, I’m taking the initiative. I’m finding them.
It’s what Jesus did with us. He didn’t wait in heaven for us to come find Him. He came to us. He came looking for us. He took the initiative. Let’s do the same.
Next weekend we’re going to talk about Tell: tell them what you know. How to have a gospel conversation. It’s way simpler and more natural than you think. You’re going to love it!
So…what is your next step this week?
- Start praying for your Love List.
- Find someone you love—someone in your networks of relationships.
- Build a relationship with a pre-Christian.
- Move toward the other.
- Schedule a MAD meeting.
Take a moment to write out your next step, then we’ll pray.
My next step:
You can do this!