Becoming a leader is a 1-step journey!

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I’m going to tell you about Matt. You see, I knew Matt before he was a champion ultra-marathoner. If you’re not a runner, and you don’t know what ultramarathons are, basically they are distances any farther than a marathon. 26.2 miles is a marathon. Well, a 50K or a 50-miler or a 100K or a 100-miler, those are ultramarathons. 

Matt was in the Army with me. He was in the Ranger Regiment, and Matt struggled with his fitness (I mean, really struggled with his fitness). And there was points where Matt just couldn’t keep up on a simple two-mile or five-mile run. Matt was so far back that he was holding the unit back. And because this was a special operations unit, you really couldn’t hold the unit back. And so, Matt ended up having to leave the unit because of his fitness. He just couldn’t keep up.

Matt tried hard. He took a look in the mirror after getting released from the unit. This is the hardest thing that they could ask of him, and Matt ended up having to do a hard look in the mirror. He took the hardest first step. He looked in the mirror and he said, “I don’t like this life, and I’m going to do something.” 

So Matt decided to start running. And I mean, this brother started running hard and started getting faster and stronger. Pretty soon Matt was running faster than everybody else around him. When I talked to Matt a second time after leaving the Ranger Regiment, Matt had already won his first ultramarathon, and he said, “Hey Jeff, you run a lot. Why don’t we run together?”

We were both stationed on Fort Benning at the same time, and Matt left me in the dust. I struggled to keep up with that man. People have stopped and asked me for running advice from time to time, and I go to Matt when I need some advice about running. Matt made this massive change and became, I’m calling it, an unstoppable leader in our community. Everybody who is ultra running knows about Matt because of the unstoppable leader this guy became. I’m convinced that if you were to take one step, just one simple step, you can become an unstoppable leader, too.

King Jesus left Earth and left his church here on Earth to fulfill his mission. And his mission is really simple: Take people that are far from Jesus, and turn them into followers. Once you’ve turned them into followers, now turn them into leaders that are leading others. 2 Cities Church exists for the very purpose (City One) of reaching people who are far from Jesus and (City Two) turning them into leaders who will reach others. And here is what I want you to understand: If you hear nothing else from the Bible today, nothing else from me today, I want you to hear this. Becoming a leader is just a one-step journey. You take one step, Jesus meets you after you take that step, and He takes care of everything else after that.

Becoming a leader is a 1-step journey!

You see, what the Bible is going to describe for you today is four very regular, very ordinary dudes, just like you. Jesus meets them, and they turn the world upside down. By the time you get to the end of the Bible, these four brothers, these four guys that we read about today (Simon, Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael), by the time you get to the end of the Old Testament, set the world on fire. What happened to these guys? Well, they took the first step, and Jesus met them. In fact, you’re going to see some guys that just take the first step today, a step that you can take.

So, I want you to just humor me for a second. No embarrassment, no shame. How many of you have read the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation? The guys that you read about in the Bible today are going to show back up in the New Testament over and over again, and they’re going to show up in really spectacular ways.

When we meet them today, they’re just regular guys, just exactly like you. And what I want you to see from the Bible is, there’s no difference between them and you. What Jesus did in them and through them, he certainly can, and I believe wants to, do in you and through you. 

So let’s take a look at these four guys that become unstoppable leaders. I want you to see yourself in one of these four guys, maybe more than one of these four guys, from the Bible. The first guy that we’re going to be introduced to from the book of John, chapter one, is a guy by the name of Andrew. Now, we left off in the previous sermon talking about John the Baptist’s followers. John the Baptist had a crowd of people around him; he had a couple of guys who were close to him. And one day Jesus shows up on the scene. John the Baptist is the voice piece, the herald for the King of kings. And when Jesus shows up on the scene, John the Baptist says, “There He is, right there, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And where the Bible left off is, some of John’s followers heard it. They left John, and they started following Jesus.

