Not too long after John the Baptist baptized Jesus, he saw the Lord walking by and said to a couple of his disciples, “There goes the lamb of God. You need to follow him.”
Andrew and John started following Jesus and they asked, “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus answered — “Come and see.”
You can’t ask for an easier commitment than that -- just come and see. That’s where you and I need to start in our churches as we offer an open door to the people throughout our communities. That’s what you tell people about your weekend service – Check us out. Come and see. Listen to our music. Hear the message. You don’t have to sing anything, sign anything, or say anything. No significant commitment required.
We offer an open door for people to “come and see,” one that is easy to understand and participate in.
But we can’t leave them there at that simple commitment level. Jesus didn’t. Over three-and-a-half years, Jesus required more and more of his disciples.
He kept turning up the heat by defining what it means to follow him. He said you are his disciple if you:
• Obey his word (John 8:31)
• Love each other (John 13:31)
• Bear much fruit (John 15:8)
Finally, Jesus told his disciples that they must carry their cross—in other words they must be willing to die—to be true disciples (Luke 14:27). Jesus moved his followers from “come and see” to “come and die.” That’s the discipleship process of Jesus. That’s what we need to do, too.
We must focus our efforts on this Jesus model -- moving people from “come and see” to “come and die.” If you do not have a structure for doing this -- if you do not have a deliberate plan for moving visitors toward a commitment to Jesus and then into deeper discipleship with Jesus – you’ll find a lot of people stalled at the “come and see” stage.
Jason Clark has written The scandal of invitation into The Church in an effort as part of his re-imagining Vineyard values series. In this he claims the phrase we held was, "Come as you are, but don't stay as you are." I didn't learn it that way. I grew up in the Vineyard in the midwest and we said, "Come as you are, you'll be loved." At least that's what our bumper stickers claimed. Either way, I think we valued and intended both. We wanted people to come experience God among us. We didn't expect people to get "cleaned up" first or to have all of their theology right or whatever. And certainly we wanted to be known as a people reflecting the supernatural love of God to all of His creation. And then of course we wanted to be a people that were true to holiness and righteousness. We knew that to obey was to show our love of God and to spur each other on toward righteousness was to show our love toward each other.
Clark writes regarding the word come:
Christians are called to invite others into a new story, and new imagination for life, and to physically, emotionally, economically, and psychologically explore, resource and inhabit that way of life with others. So many other communities capture our imaginations and make demands with regular involvement and practices. Football, dance, a choir, an orchestra, a motorbike club, basketball, chess or knitting community. All involve a way of life with others. And they demand commitments, obligations and orientations of our time, resources and our diaries with no apology. They involve learning the grammar, traditions, and practices of those communities, and require re-enactment and the performance of those things with others.
... I believe the Church is a centripetal movement, a confession of Christ that is a movement out of all and any other community. To enter into the Church is to make a final decision, for the ultimate community. A community that doesn’t remove us from our other communities, but orders all other allegiances. Of course that presupposes a view of the church that is more than just a self interest group, club and society.
So for our vineyard church community, that invitation is something we intend to keep extending to others, in the belief that within it is something far great than any club and society, and hobby. ‘Come’ is the invitation of the people of God to all the world to enter into the ordering of a way of life together that will continue into eternity. The future age has a social presence, a community under the authority of Jesus Christ, that we are to invite people into now.
Then in regard to as you are:
The idea of acceptance, that the heart of the Gospel is that God welcomes us where and how we are, needs no updating. Anyone, in any location, in any situation is to be given the invitation, and told they are welcome to take part in the future age with God’s people now.
And yes so often church has become a place of exclusion, people whose life location and orientation means they aren’t welcome and accepted. Also the rampant individualism of consumer society means we are so quick to read all and any invitation as an act of exclusion. The consumer self finds it’s strongest orientation in alienation, and the desire to seek signs of exclusion and offense. Put those together and no wonder we have problems.
The above needs more words to avoid being a problem (at least for me) but Clark redeems any misunderstanding one might have with above with the following on the second half of the expression, but don’t stay as you are:
And perhaps the most scandalous part of this value. The call to change and transformation in christ with others. Again we are trained into isolation in western liberal consumer society. ‘It’s my life and I’ll dam well do what I want with it’. Who is any one to tell me that I need to change?
The church should be the place to confess our sins, that we are broken, and in need of transformation, all of us. A community to practice accountability around our decisions, and life investments. A community that would hold a mirror up to us, and help us see ourselves in Jesus better.
It’s too easy to read ‘don’t stay as you are’ as something other than acceptance. The post-modern self that claims, ‘here I am, I can be no other’. Yet the gospel and the invitation into the Church as the public of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Jesus, is the call to become like Jesus, something other than what we can make of ourselves.
Reality TV, and celebrity seems to so often set the agenda for who and what we should be like. To become what people need us to be so we can then try and find out who we are, a cycle of endless self creation and promotion.
Christianity is the scandal and loving reminder to others that we are not free to be who we want to be. That we will only find out who we are in Jesus, and that no human has ever found the ends of the depths of identity in Him.