Oh the signs of youth! They do leave a wake of destruction in their path, but such are the signs of exuberant life. Even around a church one can see the evidences of tiny hands: candy wrappers, fingerprints on walls, stains on the carpet, broken crayons and scribbles in the hymnals. Some may contest these disturbances in the sanctuary but I suggest they are precious and valued in the eyes of the Lord. When these indications of a youthful presence are undervalued, it is then that a church is in trouble.
It took less than a generation for a Christian nation such as England to be so secularized. From a nation which boasted the likes of John Wesley, JB Lightfoot, Charles Wesley, and C.S. Lewis, all it took was one generation in the latter part of the 20th century for that heritage to dissipate into secular humanism; the baton of Christ failed to be passed from one generation to the next.
The sentiments of Christ are clear in Mark 10:13-14, “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” The leaders did not want to be bothered by the “trivial” distractions of the children, and scolded them for interrupting. Jesus was angry for obstructing the children.
The attitude was nothing new for God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-7 God says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” God makes it clear we are to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord all the time. In this way, relationship with the Almighty is modeled to the next generation.
As I look around our town, at the waning number of youths in our churches, I have to ask, “Are we permitting the children to come to Him? Are we hindering them? Do we value the cries of children and babies rising up during a sermon more than we value a tidy church? Are we modeling relationship with the Almighty to our youth?”
My concern is that we become so complacent with “purity” and tidiness that we neglect the church of tomorrow. My fear is that we so desire clean, unmarked hymnals that we fail to embrace the next generation of God’s children.
Lord, change our hearts.
Lord, may our hymnals be overflowing with scribbles!