Suffer Little Children
We rejoice that more young families are joining us at GBC. Pastor Ian shares with us how we can respond with grace as we worship God together with young children in our midst.
In Matthew 19, families were bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus. We are not told why, but His disciples took exception to this, and in verses 13-14 they began to rebuke the parents. Jesus interrupted their personal outrage with, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Most Christians my age remember the King James Version of these words: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Suffering, or tolerating little children in church made sense in a culture that taught us, “children should be seen and not heard!”
Twenty-five years ago, churches in the West began to notice that with the dramatic increase of working mothers, Christian families were increasingly feeling the stress of fragmentation and so were far less inclined to attend a church that divided family members into gender- and age-graded ministry programmes. Sherri and I experienced this in our own ministry. In 1983, work-weary mothers who had spent 24 hours of each day with their children were delighted to be able to hand off each child to a loving Christian worker while they left to be ministered to themselves. However, by 2015 we noticed that our nursery was mostly left empty. Work-weary mothers were now spending 50 hours helping to service the family mortgage. The last thing they wanted to do with their precious family time was begin it by handing their baby off to a stranger.
So how should a church respond when children in our services are both seen and heard?
We can celebrate. When God displays His goodness, this is the right thing to do.
- We can celebrate that He is bringing increase. Young families are the clearest evidence that a church has a future. Churches don’t typically grow on the back of a dynamic Youth Ministry. Young Adult ministry does not always guarantee church growth. Healthy churches grow on the backs of healthy families. We should celebrate that God is bringing young families to our church!
- We can celebrate that young parents are willing to trust us with their 'treasure'. There is nothing more important to parents than their children. It should fill us with humble gratitude that God would give us opportunity to direct these young lives toward Him!
We can learn. Jesus clearly felt His disciples could learn Kingdom behaviours from young children. What can we learn from the children He is bringing to Grace?
- We can learn to trust completely. People are not born pessimistic. But many of us have allowed life’s disappointments to teach us to believe in our doubts. How refreshing it is then, to notice the open-hearted faith that is present in children. Children provide the church an excellent example of the kind of humility and faith that are acceptable to Christ!
- We can learn to worship. This past Sunday I stood beside two young sisters – one about four and the other perhaps six – and they were clearly unfamiliar with the ‘adult songs’ we sang. But that didn’t stop them from singing! What a joy it was to worship with two young girls whose hearts were not yet full of personal song choice preference!
We can respond with grace. Each of us come to Christ with our own burdens. My father wore two hearing aids to compensate for industrial deafness. Any small noise – a baby’s cry or the rustling of paper – was equally amplified, making worship difficult and distracting. And speaking of distractions, no one is more distracted by a crying child than an anxious young mother! So how can we make small adjustments that bless?
- We can gracefully find sanctuary within the sanctuary. God has blessed us with several overflow rooms in our new building. When the noise becomes distracting, one solution is to find a quiet one and worship there.
- Young families, if they choose, can bring their restless ones into the 'Family Room'.
- We can guard our hearts against any behaviours that might hinder others from meeting with Jesus.
- Loving, available adults can sit and assist young parents. Sherri and I are convinced that this is one of the primary reasons our children still love and serve the Lord: when they were small and distracting, adults who were not their parents sat with them and loved them.
- On Saturday 24th March we will be having a special EQUIP class on The Church. This class will take place from 9am to 1pm and is for everyone who is considering joining the Grace Baptist Family and for those who just need to be reminded of what we believe and why we believe it!
- As we look toward Passion Week, please be reminded that our Good Friday Service will be held on 30 March, from 5-7:30 pm. Please note that since we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together during our Good Friday Service, we will not have the Lord’s Supper on Easter Sunday.
- If you have not yet informed the church office of your desire to be baptised on Easter Sunday, please do so by the end of next week!