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Are you a G.O.A.T.? (Greatest Of All Time)

12 Jul

I asked the children’s ministry leaders at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, to give me a list of the top ten reasons people give for NOT serving in the nursery and/or children’s ministry.

  • I don’t like children/babies.
  • I can’t lift the children.
  • I don’t have children in the nursery or children’s ministry. Let the parents serve.
  • It’s not my gift.
  • I don’t get anything out of serving.
  • I’m too busy (family commitments, we like to travel on the weekends, I need time with my spouse, I want to keep my options open).
  • I’ve done my share & I’m too tired. Let the young serve—they have the time and energy.
  • I don’t do diapers.
  • I only come to church one hour a week. I don’t want to give up my “church” time. I need to hear the sermon to grow.
  • I don’t want to.

If you want to meet Jesus, you will find him in the nursery. If you want to demonstrate your love for God, you can do that in Awana. If you want others to know you are a Christ follower, you can show your commitment by serving in Vacation Bible School.

How you view service in general and children’s ministry in particular says much about your commitment to Jesus Christ. If you are not serving, you are not a disciple of Christ. If you devalue children’s ministry, if you dismiss it as “just babysitting,” you are not following Christ.

We haven’t looked at the Scriptures yet, but I can already hear the complaints. What about Celebrate Recovery? The Lord’s Pantry? Prison ministry? Leading worship? Teaching adults? Missions?

Matthew 25:31-46 explains that if we give a cup of cold water to someone who is in prison, sick, naked, or hungry, we are serving Christ. Acts 2, Ephesians 4, and other passages speak about worship, teaching, and a host of other topics. There are other passages of Scripture that speak about the value of other ministries. But Mark 9:33-37 raises the bar on ministry to children.

The world’s philosophy is that you are “great” if you have climbed the corporate ladder, if you have people serving you. Christ’s message is that greatness comes from serving others.

On three occasions (Mark 8:31; 9:30-32; 10:32-34), Jesus previewed his death and resurrection. Each time, his disciples responded with faulty thinking which he needed to correct. In Mark 9, Jesus corrects their thinking by discussing the nature of discipleship (33-50). Following Christ in the way of the cross involves service (33-37), partnering with other Christ followers (38-41), and saying “No” to temptation and sin (42-50).

Jesus and his disciples have been walking towards Capernaum. Prior to this excursion, Jesus revealed he would suffer, die, and be raised from the dead (Mark 9:30-32). Rather than debate who would betray Jesus or question why it was God’s plan for him to die, the disciples argued over which one of them was the greatest (33-34). Maybe Matthew pointed out that he was the best evangelist because he hosted a dinner party for all his tax collectors buddies to meet Jesus. Perhaps Andrew countered by saying he introduced his brother, Peter, to Jesus, and Philip added that he brought Nathaniel. Chances are Peter, James, and John advanced their candidacy because they had been with Jesus during the transfiguration (9:2-13). Regardless of who said what, the conversation revealed that Jesus’ disciples did not understand or accept what Jesus’ Passion prediction meant for them.

Pride and ambition are temptations in every age. We say,

  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” We have to network with the right people.
  • “I’ve been a member for 30 years. How come I’m not asked to be an elder?” We want seniority rule in church leadership.

Jesus sat down and called the Twelve to him (35). He explained that greatness in his kingdom is counter-intuitive. The way up is down. If you want the highest position, you must be willing to serve in the lowest place.

I fully understand the struggle of ambition. My goal was to pastor a large church, teach in a seminary, and write best-selling books. My reality is that I pastor a medium sized church, have never been asked to speak in chapel, and no one wanted to publish the manuscript I wrote. The anonymous author of Embracing Obscurity got it right when he said that we should reject the lure of the world to “be somebody” and instead embrace Christ’s call to “humble ourselves” and serve.

Like the prophets of old, Jesus taught not only by his words, but by his actions. He put his arms around a child to illustrate his point (36-37). Children were not welcomed or valued in ancient society. To welcome a child, Jesus explained, is equivalent to welcoming Jesus himself. In fact, to do so was to welcome not only Jesus but the heavenly Father who sent him to earth. This fact raises the bar and gives dignity to the task of serving in the nursery and/or children’s ministry.

I’m fortunate to be part of a church that values children’s ministry. Part of our 2020 Vision is to grow the church through evangelism. Ministry to children and youth are vital components of our strategy. I try to model that for the congregation. I preach to adults in the worship services. I teach adults in our Sojourners young families Sunday School class and in our Men’s Fraternity. I go to Russia once a year to train emerging leaders and pastors. But I also get involved in our Awana program on Wednesday evenings, attend our Awana Camp in the summer, and help out with our Vacation Bible School program. I want the congregation to know that I value and am committed to children’s ministry.

If you desire to be great, then stoop to serve. Help reach the next generation with the message of the gospel.

This is a synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 12, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

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