Sunday 10th February 9am Worship
Series: Pathways to Growth
Bible Reading: John 1:35-51
Preacher: Phil Swain
Over the next three weeks, I want to try something quite different in church. John Wesley – one of the founding fathers of Methodist and whose writings are a key theological document in the Uniting Church tradition – spoke of this idea of when we are learning something, or wrestling with a theological idea, or when we are trying to discern what God is saying to us … that we naturally use a variety of different sources to inform our thinking.
Wesley suggested four common sources we draw upon:
- The Bible
- Church Tradition or the wisdom passed down to us from Christians who have journeyed before us.
- Our own experiences
- Logic / rational thinking process
I’d would possibly add two more
- The prompting of the Holy Spirit / God
- The voices or insights of those we trust.
So Wesley would say that when we are working through a spiritual concept or issue – we should draw on all of these sources and hold them together in a way which brings us even greater insight and learning.
This is what I want to recreate over the next three weeks. We have got this broad issue of “Pathways to Growth” that came out of our Vision Sunday talk last week. How do we help people move from their first experience of Jesus or the church, to feel welcomed, then through to a point of belonging and integration and ultimately to a point of commitment and a desire to serve Jesus and God’s mission in the world?
Instead of me just talking for the next 20 minutes – I want us to open ourselves up to different sources (and they will be different each week). Each week, I am going to help us call upon the wisdom found in scripture – particularly on how Jesus reflected this pathway of growth in his teachings.
But each week we will also hear in short grabs from other voices – some people speaking of their own experiences, or the experiences of other churches, or some of their own rational thinking or processes. I am even going to ask you to be open to doing some thinking and reflecting yourself. And then at the end of time of sharing I am going to try and bring this all together. Do you get the idea? Are you ready for this different approach? Let’s jump in.
First source … the Bible. Our reading from John gives us some great insight in the “not quite yet disciples” first experience of Jesus and the community of followers that Jesus was building.
There is a heap of different facets to this reading – but I want to explore it by asking the question. What did Jesus and John do to make these prospective followers feel welcome, at ease, intrigued and wanting to explore more? After all, this is the first part of the pathway to growth. So, what can we learn from Jesus and John?
John the Baptist is an interesting character. If from the other gospels it is clear John has charisma, he is a gifted speaker and he is successful in calling people to repent and come back to God. And yet in the verses just before our reading, when asked about his credentials – he said that he is only there to direct people to the coming Messiah. To point people to Jesus. And in the beginning of our reading, that is exactly what he did. Andrew was talking to John the Baptist and when Jesus walks by he says “Look, the lamb of God”.
I think this is great advice for us. Sometimes we get anxious or scared about the idea of evangelism or talking about Jesus to others – but in simple terms, we just have to point people to Jesus.
So, Andrew’s first encounter with Jesus. First impression. They walk up and Jesus asks, “What do you want”. Not, “this is what I want” or “this is what you must do” or “work out how to fit in but “What do you want”. Jesus makes their first encounter about them. When they ask the weird question, “Where are you staying?” I love Jesus answer – “Come and See”.
When I in year 11 and 12 at high school I was a leader at the ISCF group – and we adopted this as our motto. We didn’t want people to feel bible bashed or cornered into hearing about Jesus – we just invited them to “Come and See” – come and see what we were about and see what this Jesus stuff is all about. No pressure, no expectations, just come and see.
And so Andrew did – he spent the day with Jesus and must of like what he saw because he became a pointer – telling his brother Peter to “come and see”. Andrew was confident that if Peter came and observed Jesus, he would see and experience what he had. If we read on … when Philip finds Nathaniel and wonders if Jesus could be Messiah, Nathaniel is unsure … so what does Philip say in v46? “Well come and see” How can we become “Come and see” people? How can we be better and being a church where people can without pressure or expectations come and see what we and Jesus is all about?
I am going to invite Jon and Lynda to come and share with us their experiences of attending a Saturday night service that really has tried hard to be a welcome church, a church which puts people at ease as they check out Jesus.
Lynda/Jon – North Ryde Community Church
It is such an encouraging story, isn’t it! Now I am not suggesting we have to do exactly what North Ryde is doing, but I do think that we need to ask what it means to be a “Come and See” sort of church here in Turramurra. I said last week that we are a welcoming church – but what else could we do to make that first impression, that first experience a great one.
I have a lot of ideas of how to do this – but when I was preparing for this series, I felt that God was saying “be open to the other voices. They have great ideas too”. But I was unsure of how to do this in a creative way. Enter Chris Bosch.
Chris is somewhat of an expert in the area of customer pathways or journey mapping, and has given me a crash course in how we might be able to apply some of these concepts to the church. One of the things he shared with me was about Empathy Mapping – and as he was sharing it was like an epiphany to me. So much so, it is going to be at the core of this special taskforce meeting on Thursday. So I asked Chris if he could share just a grab of what Empathy Mapping is all about.
Chris Bosch – Empathy Mapping
Did you like that? I love the idea of not coming up with abstract idea of what we can be doing to be more welcoming but grounding them in relational thinking. After all, Jesus was not just about abstract teaching – he was about inviting real people to experience real life with him. It is all about the person.
So on Thursday night – 7:30pm at the chapel – we are going to have a session where we would love you to come along and be part of this idea of journey mapping. For those of you who don’t like talking in big groups – the approach has a great mix of things you do on your own with a bit of group discussion – so don’t be worried if you’re an introvert. We need your perspective so we have set it up to work for all people.
Come along and Chris and I will be introducing you to two other personas – Rosalie an older lady who is trying to reconnect with church after the death of her husband and Arno, a middle aged bloke who has never been to church or considered spirituality but finds himself googling our church after a conversation with a friend. Come and journey with these – as well as Kamala – on Thursday evening.
And the night is set up that by the end of the 90 minutes we will have a handful or maybe more concrete, practical, ideas that will influence their stories – and in turn make us a church which is warm and welcoming, a place where people can come and see what we are about – and maybe a church were they will then tell their friends … you gotta come too, there is something in this Jesus things that is real.
To finish, I want to leave you with a bible passage: Romans 15:7-9 from the Message Translation
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!
Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have also been able to experience mercy and have shown their appreciation to God.
Jesus reached out and welcomed people.
May we do it to!