John 1:45 “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.”
Many people hear “evangelism” today, and it makes their blood run cold to think of standing on some stranger’s doorstep hoping they aren’t going to be insulted as the door is slammed in their face. Most of you aren’t going to be finding others to tell that way. The early Christians looked for opportunities among their family and friends. They followed the social networks that were already in place. They spoke about Jesus to people they already knew, people who were already in the habit of talking to them.
Isn’t that what Philip does? Nathanael was a fellow Galilean, from the nearby village of Cana. Philip has found something too good to keep to himself, so he wants to tell others. He doesn’t start by chasing down strangers. He could find a way to reach them in the future. He starts by looking for someone he knows, and he finds Nathanael, a friend, to tell him Jesus is the Messiah God had promised.
I could share statistics with you that tell us more people are won for Christ in this way today than by any other kind of mission work. But my point isn’t to discourage other ways of spreading the gospel. The point is this: After Jesus finds you, a good way to start finding others is to start with those you already know.
And a good place to start the discussion is to tell them what you already know. None of the Twelve Disciples were rabbis when Jesus found them. At most, some of them were active laymen in their synagogues, men who took the Old Testament Scriptures seriously and were waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promises. At worst, some of them were irreligious social outcasts like Matthew the tax collector, or anti-government terrorists like Simon the Zealot. None of them were academic theologians.
As a result, Philip’s presentation to Nathanael is relatively simple. He starts with what he knows. God promised to send the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior in the Old Testament. Now God has kept that promise. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, the carpenter’s son, is the one. He doesn’t delve into deep theology. He doesn’t even make a systematic presentation of sin and grace. He simply tells Nathanael, “You need to know Jesus.”
One of the most common reasons people give for not talking about their faith is, “I don’t know what to say.” But you do know what to say. Start with what you know. Can you remember the Apostle’s Creed? That’s a nice summary of Christian faith. Do you know that sin condemns us and we can’t pay for it ourselves? Do you know that Jesus took it all away at the cross? The core of the Christian faith is nothing more than that. It’s a start. Can you do what Philip did, and tell someone, “You need to know Jesus”? You can talk about your faith.
Just keep the focus on Jesus himself. “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip.” Nathanael was a skeptic, and so are many of the people we run into today. They have doubts and objections about all kinds of things found in Scripture. As much as we try to prepare ourselves, we may not have an answer for every objection every time.
But Philip didn’t get into a debate about a side issue. In his head he may not have had the answer to every question. But in his heart he knew what he knew. Jesus is the Savior. He didn’t respond with an explanation. He responded with an invitation. “Come and See.”
You can still do that. After Jesus has found you, you can find others and tell them to come and see. He can take it from there.