In John’s gospel, Jesus’ public ministry begins with his recruiting disciples. We read in John’s story that Phillip, a new disciple, is so impressed with Jesus he invites a friend Nathanael to “come and see.” “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.” So begins the story of the gospel, a story in which we too belong.
As the story of Jesus’ ministry unfolds, what happens next to Jesus and the disciples is full of ups and downs, questions and uncertainties.
When we were baptized (which for most of us happened when we were infants) and confirmed in faith, like those first disciples, our lives and the future was before us but, like those first disciples, we didn’t yet know exactly what that future would hold. But we were now on the road to follow Jesus. Of course, many of us have taken some side roads and detours in our journey of discipleship, but when we look back over our faith lives, it can be valuable to take some time to reflect on that journey to understand how our faith has been shaped and formed over the years.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of this report of Jesus calling his disciples is Phillip inviting Nathanael to ‘come and see’ after Phillip has encountered Jesus. Over the years, there have been many ‘programs’ designed to spur growth in congregations, yet still the most enduring way to promote that growth has been the power of invitation. For over the last 40 years or so, study after study investigating congregational growth has yielded the same two results: the first is family history and the second is that ‘someone invited me.’
The power of invitation is still as relevant today as it was when Jesus called his first disciples. Of course, given the strange year we’ve just lived through, with all the cautions and restrictions, we can invite people to join us on Zoom OR attend worship in person. Still, the key remains invitation (in whatever particular form of attendance that may take!)
It’s also true that because we can now invite folks to participate either in person or on Zoom, more paths to invitation have been opened up for us to do that.
So, as we start this year, perhaps it would be worth asking ourselves, ‘is there someone I can invite to ‘come and see’ this year?’
God’s peace be with us all as we begin our discipleship journey into 2021!
Pr. Mary Konopka, Bridge Pastor