Andrew was waiting

One of those guys is a guy by the name of Andrew. We pick up where we left off last week with Andrew’s story. Andrew is introduced to us in John chapter one, starting in verse 40. Andrew was watching; Andrew was waiting, and when John the Baptist said, “Here He is, the one you’ve been watching and waiting for,” Andrew immediately left John and started to follow Jesus. 

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed him. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated “the Christ”), and he brought Simon to Jesus.

Now, because the Bible uses the word found, it’s telling us Simon was not hanging out with Andrew and not listening to John the Baptist when Andrew was listening to John the Baptist. Simon wasn’t there when John the Baptist said, “There’s Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The very first thing that Andrew does is say, “I’ve got to go tell my brother about this.” 

We’re going to pick up at the end of verse 42 next. Now, the reason why Andrew is able to recognize Jesus is because Andrew is looking, and Andrew is waiting. And when the Bible says that Andrew first finds Simon, he (Andrew) at this point, is the first disciple that the Bible lists by name, of Jesus. If you want to know more about that word disciple, go back and listen to the previous sermon. But I’m going to try to give you a very simple, very easy explanation of what I mean by the word disciple, this Bible word, at the end of this message.

Andrew does what just comes natural, and he says, “I just had the greatest thing in the world happen to me. This is better than buying a new car, better than finding the perfect guy, better than landing the perfect job. This is the greatest news that has ever happened to me, and I can’t sit on it. I’ve got to go tell somebody.” And Andrew’s first thought is, of course, his brother. 

You see, back in January, we started talking to you about one person that might be in your life who doesn’t know Jesus, who’s far from Jesus. We called them your 202ONE. This is the one person that you’re asking God to give you the chance to talk to in this year (2021) about Jesus. And for Andrew, the one person that came to his mind was Peter, his brother. His name is Simon at this point. He says, “I’ve got to go tell my brother.”

And it’s only natural. I just want you to know this: If you grew up in a family that is far from Jesus, the very first thing that you would want to do (this was my experience) is go tell your family, because if your family is as jacked up as my family, you’re going to say, “Man! Only Jesus can fix that jacked-up family, so I need to tell them about Jesus.” And that’s exactly what Andrew does. As soon as he finds Jesus, he goes and says, “Simon, I’ve got to talk to you, Brother. I’ve got to tell you who I just met, and this is the one we’ve been hearing about since we were little boys in Bible class.” 

I just want you to know it is a one-step process for Andrew to go from being a follower to being a leader. And that one step is just simply to start a conversation with his own brother. It’s that easy and natural. I want you to feel like it’s that easy and that natural for you.

So Andrew’s looking. And by the way, when the Bible says, “Andrew first finds Peter, his brother (Simon Peter),” the idea here is that’s not the only person that Andrew brought to Jesus. Andrew brought a lot more people to Jesus, but the first one, the one that was on his heart more than anybody else, was his brother, Simon. And then Simon is now confronted with what he believes about Jesus. 

Simon was busy 

Let’s pick up where we left off in verse 42 and hear about Simon, who was just busy. Simon was just doing his thing when Andrew was looking for Jesus, and then Andrew goes and finds Simon while he’s doing his thing.

When Jesus saw him, he said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated “Peter”). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee.

He brought Simon to Jesus, and when Jesus saw him (Simon), Jesus changes this brother radically, changes him in an instant. In Aramaic, the new name is Cephas, which in the Greek language, the language of our day, is the name rock, or the name Peter. And from this point on, we just call him Peter in the Bible; we don’t call him Simon anymore.

The next day, the Bible says, Jesus does something weird. He just starts to gather a crowd around Him, and he leaves. He goes on a journey to Galilee. And then we’re going to learn what happens next when Jesus takes a journey the next day to Galilee.

