On Sunday, August 27, 2017, Pastor Peter spoke on the Cornerstone's vision for its children's ministry.
At the Cornerstone, we have a big, beautiful vision for kid's ministry. Today, I want to tell you about it so you can pray for our children and those who minister to them. And so you can discern if the Lord is calling you to serve our kids.
JESUS LOVED CHILDREN
Jesus loved children and went out of his way to help them: He healed kids and drove demons out of them. He raised a widow's son from the dead. He included a boy in a spectacular miracle - Jesus turned his lunch of fish and bread into a banquet for five thousand.
In today's story, a group of parents brought their kids to Jesus for a blessing. It was normal in Israel to ask a rabbi to put hands on a child and say a prayer of blessing. So why did the disciples block the kids from getting to Jesus? And why did Jesus rebuke them for it?
The disciples were just doing what a normal rabbi's disciples did: they protected his space and his time. In their minds, Jesus was far too important to be bothered by kids. He was on his way to Jerusalem to claim the throne of David.
But Jesus rebuked his disciples because he wanted them to learn that people aren't an interruption. Jesus didn't think of anyone as less important or a waste of his time. Jesus wanted to bless the kids and meet their parents.
Today's story provides us with a vision for the Cornerstone's ministry to kids:
1. WE'll WORK TOGETHER TO GET OUR KIDS SAVED
“Let the little children come to me" - verse 14.
We want to introduce every child to Jesus so that they all have an opportunity to trust him as their Savior and God. Jesus said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6
There is no such thing as second hand salvation. We don't receive eternal life by osmosis or by hanging around church. Salvation is personal - personal faith in Jesus.
Parents and grandparents, you play a huge part in this. In fact, it starts with you. God gave you kids for one primary purpose: to point them to Jesus:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:4
Tell them about his love. Explain the cross. Invite them to Jesus for salvation.
There's a great example of family faith sharing in 1 Timothy:
"I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." - 2 Timothy 1:5
They shared their faith in Jesus. In chapter 3, we learn that they taught Timothy the Bible (3:15) which was able to make him "wise for salvation."
The Cornerstone is here to support you as parents. Safari Zone, AWANA, and youth group back up what you're already doing at home. And in all these programs, everything we do points to Jesus because our goal and our prayer is to get kids saved.
2. WE'LL WORK TOGETHER TO GIVE OUR KIDS A SHARE
"The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" - verse 14.
We want every child to share fully in the life of the church. We want every kid to feel like they belong at church and to love coming to church.
Jesus rebuked the disciples because they made the children feel like he was distant and distracted. "Get away kid, Jesus has more important things to care about than you."
But Jesus turned that common perception on its head. To paraphrase: "God's reign on earth (his kingdom manifest in the church) is full of child-like people who can't work or deserve their way in. That's who God embraces and welcomes in."
It's a travesty when a kid is turned off by church. That is so wrong because it's so easy to make a child feel good about church. We keep the children in our worship celebration so they know they are welcome. We pray over them, we bless them, we speak encouragement to them because we want them to love church and Safari Zone and AWANA.
One of my goals for our youth group is that it would be THE MOST POSITIVE place in their lives. I want our students to know they are loved, that they have value, that we think they're great even when they mess up and get things wrong.
Jesus affirmed the precious value of children:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." - Matthew 18:10
We're going to keep investing deeply in our children's ministry and our youth group because we want all our kids to share fully in the life of the church.
3. WE'LL WORK TOGETHER TO KEEP OUR KIDS SAFE
"Do not hinder them" - verse 14.
We want the Cornerstone to be the safest place on earth for kids. We don't want anything or anybody to "hinder" children from getting to Jesus.
Sadly, I have to talk about keeping kids safe from abusers in church. There are men and women who use religion and church as a cover to target children and they groom them and win their trust in order to do unspeakable things to them. It's sickening, but let me quote a man who preyed on kids in church:
"You start the grooming process from day one ... You find a child you might be attracted to ... You may look at a kid that doesn't have a father image at home or a father that cares about them ... you get it down to the one that is the easiest target, and that's the one you do." - Protecting Children from Abuse in the Church by Basyle Tchividjian, page 3.
This is a wake-up call. Nowhere is safe unless we work together to make it safe. That's why we have the check-in system for Safari Zone and windows in every classroom. It's why our workers are never alone with a student.
Children are a precious gift from God. We will stay vigilant and we will report offenders to the authorities. This is what the Lord wants us to do:
"Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." - Psalm 82:3-4
There's another aspect of this - a much happier one. A very practical way to keep kids safe is to foster or adopt children at risk. It's a great way to bring children to Jesus and it's also God's heart for Christian families:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans ..." - James 1:27
This is our vision: we want the Cornerstone to be the safest place on earth.
Everyone matters to God. No doubt. But I can't help feeling that children have a big part of God's heart. And, therefore, a big part of the Cornerstone's heart. That's why we'll always have a heavy emphasis on ministry to kids and students. We'll also support and encourage our parents in the most important calling in the world.
If you're a parent or grandparent, keep pointing your kids to Jesus. The results aren't always obvious right away. Keep sowing seeds and one day you'll see the fruit.
On our book table, there are four excellent resources for parents/kids:
The Jesus Story Book Bible.
The Donkey Who Carried a King - RC Sproul.
The New City Catechism (we'll be using this in youth group this year)
Our Daily Bread - free (check out the app as well)
If you've ever suffered abuse or you are a friend of someone abused, I encourage you to seek help from experts. Also, take a look on the book table for:
Rid of my Disgrace - hope and healing for victims
Sexual Abuse - beauty for ashes
If you're looking for a way to invest your life in something that matters, talk to me about joining our children or youth ministries.
Now, let's pray for our ministry to kids.