October 26

Smooth Stone #1: Jesus and Relational Ministry

Our church launched a capital campaign to raise money for a new sanctuary. Teams were trained and went out for evening meetings with church families to explain the project and gather the needed financial support.

Part of that training included having little activities for the children in the family. One of those activities involved having the younger children draw a picture of the church.

Timmy was about five years old when he was given the paper, crayons and invited to draw the church. In a few minutes he had finished with a stick figure.

When they asked Timmy about the drawing, he explained that it was me, his children’s pastor.

For Timmy the church was people and so a picture of the church was a picture of people. Church was about people and relationships; from the mouths of babes!

So many children around the world are starving for relationships with adults. Many of those children have a parent, teacher, coach or authority figure, but have adults who just want to be their friend.

God has given Five Smooth Stones to help boys and girls defeat the giants of their age and the first smooth stone is relationships (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Relationships with their children's ministry leaders and with other children seeking to follow Jesus.

We have previously studied Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and identified these Five Smooth Stones for transformational children’s ministry (Relationship, Experience, Truth, Discussion and Response).

Now we begin to look at these five principles in the ministry of Jesus Himself. Although He taught in many ways, we will establish that these five principles were characteristic of His ministry.

Love is the Mark of a Follower of Christ

 Love is the Mark of a Follower of Christ

Maybe you’ve never really thought about it, but in so many ways the Incarnation—God made flesh in Jesus—is a bold statement about relational ministry.

Acting out of His great love for the world, God sent His Son (John 3:16) to dwell among us (John 1:14). At the same time that He was fully God, Jesus was, like us, fully human in every way, even to the point of facing temptation (Hebrews 2:17-18).

While there is much to say about Jesus the God-Man, the Teacher, the Healer, and the Friend, we are going to focus on Jesus’ teaching about the importance of relational ministry, the importance of a ministry among people based on a relationship with each one of them.

A number of passages support this assertion, but one stands out in its simplicity and profound beauty.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."  (John 13:34-35)

Here, Jesus spoke about what should be the tell-tale sign of His followers.

What should identify people as Christ-followers? How would people recognize Christ-followers? Jesus’ answer to those questions is love.

In Jesus’ day and continuing on in the present, the love Jesus’ followers have for one another is a signal to “everyone” that they are Christ-followers.

Loving one another includes loving children. The love of God flows into and among the children through relationships.

Unfortunately, through the centuries other aspects of Christianity have overshadowed this all-important love. Many Christians believe that people will know we are Christ-followers when they know what we believe.

Therefore, they invest their time in clarifying doctrine, theology, and beliefs. Such efforts can too often be characterized by divisiveness and a distinct lack of love.

Others consider morality to be the essential quality that identifies people as Christ-followers, so we focus our energies on proper and improper behavior, an effort that again often leads to division and a marked lack of love.

This has been characteristic of children’s ministry work in many quarters.

Our Number One Priority is to Love

Our Number One Priority is to Love

Now, I know some of you may have been cringing as you read the previous paragraph: you may be thinking that I don’t value doctrine or moral virtue.

Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.

I am merely reminding all of us what is clearly set forth in Scripture: the number one priority in our Christian life and witness is to love God and love His people, including children.

Speaking specifically about children’s ministry, I believe that Jesus calls us to love children and to teach them to love each other.

Love among God’s people is the essential identifying quality of the Christian life. And this love is not a superficial veneer over our actions and words.

Instead, this love is a deep and abiding aspect of our character that impacts all we do and say. The love of God in us that enables us to love Him and to love others is at the core of individuals who are committed to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Again, this love is not just a superficial, external sign of something that we hope others see as reality.

The love of Christ should flow through us into the lives of children. This happens in a relationship with boys and girls. Jesus lived with His disciples for several years and it is clear that relationships were foundational to His discipling ministry. 

What is explicitly taught in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 regarding relational ministry with children was evident in Jesus' own life and ministry.

It should be evident in our own ministry with boys and girls. 

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