5 Mobilization Lessons from a Couple of Guys Named Phil
By Shane Bennett
Way too recently I realized the Apostle Philip was not the guy who took a carriage ride with the Ethiopian eunuch. Turns out there are two Philips! One is an Apostle, and the other a deacon and evangelist. Both have cameos in the beginning of the New Testament, though, and a quick look at their lives reveals some valuable lessons for mission mobilizers.
1. Called to go with Jesus
John gets Philip the Apostle’s story rolling in chapter one of his Gospel. He says two really cool things: “Jesus decided to leave for Galilee,” and “Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 1:43).
I can still remember being in college and reading a mission book or article about this idea. It had a picture of Jesus with a backpack, looking over his shoulder, making a little “come along” gesture with his hand. The caption said something like, “Jesus is on his way to the nations and he’s inviting us to come with him!”
Campy? Yes. Effective? Yes, for me, at least!
I love it that Jesus decided to go to Galilee: to the hard places. To the overlooked people. And having decided such, he invited Philip to join him. This must have been a little tough on the boy. On one hand, “Jesus picked me!” On the other hand, “I’m pretty sure I promised Mom I wouldn’t go to places like that!” Apparently the invitation won out.
There is something powerful about a personal invitation. [click to tweet]
Jesus said to Philip, as he says to us today, “I’m going to the nations and I’d like you to come with me.” You and I are invited by the risen Son of God to participate in the blessings of God being pressed into every nook and cranny on the planet, being planted within every family. Can you even imagine that?
Sometimes we wonder about our part in it, though, don’t we? “I don’t measure up.” “Maybe God doesn’t use people like me.” “Maybe I’m just making all this up in my head.” This is why you should never take a short-term mission team of twelve people, by the way: Each person will at some point think they’re the Judas in the group! You’re better off leaving someone at home or conscripting someone at the airport!
Take heart. God has in mind to use you in ways that are stunning and glorious for his name. He’s your dad, he loves you, and he’s quite pleased to have you working at his side. [click to tweet]
One last thought. These are good days to be called. Seriously! If you’re going to follow Jesus, why not do it during times in which it really matters? When we see the disconcerting rise of nationalism, in the midst of an unprecedented refugee crisis, and when migration has brought the ends of the earth to the end of your street, you and Jesus might not need a backpack but be fine with an iPhone and a Clif Bar!
I’m telling you, these are good days to be a Christian. We have a message to bring. We have power that needs to be unleashed into the world, unleashed with humility, winsomeness, and the very love of Jesus.
2. Encouraged to bring friends along
Philip said yes to Jesus (probably the lesson from his life that we need the most). Immediately he went to get Nathanael. I wonder if there was a little bit of, “No way I’m going to Galilee without backup, Bro. You need to come with me!” At any rate, Philip’s response to this crazy-great invitation was to grab a bud to go along. I love that!
When Nate expresses some doubts about whether this guy could be the guy, Philip simply and brilliantly responds, “Come and see” (John 1:46).
That’s the ticket, my mobilizing friends: asking our friends to come and see.
- See the invitation of God to join him.
- See the power of sacrifice in the purposes of that great God.
- Experience the fun of connecting with people from other cultures.
- Feel the weight of honor of participation in the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
That’s why I say to people, “Come and see what God is doing among Muslim refugees in Sicily.” That’s why I invite people to sign up for my weekly email, Muslim Connect, to see how normal Christians can practically engage with these huge issues and the normal individuals caught up in them. That’s why I invite people to consider the hard places and overlooked people.
Look around in your sphere of influence. Who’s waiting for you to say, “Come and see”?
3. Not disqualified for stumbling
At this point in the story, the music goes all minor and foreboding. Philip, who started so well, falters at two key points.
We read, “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:5-7).
It was a test and Philip failed! Give him an F- for the cheeky hyperbole, “…for everyone to have a bite!” Apparently Philip had a hard time understanding what Jesus could do. I’m glad I never struggle with that. It must be hard and sad. Poor Philip.
Actually, I wonder how many tests like this I fail, too. Happily, the canon is closed; John is not taking notes on my life!
Later, and more poignantly, we read that Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10).
Not only did Philip not understand what Jesus could do, he didn’t understand who he was. This seems to have been for Jesus a preview of the pain of the cross.
If Philip, walking with Jesus as he did, had such a hard time seeing clearly, what hope do we have? He failed the test, ate a hearty dinner, and then stumbled again! If my life heretofore is any indication, I’m going to stumble. You, too? We’re going to stumble.
I remember sitting in the living room of a Muslim neighbor in our town in England. As he shared his conviction that we’re all fine because we’re all finding our own way to God, I found myself nodding in assent! As if from outside my body looking on, part of my brain was shouting, “Don’t nod! You don’t believe that!” But I did. The conversation moved on; I drank my coffee and left. Stumbled. Big time.
Please remember: to stumble does not equal disqualification. An older, wiser John writes, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
There is no mess too big for God. The trick is to get back up when you stumble. Don’t lay in your filth! God’s work to redeem all things includes you. [click to tweet]
And should your friends stumble, help them up, lending a hand as someone who has stumbled or may likely stumble in a similar way.
Watch for the second part of this article. We’ll shift to Philip the Evangelist and watch as he responds to Jesus’s call, literally in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.