It had been a long and disappointing day. My expectations had been high and through the course of the afternoon they came crashing down. We were now walking back to our condo in the rain. I was deflated, feeling as though I had failed. I had heard all kinds of stories of different people having encounters just like mine, but while their stories ended in victory, mine seemingly ended in defeat.
I was in Florida on spring break with our local college ministry. The trip was part spiritual retreat and part missions trip. The week was designed so that we received teaching on evangelism in the morning and then were given space to go out and do it in the afternoon. The intent was that we would encounter people on the beach. Today, however, it was raining and we were left to strip malls, movie theaters and coffee shops.
This was my first intentional experience with evangelism and during our 35 hour bus ride from New Hampshire to Florida I found myself dreaming about all of the amazing ways I would convince, argue and prove that Jesus was the savior of the world. As I said, my expectations were high, not so much of God, but of myself. I thought for sure that in every conversation I would have people hanging on my every word. And by the end they would be asking me, just like the crowds in Acts 2, “What must I do to be saved?”
But at the end of the first day I came to realize that perhaps I wasn’t there to learn about evangelism, but a lesson in humility. (But that’s a different post all together.) What brought this story to mind was my recent reading of the Gospel of John, specifically the first chapter.
In the first chapter, John wastes no time explaining who Jesus is and where he’s come from, both in an earthly and heavenly perspective. Also in that chapter, John tells the story of how the first followers came to know Jesus. And even though I’ve read this chapter countless times, there was a phrase that jumped off the page.
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Andrew simply “brought Peter to Jesus.” Andrew didn’t try to convince Peter. He didn’t have a well crafted argument as to why Jesus was the Messiah. He didn’t even try to retell his own personal experience with Jesus. He simply brought Peter to Jesus.
A few verses later Philip encounters Jesus and we find Philip doing the same thing with Nathanael. Nathanael even seems to be on the skeptical side. But again, Philip doesn’t try to convince Nathanael. He just says, “Come and See,” and Philip brings Nathanael to Jesus.
All of this made me wonder whether or not, over the years, in all my experience with sharing my faith, I’ve tried to “be Jesus for people?” Meaning, I have tried to do the thing that only Jesus can do, give people eyes to see and ears to hear? No wonder I was disappointed and deflated on our soggy walk home that first day of spring break. I was trying to play a role that wasn’t mine to play. I was trying to play Jesus rather than simply bringing people to Jesus and letting Jesus be Jesus.
All throughout the Gospels, as people encounter Jesus, their lives are changed. Not as they encounter arguments, convincing proofs or emotional stories, but Jesus. So the question is, what does it mean and what does it look like to bring people to Jesus today?