Who is the dude preaching a sermon on the rock with the oily, tangled hair, locust legs stuck in his teeth and honey residue on his lips? Is he a Pharisee gone liberal? A priest gone AWOL? A pastor’s kid? A rebel? A prophet with evil spirits? A protestor to religion? A new ager? A conservationist gone “desert hugger”? A lost dad looking for directions? A coming king motivating people to fight against the nearby countries’ control and oppression? The new, relevant pastor? Jesus? No. John, the one sent by Jesus, because of Jesus, before Jesus, to preach Jesus to those that await Jesus and those who have never heard of Jesus so that all will believe in Jesus in order to follow Jesus by turning to Jesus by confessing their separation from Jesus because of their sin against Jesus so that they can receive forgiveness from Jesus and declare to the world their new relationship to Jesus through being baptized by John (Mark 1:1-8). Are our children’s ministries like the ministry of John?
John is not Jesus, the Christ or Son of God, rather, only a man being faithful to fulfilling his calling to reveal Jesus to the world. John’s mission is aligned to the mission of Jesus. John’s message is preparation to the message of Jesus. John is a human man, not the God-man, Jesus. The man, mission and message of Jesus determined all the character, ministry, feelings, appearance and words of John. John directs others to Jesus, not himself, someone else or something else. The desert is not John’s kingdom, rather, John tells people of the coming kingdom. The anointed One to rule over Israel is not John, rather, John preaches to the people about the chosen One.
Have our children’s ministries become our kingdom? Our domain? Our territory of wisdom, insights and rules? Our place to shine and prove ourselves to leaders, co-workers or parents? Our place to appease (satisfy) our feelings to serve in a ministry? Our location to make an appearance to avoid being judged by others of not serving? Our room to inflict power and control over decisions and people? Our outlet to show humility? Our temporary storage of lessons? Our testing ground for parenting? Our desert that burns us out of ministry? Our identity first instead of Jesus? We inevitably become a fake Jesus as the children, parents, leaders and all those involved begin to place their value, time, attention, finances and trust in us.
Like a rising sun on the desert, you may see nothing at first but over time issues begin to rise, become brighter and turn scorching hot! The following are various ways our fake Jesus identity overrides the true Jesus of the Gospel of Mark: carelessness in our words; unconcerned for accurate teaching content, whatever you say goes; lacks on protection and care of the children; apathetic, permitting status quo and never re-evaluating; un-teachable; becoming extremely anxious when confronted by another person; furious when children disobey the rules; concerned for the arts and crafts going home versus the transformed heart of the child; attending to the fun kids only; never flexible – always your way or the highway; never concerned for the kids outside of the class time; always pointing out the faults of parents; never inquiring into the lives of the families; fighting with other staff; attendance numbers override the goal of healthy attendance numbers; “look what I can do” versus “what can Jesus do”; limited or no training of others since you suffice as the best; confident in your lesson plan and not the Spirit working in kids to show them Jesus; praying less and doing more; overwhelming feeling of inadequacy because of putting so much pressure on yourself as the source of ministry success; more concern about looking the best instead of revealing Jesus is the best; guilt tripping parents on how their children were disobedient against your rules instead of being patient overtime as God is with us; and emotions fluctuate with the tides of ministry craziness instead of leveling off by keeping our eyes on Jesus, like He said to Peter as he was sinking in the lake (Matthew 14:28-33).
Hint: Stare longer at Jesus (person, teaching, example) in the Gospel of Mark like finding Where’s Waldo. When you find Waldo, you will notice who he is and who he is not. John the Baptizer was preaching a sermon about who Jesus was and was not. Our children’s ministries are to richly display who Jesus is and is not in the looks, feel, culture, content, behind the scenes, around the office, in front of the parent, visible to the visitor, enforced with the neighbors and spread to the nations!
To be continued …
Further Reading The Trellis and the Vine
This is part of the blog posts series from Missional Education on the gospel in children’s ministry.