On Wednesday Morning at the Turning Mission, I remember sitting there listening to the training ending with doing some ‘role play’ going the script with those around us. I looked around and everyone was partnered up, and then this little voice piped up with asking if I needed a partner, the voice came from a young lad, Joel, who is probably about 10 (I guess). He was the evangelist going through the script with me, and as part of the role play he went through the prayer of commitment with me, as I prayed that God would “give me a fresh start” and that I would “fulfil all that he has for me”, and felt the Holy Spirits touch, a real God encounter, ministered through a young person.
I was reminded that there is no junior version of the Holy Spirit.
As I thought about this, I began to think about the incarnation, I thought about Jesus being fully baby and yet fully God, fully toddler and yet fully God, fully child and yet fully God, fully teenage and yet fully God, and fully man and yet fully God.
Jesus was a normal human child, but also God in human form, God with skin on.
Therefore, children can be both child-like and Christ-like.
This became evident as we saw the kids on the mission telling people about Jesus, praying with people, giving testimonies and even being involved with worship.
I think too often as Christians we think that our faith is “adults only” and too often we try and provide a baby-sitting service whilst the ‘proper worship and teaching’ is happening, and yet any of us who engage in youth and children’s work regularly know that God can and does meet with young people, and they are some of our most courageous disciples living for Christ in their schools.
Children like adults will fall and sin, they might not have the same sophistication at covering up our sin or pretending to be Holy, I think there often is a danger of unrealistic expectations of perpetual holiness for children and young people that we know isn’t possible for us to achieve.
The Victorian era of children being seen and not heard, where they sat passively in Church and watched in silence all that went on is a really unhelpful model that still exists far too much in the Christendom mind-set but has no scriptural basis.
This is very different from the Jewish way of doing things were the children of the family are right at the heart of celebrating their faith.
The Christian faith is not a passive one, its not just meant to be witnessed but experienced, practically lived out, the call -like the Holy Spirit- has no junior version.
More over God has created us to learn by actually doing, there is an old adage that goes “I hear I forget, I see I remember and I do I understand” -why then do we just fob our kids off with colouring sheets? Why is Christianity in our Churches all about sitting in rows listening?
John Wimber having recently become a Christian asked his Church “when are we going to do the stuff?” -meaning the stuff in the Bible especially in the book of the Acts of the Apostles-… I think if we are meant to have a child-like faith, they roll up their sleeves and get involved, often with glee and gusto, rather than standing back and watching.
Francis Chan, spoke of discipleship meaning we memories scripture, highlight it in our Bibles, talk about it, maybe even learn it in Greek(!) but despite all of this we don’t ACTUALLY DO IT!
Our kids watch us, they see what really matters to us, they see whether we are living this stuff out (and I don’t mean just going to lots of Churchy meetings) and they see what difference Jesus makes to our lives. We have the responsibility of showing out children the great gift the world has ever known the transforming good news of Jesus Christ, the pearl of great price. They see us behind closed doors, they probably can tell what we are thinking in situations, they are like little sponges -picking up both our good habits and our bad habits too!
This week at the Turning we have seen children joining in with the mission of Christ, it is an adventure, they saw their parents/grandparents and Christian friends ‘actually doing the stuff’ with the adventure of following Jesus, and they want to join in, something they wont forget.
Also, they got involved and were encouraged, so often we fob off our children from the ‘real work’ and then wonder after years of being fobbed off when we want them to do it, they’ve lost interest. A leadership mantra is “go with the passion” -where is the fire- often our kids bring with them passion and enthusiasm to get involved but are fragile too, and too often I believe we squash and squander our most precious resource which is our children and young people.
I used to say as a youth worker, your most precious resource is sat on your back row, encourage them and don’t “tut” at them.
When I headed up the kids work whilst I was at theological college I remember saying “you may have in your group the next Archbishop of Canterbury so make sure you are nice to her!”
So, let’s see our kids not as people to “babysit” whilst we do the stuff, but as missionary partners in Kingdom business. Let us see their church experience as more than colouring in but the adventure of following Jesus as part of a family transforming their communities for Christ.
Often, like me at this mission, we don’t expect our kids to bless us and for God to minister through them, and yet I have found that often they astound us by their profoundness, depth and ability to hear and be obedient to the voice of God without the mental clutter that we as adults can cloud everything with.
Jesus said “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for theirs in the Kingdom of God”