Now, I say Simon is busy because Simon’s not looking. In fact, we don’t know exactly where Simon was. Let’s just call him Peter. We don’t know exactly where Peter is when his brother, Andrew, shows up. But we do know this: He is not with John the Baptist. I say he’s busy because he’s not looking for Jesus. He’s just living his life. His brother is looking, but Peter is not. And when his brother shows up, he can’t hold the good news back. His brother takes the one-step journey and goes from following Jesus to being a leader for Jesus by just simply saying, “Hey Brother, Hey Simon,” or “Hey Peter, I just found the one that we have been learning about since we were little boys,” but Peter wasn’t expecting this. And when Peter meets Jesus, Jesus radically changes this guy. He becomes the guy that much of the New Testament is written by or written about. That’s how much of a difference Jesus makes when He meets Andrew’s brother, Peter.

Now listen, you are going to run into somebody this week, I promise you, and I don’t even need to know what your week looks like. You’re going to run into somebody exactly like Peter this week. They don’t love Jesus. They don’t hate Jesus. They just don’t think about him. And the reason they don’t think about him is because he’s not the center of their world like he is your world. They’re just living life, going through their day. They’ve got errands to run and bills to pay, and they’re just doing their thing. And that’s, I really believe, what’s going on with Peter when his brother shows up and says, “Peter, stop what you’re doing for a second. I’ve got to tell you this news.” And when Andrew meets him, Peter is confronted with the greatest news that he’s ever heard in human history.

I promise you, you’re going to run into somebody this week. They don’t love Jesus; they don’t hate Jesus. They just don’t think about Him at all. And you have the chance to do exactly the same thing that Andrew did, to just simply say, “Hey, can I introduce you to the greatest man that’s ever walked on planet Earth, the one who radically changed my life? And by the way, He can do it for you, too.” 

I’ll tell you how to do that today in some very natural, very simple ways. That’s the one-step journey to going from being a follower of Jesus to being a leader of others who are following Jesus. It’s one simple step.

So Andrew’s watching; he’s waiting. Peter’s just busy. Then Jesus goes on a journey, and the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why, but he kind of leaves the region where he met Andrew, probably where John was baptizing at the Jordan River, and he decides to go on a road trip to the area of Galilee in the northern part of the region. He goes there because Jesus has somebody that he wanted to go meet. This is now the first person that Jesus meets personally and invites to follow him up to this point. 

Philip was just chillin’

Andrew hears about Jesus from John the Baptist. Peter hears about Jesus from Andrew. But Jesus is going after Philip when Philip is just up in Galilee, and apparently he’s just chilling and not looking or listening for Him. Here’s what the Bible says next. John chapter one, starting in verse 43:

He found Philip and told him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

We’ll pick up with Nathanael next. I want to just stop here for a second and talk about what’s going on, because the first person that would be natural for you to want to talk to about Jesus would be your family. The next natural category of people would be friends. You can assume that Philip knew Andrew and Peter because they were from the same small town, the same hometown. But Andrew and Peter are not going after Philip. Jesus is going after Philip, and Jesus goes looking for him. Jesus looks Philip in the eye, and he says the same thing to him that he said to you when you were still in your sin and he wanted to have a relationship with you. He looked you in the eyes and said, “I want you to follow me.”

And apparently Philip was so moved by this that he dropped everything. I wish the Bible told us more about this encounter. This is all we know about Philip and Jesus. I tend to believe (if you will just imagine with me for a second) I believe Philip is at the checkout line of the Galilee grocery store, Jesus is in line next to him, and they just spark up a conversation. Now to Philip, this is totally random, but to Jesus, it’s not because he’s just gone on a road trip to meet this brother while he’s in the checkout line of the grocery store. 

And I think Jesus is looking in his cart saying, “Hey, you’ve got some ribs and you got some beer in your cart. Are you doing a barbecue this weekend? Oh, you’ve got a coupon for chips. How much is that coupon for? Hey, by the way, let me introduce myself to you. My name is Jesus, and I’m the One. No, I mean the Matrix Morpheus-and-Trinity-looking-for-Neo One. I’m the One that you have been looking for all of your life. I want you to leave the cart, leave the barbecue, and I want you to come follow me.”

