A Christian Imperative: Bringing Children to Christ – Part 2 of 3

Luke 18:15-17 reads,

“Now they were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him, saying, ‘Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'”

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the biblical makeup and ideal involvement of these parental figures in youth ministry (verse 15a). Now we turn our attention to the second part of verse 15.

Having addressed the issue of parents and youth ministry, let us now examine the problems of youth ministry within the confines of this text.

Part 2: The Problems of Youth Ministry

Notice again our text:

“And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them,” 18:15b.

The greatest assault on youth ministry is sin – the sin of the children, the sin of the parents, and the sin of the world. Sin is the greatest problem in youth ministry. But if you would look to your right and to your left, in front of you and behind you, and in your mirror tonight, then you will see the problem of youth ministry in this text – the problem is us!

It is not the Pharisees that rebuke the people from bringing their children to Christ, who so often rebuke Christ; it is not the Sadducees or the Hellenists or the pagans; and contemporarily, it is not the naturalist or the spiritualist or the postmodern man. These who would prevent children from coming to Christ are the disciples’ of Christ – those closest to Him.

The disciples, here, make a critical error in their understanding of Christ’s mission and their place in it. Christ came to seek and to save sinners, and the disciples were set free to be servants to all in bringing everyone to Christ!

Though this is not an exhaustive list, I have recognized four kinds of problematic disciples who stand in the pathway of children coming to Christ, starting with these disciples:

First, the elitist disciple; as Calvin rightly states, these disciples preferred to introduce to the world a “fancied Christ.” They rebuked the parents who would have their children blessed by Christ because they perceived Christ as a King to important to extend love and grace and compassion and time to infants and young children. These disciples had forgotten that they too were lost in sin, and that Christ sought each one of them out. They had forgotten that they were sinners saved by the grace of Christ. Because of this, they tended to be unevangelical and separatist. They thought of themselves like bodyguards to a famous individual. Under these disciples, children will grow in the shadows of legalism and partiality, while missing the compassion and love of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ – that is, if they can get past these disciples into the arms of Christ.

I would give these disciples credit, for at least they believed in a powerful Christ, and would, obviously, come to grow to know Him more intimately as time passed and the exaltation of our Lord occurred. Today, the problematic disciples are not of the kind that believe Christ to be too high and lofty to fool with infants. Rather, many disciples today follow a Christ who is much less than what He has revealed Himself to be.

Here are a few more problematic disciples:

Secondly, the hypocritical disciple who would witness of a “powerless Christ”. On Sunday morning, these disciples wear a smile and say their “amen’s”, but Monday through Saturday, fail to spend any meaningful time with Christ. They say they believe Him to be powerful, but they never pray for salvations, and they never expect much from the youth ministry of the church. They masquerade as one thing, and practice something else.

Thirdly, the shallow disciple who would witness of an “unentertaining Christ.” They prefer the youth to watch Christian videos, play Christian games, have Christian parties, and listen to sappy Christian music, but they stand to rebuke anyone, parents, pastors, or laity who rather bring the children to Christ through expositional preaching of God’s Word, and a seriousness about the realities of sin, Satan, death, hell, and Christ crucified and raised as victor over them all.

Fourthly, the lawless disciple who would witness of a “tolerant Christ.” These disciples cling to the love and grace and compassion of Christ and His authority to give these things to them, but they cannot fathom a Christ who is coming a second time to judge the world in His righteousness. To these, Christ does not speak about personal sin, nor does He demand fruit and holiness. They profess to know much about Christ, while practicing very little of Christ.

Lastly, the material disciple who would witness of a “prosperity Christ.” These disciples are very dangerous because they are entrenched deeply into the thinking of the world. Christ alone does not satisfy, they say, and God is unhappy with you if you are not prospering materially. This disciple is, perhaps, the most tempting for youth to follow, because many pass this garbage off as “The Gospel”, and it is not. God is the ultimate satisfaction; in Him shall we be truly satisfied.

Regardless, all of these problematic disciples have one thing in common. They disdained what they saw. We must ask ourselves from the text, “What did they see that they felt so strongly to rebuke?” And the answer is – passionate people who having truly tasted of the goodness of Christ endeavored with every ounce of their strength to bring the children to Jesus Christ! That’s it! They saw undeniable passion put to practice and the outcome was evangelism – the parents were bringing the children to Christ!

I pray that instead we would all unite as faithful disciples whose desire is to introduce not a fancied Christ, or a powerless Christ, or an unentertaining Christ, or a Christ who tolerates disobedience, but rather the biblical Christ, the Jesus who says, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them.”

In Part 3 we will address the priorities in youth ministry as Christ identifies them in verses 16 and 17 of Luke 18.

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