As Paul and Barnabas set out from Antioch on their mission, Luke briefly mentions they also had John (Mark) as their helper. He didnt last long. No sooner did they leave the island of Cyprus and head toward the interior of Asia Minor than
John left them and returned to Jerusalem. The reason for this isnt stated, but its some sort of failure because Pauls confidence in him was shaken, and he wouldnt allow him to accompany them on the next trip (Ac 15:36-40). Yet, this certainly wasnt the end of Marks development into a minister of God. He kept on learning and growing. Barnabas, of course, didnt give up on him. When Paul refused, Barnabas changed his own plans and took Mark with him to Cyprus where they probably revisited the believers they had led to Christ on the first mission (Ac 15:39).
The point is, all young disciples make mistakes, as do older disciples. But the danger is greater for the young that they will be categorized as failures and cast aside. Someone, someone older, needs to believe in them, to pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to keep growing. And most will, if they are cared for. The father-hand of God and the passing of time will do the rest. And then they will rise to a level beyond what anyone thought possible. Take Mark for example. Here in Acts he looks like such a failure, but thats not the end of his story. Of all people, Paul, as he sits in Neros prison in Rome, awaiting his trial that would bring a death sentence, writes to Timothy, another young disciple who struggled with courage issues (2Ti 1:7, 8), and he said this, Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you for he is very helpful to me for ministry (2Ti 4:11). Clearly, Mark had regained Pauls respect and earned his trust. Oh, and theres one more thing we should mention: Mark wrote the first gospel, which provided a foundation for Luke and Matthew to write theirs. In other words, the kid who lost his nerve at Perga went on to strengthen for all time the entire church of Jesus Christ. Thanks Mark!
Facing the mountains (Ac 13:13, 14)
Read DBS (Sunday-Tuesday)
A heart for the young (Mal 4:6)
The final words of the Old Testament end with a remarkable promise. The passage predicts the coming of a second Elijah who would prepare for the coming of the Lord by healing the separation between older and younger: He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse (Mal 4:6).
First, lets recognize the problem. There is a loveless indifference by the older generation toward the younger, and also by the younger generation toward the older. They dont love each other or work together. And the most awful result of all is that faith isnt being passed on. The young are not being taught and trained to walk in Gods ways, and therefore they will inevitably sin and fall under judgment. And that effects everyone, young and old, because
all the land will be smitten with a curse.
The softest soil (Mt 18:1-6)
When Adam and Eve fell, they damaged all of their children. All of us are born into the world alone, separated from the glory of God in which we were created to dwell. You might say were born naked, without the glory with which we were to be clothed. This leaves us hopelessly controlled by the influence of our flesh. Yet, there is still a softness in children toward God that tends to evaporate with the passing years if that child is not brought into relationship with Him. Living in this world tends to harden everybody. We do things, and things are done to us, that produce bitterness and shame. Without God, we grow less and less receptive to God and more cynical the older we get. In Gods mind, no one ever becomes so hard He cannot reach them (Mt 19:23-26), but when people are young the heart is naturally softer and the seed of Gods Word is more easily planted there. (Mt 18:1-6)
Children dont have to become like adults to be saved, adults have to become like children. Children can certainly be stubborn and selfish, but theyre still teachable, moldable, like soft clay. They tend to believe what theyre taught, which can be wonderful if theyre taught the truth, but tragic if they are taught lies. Jesus warning about the millstone is telling us how severe judgment will be for someone who turns a tender heart away from Him. If we understand what Jesus is saying, well realize that a persons young years is the season in which they are naturally the most responsive to Gods call. And the memories that go into that child are the longest lasting.
So, how does God want us to respond to these truths? What are we to do? I believe He is calling us, as an entire church, to refresh our commitment to children and youth. This is not to say that there arent people who are already serving faithfully and powerfully in these fields, many are, to whom we all say a sincere thank you. But many more are needed.
God recently spoke prophetically, telling us that we are to refresh our vision. He said our congregation will be most effective in reaching our community by ministering to children and youth. He said this is a key. All parents, no matter how troubled a family may be, long for their children to do well. Most want their children to know God and intuitively understand the enormous potential God has put in their child. And if someone will help their child reach that potential, they will be forever grateful.
Thats where we come in. We can introduce their child to a loving Heavenly Father, and we can teach that child the truths of Gods Word that will bring true success. This is what God is calling us to do at a new level.
Ministering to children
Much prayer and discussion has taken place, and there is a growing consensus among us that we are to return to what some might consider an old fashioned model of Sunday school, with:
Regular teacher training
High-quality, published curriculum, with a coordinated, thought-out program from early childhood through high school, and even college and career
Active parents councils
Well-planned outreach events (VBS, day-camps, etc.)
Gathered worship within age brackets
And a child-care program which includes planned learning activities
All of this requires called, faithful people with a passion for what God can do in, and through, children.
Heres who were looking for:
People who are spiritually healthy and love to learn Gods Word Trained teachers, and people who desire to become trained teachers People who are friendly, kind and compassionate People who are cooperative and will participate happily in our plan, not come in and try to do their own thing (well give you some flexibility but youll teach what we ask you to teach) People willing to see this as a calling and who will serve indefinitely if God indicates that Grandparents and parents Retired people Young people with a heart for even younger people (college and career, high school, middle school) Busy business men and women Artists (were starting an art program) Musicians Science teachers (we need to prepare our students for the world theyll face)
Please notice what we are not saying. We are not desperately begging for anyone who will keep a class going until we can find someone else. We want to enlist and train high quality teachers who understand that every child is born with God-given capacity and wants to help that child reach their potential.
Henrietta Mears (Dream Big, The Henrietta Mears Story, Earl Roe, ed., Regal Books, 1990)
Heres where well need you:
Childrens Ministry (watch the bulletin) Middle school High school AWANA (training starts Wednesday at 6:30) Royal Family Kids Camp (info meeting in January; take General Missions training) Vacation Bible School (watch the bulletin) Day-camps and outreaches (watch the bulletin)
Paul was a tent-maker by trade. Sewing tents was how he financially supported himself. But nobody, when they think of Paul, thinks of tents, because tent-making was just his source of income. When we think of Paul, we think of his vocation, his calling, his spiritual ministry. And thats how God wants us to look at our own life. He wants us to realize what it is that truly defines who we are. Its not our job, though God calls us to specific jobs and turns them into vital mission fields. What truly defines us is our calling to serve Him. Which brings us to our final point. Some of us are called to children and youth, and if well take that call seriously and give our best to it, as Paul did to his, we too will still be affecting lives generations from now.
1) Name your favorite teacher from your childhood years. What was so special about that person? Why do you still remember them?
2) Whats the best movie youve ever seen about a teacher? What did you like about it?