Children and the Kingdom
Sometimes, we have really good intentions that produce very bad results. This was the case in Matthew 19:13-15, when the disciples tried to prevent some children from getting close to Jesus. Perhaps they thought the children would disrupt the great teaching he was giving. But, typically, Jesus took the moment, turned it upside down, and taught them - and us - something about the the nature of the kingdom.
Here are some observations from this passage:
1. People [correctly] believed that good things happen to children who are close to Jesus.
v. 13a: Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. We need to be asking the opposite question: what can we do to help children get close to Jesus?
2. Some Christians discount the importance of next-generation ministry.
The disciples rebuked the people. And sometimes we're just like that. We think thoughts like, 'Real church happens in with the adults; Kid’s Church is just child-minding'. But what we need to realise is that 77% of all Christians make their profession of faith before their 21stbirthday; 43% of adult Christians turned to follow Jesus before their 13th birthday. Thus, a significant portion of our ministry effort should be directed to those most open to the gospel.
3. Jesus teaches a proactive posture towards children.
v. 14a:But Jesus said, ’Let the little children come to me …’ This proactivity includes creatively building pathways to give children access to the person and work of Christ.
4. We can inadvertently create hindrances for children coming to Jesus.
v. 14b:But Jesus said, …’do not hinder them’. How could we create hindrances to the gospel? Here are three ways:
- The hindrance of non-communication - Not caring enough to teach them about Jesus
The hindrance of miscommunication - Not caring enough to communicate intelligibly.
The hindrance of mal-communication - Not caring enough to communicate the truth (or communicating falsehood).
5. The kingdom belongs to people with child-like faith (and it’s easier for children to have child-like faith!)
v. 14c:for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. But this leads us to ask the question: how does the kingdom belong to children? In Matthew 18:1-4, Jesus responds to his disciples' question about greatness by saying that Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Greatness is not 'being the best version of you!', but rather, trusting God like a child.
How are children great? They believe what they're told, and they trust. They have to learn doubt and cynicism. The humility of children is that they they know they help. Jesus goes so far as to say that unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. That's a strong statement. And it's true.
6. Jesus took a proactive posture towards children.
And he laid his hands on them and went away. Jesus didn't simply use children as an example; he gave them something good.
7. At Centrepoint, we are committed to giving children the best chance to enter God’s kingdom.
We do this in practical ways like with Holiday Club and Centrepoint Kids. More than fun, these ministries prioritse the kingdom of God. But our activity comes out of a value, proactively doing what Jesus told us to.
For us, next-generation ministry is non-negotiable. This is who we are, this is what we do. Jesus told us to let the children come to him. This is how we advance his kingdom. And he invites us to come to him by become like children. This is how we participate in his kingdom.