The Gospel Spreads through Relationships
Today the Church commemorates the memory of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Philip, through who’s personal witness the Good News of Jesus Christ spread among the first disciples. Just moments after our Lord called Philip to join Him on the journey, he ran to his friend Nathaniel and announced, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote!” (read the entire passage below) As Orthodox Christians we sometimes think that evangelism is writing a good blog post (no pun intended) or maintaining a well-designed website, but in truth evangelism is more about relationships. While it is true some will accidentally trip over the Orthodox Church, the historical evidence of the spread of the Holy Gospel has happened through personal relationships like that between Philip and Nathaniel.
At that time, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and he said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1.43-51)
Let’s reflect for a moment on how today’s example in the Holy Scriptures as there are some important points to understand. First Philip knew his scriptures (Old Testament) so that when he encountered Christ, he recognized Him immediately. Enough cannot be said about the importance
of knowing who you’re looking for when you’re looking for a savior. Judas was looking for the wrong characteristics and couldn’t handle his shame when he realized he was wrong. If we are not careful, the same can happen to us. If we are looking for a savior who will remove all struggle from our earthly life, or will make us rich and comfortable if we believe in him, we will experience the same shame of Judas when we get to heaven and realize we were wrong. Unfortunately, by then it will be too late. We need to have the proper understanding of who He is now.
The second point in today’s example is the willingness of Nathaniel to go with his friend to find out for himself. It wasn’t enough that Philip and Nathaniel were just talking about the savior; Nathaniel needed to go and have a real encounter with Him for himself in order to believe. The same is true today. It isn’t enough that we talk about Jesus with our friends. We should invite them to have a real encounter with Him in the Church. God is physically present in the Church at all times, and I have witnessed seekers understand His presence when they enter the Church even during Greek Festival tours. This is one important reason our Churches should be properly decorated and appointed. The Church building itself must reflect the truth of God’s physical presence.
So what sort of relationships do you have through which the Gospel can spread?