A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 1 of 3

In the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Christ has given us the Divine imperative and preeminent endeavor in youth ministry: “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them.” The text that I will use is predominantly Luke’s account in Luke 18:15-17. I will address three important issues in youth ministry in three parts: first, the parental figures and youth ministry; secondly, the problems in youth ministry; and lastly, the priorities and Preeminent in youth ministry. I do not intend to exhaustively cover the issues concerning parents, problems, and the priorities in youth ministry, but, rather to allow Luke’s account make up and shape the contours of what is written here. Simply put, I humbly intend this as an exposition of Luke 18:15-17.

PART 1: The Parental Figures and Youth Ministry

I use the term parental figures so as not to exclude grandparents and relatives in bringing their children to Christ. Some would desire to use that term because of the current state of thought concerning marriage, homosexuality, divorce, live-in relationships, etc. in the hopes of not offending anyone – I am not one of those people! By parental figures I mean, primarily, two adults within the bonds of heterosexual covenant with one another, so joined in the presence of God, and are the biological parents of their children, but not to the exclusion of those circumstances that arise where a child’s parents have passed away so that the grandparent’s or other relatives have taken over parental responsibilities, or in the instance of adoption into such a united couple, etc. Ideally, biological parents are the child’s primary teacher and accountability in the things of God – though often times in the world we live, unideal situations arise.

Recently, as I was scanning Headline News, I became privy to a tragic story of nine teenagers in Polk County, Florida. Two of the teens were boys, the other seven were girls, ranging in age from fourteen to eighteen years young. One of the girls was kidnapped by the other eight; the two boys stood outside guarding the door so that the impending assault might transition uninterruptedly. In what transpired as an act of revenge, six girls took turns video taping and attacking another girl. After they had smashed her head into a wall, knocking her unconscious, they continued to pound on her body and face after she had been revived. At one point the girl holding the camera said, “There’s only 17 seconds of battery left – make it good!” They continued to savagely beat this girl to the point where she now has no vision in her left eye or hearing in her left ear as well as severe swelling all over her body. The truth is that they might have murdered this girl and cared less. These girls were cheerleaders and honor roll students! Afterwards, one of the girls questioned a policeman asking if she was going to be out of custody in time to make it to cheerleading practice the next day! No remorse, no conviction, not even a hint of regret. There intention was to put the video of the beating on YouTube, a popular website for the younger generations.

At least three things come to mind: first, that these kids external accolades had no bearing upon their spiritual condition – no remorse or conviction about their murderous actions and intentions, often heard encouraging one another on in the assault. A question that arises from this consideration for a parent concerns the priorities of life that a parent takes with their child. After school activities? Intellectual studies? Condition of the eternal soul?
Secondly, though this was no doubt a great tragedy, it pales in comparison to the tragedy of a lost soul. What if in a moment any one of those girls had entered into eternity as swiftly as they appeared to be trying to send the one girl in murderous fashion? A fifteen year old honor roll student consigned to hell is an infinitely greater tragedy. We might be appalled at the sight of this video, but I wonder, how often are we silenced by the reality of hell and the lost condition of the young soul? Lastly, how great, then, is the responsibility of parents, pastors, and laity – the entire church – in youth ministry, in bringing children to Jesus Christ?

For our purposes, let us look at our text and point out at least four short principles with regards to the right dispositions of parents and youth ministry that arise from the 15th verse of Luke 18.

“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them,” Luke 18:15.

I find four principles concerning the right condition of parental figures and youth ministry.

First, that these parental figures had experienced the blessing and reality of Christ’s ministry themselves. John Calvin is right to note Luke’s use of the particle “also”, or as it is in my translation, “even”. That is to say that these figures, having been previously blessed by Christ’s ministry, now anticipated that He would bless their children as well. Perhaps the most important element of youth ministry is the spiritual condition of the parents. In other words, the biblical ideal is that the parents are themselves believers in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, having experienced the blessing of Christ themselves, their sole desire was that Christ might bless their children also. This is a mark of having truly tasted the grace of Christ, that you greatest desire is that others may taste of Him as well; and for parents, the foremost desire is that Christ may touch your child.

Thirdly, that these parents had obtained a right expectation of Christ’s ministry. They were bringing their children to Him “that He might touch them.” Again, the parents, having been blessed freely by Christ expected nothing less than that Jesus would bless their children too – that He would equally and freely confer blessing upon the children.
They expected that He would “touch them.” Matthew’s account secures the meaning of the parent’s expectation when he writes that Christ would “lay His hands on them and pray,” (19:13). Simply, they expected Jesus to bless their children.
In Jewish culture, to have someone bless you or bless your children was to honor that person with a superior status. Therefore, Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Hebrews 7:7, giving the understanding of that Old Testament text, reveals, “It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.”
These parents honored Christ as the superior, and humbled themselves as the inferior. And out of this understanding came their great passion and expectation of Him. It is likely that they held out Christ to be of a high Prophetical office. Therefore, they expected rightly that Christ would bless them and pray for them, granting the children a participation in His grace.

Lastly, these parents were rightly aligned with the heart and will of God. As we shall see, Christ calls them to Him, beckoning the children to come to Him, and as our text makes clear, “Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them.” In a day when many parents allow the child to be their own spiritual guide, or when many parents are insensitive to the heart of God for their children, these parental figures were perfectly aligned with God’s heart for the children.

Now we have a biblical sketch of parents who effectively minister to their children – believing parents who have a biblical desire for the salvation of their children, a biblical expectation of Christ’s gracious ministry, and a biblical alignment with the heart and will of God, that by every means necessary, they will bring their children to Jesus Christ.

In Part 2 we will examine “The Problems in Youth Ministry (according to Luke 18:15)”.

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