However this goes down, whatever happens here, it hits Philip like a ton of bricks. And Philip decides, “You know what? Everything that I was ever pursuing, everything that really mattered to me, it’s not important anymore. Following this man, that’s what’s important to me.” And the very next thing that Philip thinks about is Nathanael. Like, “I can’t sit on this news. I’ve got to go tell somebody.” And so Philip goes and immediately tells Nathanael.

Now, here’s the problem: We don’t know who Nathanael is. In fact, the name Nathanael only shows up at the beginning and at the end of this book in the Bible; it doesn’t show up anywhere else. Actually, there’s a dude named Nathanael way back in the Old Testament, in the book of Ezra. That would be several hundred years ago, so I’m pretty sure it’s not that guy. So, we don’t know anything else about him. Some people think this Nathanael is actually the guy who’s mentioned as Bartholomew in the other three gospels of the New Testament, because Bartholomew actually isn’t a first name. It’s the name “Son of Talmai”. So, some people believe this is Bartholomew’s first name, Nathanael Bartholomew.

Nathanael was skeptical

When Philip goes to talk to him (and I hope this encourages you), Nathanael hears what he has to say, and he’s like, “Hmm, I’m not sure I believe what you’re saying to me, Philip. I read the Bible, and it didn’t have that much of an impact on me.” Or, “What I read and what you’re telling me, I’m not sure I can see how these two things line up.” 

When Nathanael first is introduced to Jesus from Philip, he’s a bit skeptical. In fact, more than a bit skeptical. And then he goes through a radical, instantaneous transformation when he finally meets Jesus firsthand. Let’s see how this guy goes from skeptic to the first one who is declaring Jesus’s deity, apart from John the Baptist.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. “Come and see,” Philip answered. Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered. “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “Truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Philip shows up, and he says, “Hey Nathanael, I’ve got to tell you, we found him, the one that we have been searching for and hearing about since we were little boys.” And here is Nathanael’s answer: “Wait a second. He comes from where? Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Now, basically this was an insult to Jesus’ hometown. He’s basically saying, “Look, the people in Nazareth are losers. So, everybody who comes out of Nazareth must be a loser.” And this is the response: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. 

And here is Philip’s answer: “Come and see.” 

Where did Philip get those three words from? I’m convinced that he heard those words directly from the mouth of Jesus, because if you point back to the previous sermon, when John’s followers hear about Jesus and they go up to talk to him and they say, “Jesus, we’ve got a bunch of questions. Where are you going? We’d like to go along with you so we can ask you a whole bunch of questions,” Jesus says, “Why don’t you just come and see where I’m going?”

And now Philip is using the same language that Jesus used with him on Nathanael. “Nathanael, you’re not really sure if you believe this really is Messiah, the anointed one of God? Well, why don’t you come and see with your own eyes?”, which, if you read between the lines, is exactly what Nathanael does.

“Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him and said about Nathanael, ‘Here he is, or here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,'” meaning this guy speaks his mind, and what he says, he really believes. He doesn’t try to hide anything. And of course, Nathanael is going to say, “Wait a second. I just met you. How do you know me?” 

Look at Jesus’s answer because He’s making it very clear right at the start how different He is from everybody else. Nathanael says, “How do you know me?” Jesus’ answer is, “Before Philip called you, when you were still under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered.

Do you know fig trees, in the Bible by this time, were where rabbis showed up. And their students would sit underneath the shade of a fig tree, and the rabbis would teach the Bible under the shade of the tree. It’s sometimes where Bible students would go, open their Bible up, and read. They would learn the Bible under the fig tree. Jesus is nowhere around that fig tree when Nathanael is underneath it, but Jesus says, “Hey, you were under that fig tree, and I saw you under there.” It blows Nathanael’s mind because Nathanael just realized, “Wait a second. No one was around me when I was under that fig tree. How could you see me?” And listen to Nathanael’s answer. It’s amazing what he says next.

