VBS Intro ... Why all the effort? Why all the time and expense? Why are we spending our time on children when we have adult issues to deal with?
Why? Because Our Lord taught us that there is always time to bless children ... Mark 10:13-16
People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

East Kilbride – 1970’s Jack Strachan is trying to reach a culture that has been inoculated on religion and the church. They regard church as a state institution that really doesn’t care. No adult is willing to take the time to sort out state religion and ancient tradition from New Testament faith. No rational argument or impassioned plea can reach the Scots.
Then, he finds interest among the children. Adam Barr & his friends attend. They become the core of the church. Now they and Jack and his wife begin to reach the parents of the children who then reach other parents whose children are involved in something good and positive. They brought the children to Jesus!

  • Kerr is approaching his 25 years of membership in the EK church. He is not much older than I am and he considers himself nearly a founding member.
  • Adam is now a minister and he is taking the same approach in another city – They are bringing the children to Jesus.

    Fayetteville, AR – 1970’s Like many churches of the time, The Center Street church of Christ has a bus ministry. Like many churches of the time, the bus ministry isn’t perfect. The bus breaks down and it takes money to repair it. Gas prices are skyrocketing to nearly 75 cents per gallon. Some of the children will not stay in their seats and some of them even climb under the seats. One of the buses is driven by Lonnie Farrar and Blondie Edwards. Blondie has to sometimes chase the kids around and haul them into the church building in his burly arms. The teachers in class have to serve as substitute parents to some of the children. There’s an adjustment in assembly as the church has to get used to the imbalance in the child adult ratio. A large block of children from the neighborhoods sits on the front left side of the auditorium. Like most children, they sometimes create a little noise. Some of them don’t smell good. Some of them don’t know how to act in church because they have never been to church. They are bringing the children to Jesus One day, Lonnie and Blondie are driving the bus through new neighborhoods inviting children to come to church and VBS. They drive down Turner Ave and knock on the door of a small brick house. The young woman who answers is in her late 20’s. She has two children under 10. When Blondie asks her if her children want to ride the bus to church she asks, “Can parents ride the bus too?” Blondie is delighted to tell her yes. The woman who asked Blondie the question was my mother.

    Thirty years ago, my mother and father started coming to church because the people at the Center St. church were bringing the children to Jesus. After a VBS and gospel meeting one night my mother asked Randall Castleman if she could be baptized. She walked me and my younger sister up to Lonnie the bus driver and asked if he and the others on the bus could watch after us for just a while. They knew she was going to be baptized. He said, “Why sure.” My mother came on the church bus with her hair dripping wet. I can remember how shy she seemed about it but also how satisfied she seemed. I also remember how happy the people on the bus were. It was the first memory I had of baptism into Christ. The second memory I have of baptism is also “After the fact.” I was outside playing in our yard one Saturday morning when my father drove up onto the car port in his yellow Baja VW Bug. I ran up to him and he seemed quite happy. He left early that morning before I woke up and I asked him, “Where have you been Daddy?” “I went to the church building and the minister baptized me,” he said. He told me about it and I learned more about being baptized into Jesus.

    My parents were baptized into Jesus Christ, they were added to the Lord’s Church, they were given hope of eternal life because the people at Center St. were bringing the children to Jesus. Seeds were planted then that are still yielding a harvest today all because they were bringing the children to Jesus.

    I tell you these stories because I think they show us that there is an eternal significance to bringing the children to Jesus. Let’s take a look back at our text ...

    1. Notice that Jesus affirms what the people are doing when they bring children to be blessed. Jesus says that the rule of God includes children. They are not second class citizens or an afterthought. Harold Shank (Children Mean the World to God) notes that when we minister to children we are ministering to the future. In the reversal of power that the kingdom of God represents, it is one as humble and powerless as a child that leads. The weak become strong. The least becomes the greatest.
    2. Notice that Jesus is rather upset by those who create barriers. Those who have no time for blessing children. Political power, the sort of power the disciples were trying to manage, is often managed by those at the middle layers not just at the top. Jesus will not stand for his disciples rebuking those who only seek God’s blessing – and for their children especially! Jesus is giving us the charge to bring the children to him ...
      We can sow all the seed we want but not if it isn’t bearing fruit in our lives. We can bring people to Jesus, but not if they see the devil’s work among us.

      When the disciples were focused on their agenda and tried to keep the people from bringing their children to Jesus, Jesus himself has a sharp word of correction for his disciples. Do you think he has changed his mind?

    If we are going to bring children (and their families) to Jesus, then they need to see Jesus.
    Bringing the Children to Jesus isn’t simply about a well-oiled and high performance program or technique. [Notice that Jack Strachan had to abandon his typical “technique” to evangelize his neighborhood. I am sure that the Center St. Bus program was not flawless. I will even venture to guess that they lost registration forms, suffered bus breakdowns on the weekends. They may have even dealt with some difficult people who didn’t appreciate their efforts – both inside and outside the church.] But the perfection of the program is not the critical factor. Rather it is the perfection of the people who are involved in it. (I use the term perfect the way Paul does, to describe maturity in Christ and a character that reflects the fruit of the spirit.) In other words, what matters most is that we are a Christ-like people and what we do flows from who we are ...

    When my mother attended Center St. she was encouraged by caring people who formed genuine relationships with her. One of those people was Colleen Shirley, a member of this congregation. I have told Colleen how special she was to encouraging my mother’s faith – and just as I expected, Colleen said, “Well I wasn’t doing anything special.” But she was – she was acting like Jesus. If we are going to bring people to Jesus, then they need to see Jesus.
    Paul and Colleen continue that attitude here. Last week they invited some of our newest members to their house for a welcome to the family cookout. As we were talking about it they said, we really haven’t thought about taking this on as a ministry. Is thought about that and said, “Good! I don’t want it to be a ministry in the sense of a program. I just want it to be you being yourselves and sharing the love of God with others. I want you to encourage others to do the same.”

    That’s the way it has to be. Sure we are going to need a little administration and some planning to organize the work of hundreds of people. Sure we have to have good communication and pay attention to some details. That is important. But just doing that isn’t the goal. There has been a lot of work and planning in VBS so far. Tents have been set up, marketplace has been built, workers have studied. But what sense would it make for us to do all that and say “It’s done.” At some point we just have to be who we are and share the love of God that has been shared with us. We can bring children to VBS, but will we bring them to Jesus? To do that we have to reflect the spirit of Jesus. If we want to bring their parents to Jesus we just need to be real.

    In about two weeks we will have another event that reaches into the community – Community Outreach Day. We are going to publicize this and plan for it and we have a detailed schedule of the work we are doing. We are even going to do something new – we are going to register as many people who visit as we can because we want to follow up and bring them to Jesus. It is good that we share our clothing and other household items with those who need it, but can we also share the love of God? We cannot put that on a table or rack and invite them to fill out a form and ask them to walk away with a box full of God’s love. I can speak to them and tell them the truth and that will sow seed. But let me tell you what waters that seed and makes the needy people pay attention it to it – when they can see what that seed produces! When they see the work of the seed blossoming in my life and yours and they say “I want that kind of harvest in my life too.” To do that they need to see Jesus in us. They need to see the body of Christ.

    Chris Benjamin

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 17 July 2005

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