Would you rather preach sex or evangelism this Sunday? That’s the choice facing most preachers this week, which is why, if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on a rare Old Testament sermon in the majority of lectionary-based congregations this week. The call of Samuel is just so tempting in light of the other two lessons. “Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night…”
Of course, I’ve never been one to take the easy way out in the pulpit 😉 and so while we will most certainly sing everyone’s favorite ordination hymn, I’m stuck preaching evangelism this week. It all hinges on three simple words spoken first by Jesus just prior to this Sunday’s pericope, and repeated by Philip to his friend Nathaniel, “come and see.”
I’ve been known to attempt to make evangelism seem attainable for the average church-goer. My go-to resource for that comes from the third chapter of the First Letter of Peter, “always be ready to give an account for the hope that is within you.” I start the exercise by asking people to list the things which give them hope. Second, I ask them to try to identify the source of that hope. Finally, I invite them to ponder where that hope is leading them. I then congratulate them on being evangelists. All it takes is knowing your story and being willing to share it. There is no need to memorize the Bible or to read Barth’s Church Dogmatics or to be an expert in apologetics. Evangelism happens when we share our story, but in light of Sunday’s Gospel lesson, I’m beginning to think that even that makes it overly complicated.
Sharing the hope that is within us will come, but the first real step in evangelism is an invitation. Come and see. Come and experience what it feels like to worship God in the beauty of his holiness. Come and see what a community of faith caring for each other and the needs of the wider world looks like. Come and join our merry band of hypocrites who are doing our best to live into the Kingdom of God. Come and see, and then we’ll talk. We’ll eventually get to the source of that hope, faith, care, and love, but first, just come and see what a difference Jesus Christ makes in my life.