“Rabbi,” (Nathanael immediately recognizes Jesus is different; he’s at least a teacher, if not something much more), “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.” And Jesus, I think, kind of chuckles to himself a little bit like, “Ha, ha, ha! You were impressed by that?” Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe just because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You’re going to see even greater things than this.” And then he said to him, “I tell you, you will see Heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” 

This is a direct reference from Genesis chapter 28 when Jacob, the patriarch of Israel, sees the heavens opened, and the angels are coming up and down from Heaven. Jesus is saying to Nathanael: “If you’re impressed by that, you ain’t seen nothing yet. What I’m going to show you is a superhighway between God and Earth. If you’re impressed by that, you’ve got to just stand back and wait ‘til you see what happens next.” 

Jesus is inviting people to follow him, and then they immediately take the one step to becoming a leader. They go from follower to leader by just simply talking to somebody and telling them what happened in their life. First comes family; it’s only natural. Second come friends, and then perhaps there’s somebody in your extended circles, maybe they work with you, maybe you go to school with them, maybe you see them at the gym, in a spin class all the time, and you talk to them, but you’ve just not gotten around to having this conversation.

You know, the difference between being a follower and being a leader is a one-step journey. It’s actually not that big of a step. It’s a really important step, but it’s not even that hard of a step. I was really thinking about it this week, and I was thinking, How could I illustrate this to you? What would I use to describe how simple and natural this is? 

Andrew met Jesus, and he can’t hold it in. He says, “I’ve got to go tell Peter. “Philip meets Jesus, and he can’t hold it in. “I’ve got to go tell Nathanael.” And they go from follower to leader in one step. These are two examples of it right here in one chapter of the Bible. 

The easiest way to describe this for you is a bird in a nest, getting food from its mom and daddy bird. And then one day, this bird decides to do the very thing that God created this bird to do. It takes the one step out of the nest, leaves the nest, and goes from being a bird dependent on Mama and Daddy to provide for it, to flying, soaring over the tree tops.

What we’re trying to say to you as a church, what I’m trying to say to you from the Bible today is, I’m absolutely convinced God created you to fly. And there’s just one simple step you’ve got to take. And that one step is just talking to somebody, naturally, simply talking to somebody about the greatest man that you’ve ever met, the one who radically changed your life. 

I’ll give you some really simple ways to think about this, really simple ways to do this. If you’re a Christian and you have been connected with 2 Cities Church for a little while, maybe you can just invite somebody to join in with one of our life groups. 

Maybe it’s as simple as just inviting somebody who’s already in our church, but not in a life group to get started in a life group. Maybe you’ve been going to church for a little while here and not physically in person, but maybe online, and you’re starting to feel like, “You know what? I like this place. I think I want to call this my church home.” Did you know that you could become a member of our church from around the country? We actually have members of our church that live around the world. And maybe the next step for you is to just simply call this your church home or go through our online membership class.

Maybe for you, it’s even simpler than that. You just record your story. You put it on our website. We’ll create some custom business cards for you. And when you meet somebody this week at the checkout line of the Galilee grocery store, you just say, “Hey, here’s who I am. I want to tell you something about the greatest thing that ever happened to me. In fact, it’s right here on our church website, and you can go to it at your own leisure and check out my story. I’d love to tell you more about it sometime.” It’s really that simple. It’s supposed to be that easy.

If, when I use the phrase unstoppable leader, it freaks you out a little bit, I think that’s because sometimes pastors make this too hard. They sometimes treat it like you’ve got to have a lot of experience and a theological education, and you’ve got to be really, really mature before you can do this. What I just read in the Bible is, Andrew did it immediately. Philip did it immediately after following Jesus, and I believe it should be that easy. I believe that it should be that natural for you to go from being a follower to being an unstoppable leader.