It was in April of 2013 when my wife, Grace, my four-month old little baby girl, Jolie (now four years old), and I were on our way to the Milwaukee Ave church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas for the very first time. Nervous was not the right word to describe how I felt before we got here, more like…petrified. There was the work that I was expected to do that Sunday, which was teach the Sunday morning bible class, and preach both sermons. There was that, which I had never even come close to doing before. Also, I had never spent that much time in Texas either, and here we are coming out from California, not just California, but Southern California. What do they already think of us? On top of that, Jolie had just started to be extremely vocal. When she was born, she screamed so loudly and at such a high pitch, the nurses said that we might have a future opera singer on our hands. Receiving bitter looks from people because we couldn’t keep our child quiet was also a big worry of mine. We were so relieved to get here, and see all the little kids running around. Also, many people assured us that if Jolie did make a little bit of noise that this congregation was used to that. This allowed me to focus on what I was here to do, preach and teach to the best of my ability at the time.
In Mark chapter 10, verses 13-16, as well as in Matthew 19 and Luke 18, we have yet another amazing example of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 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. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. Many of us have been to small congregations where the average age is about 70, and there are only a handful of members. There are all sorts of contributing factors as to why. What makes us sad about these churches is that in twenty years or so, they will no longer exist. In Russia, as well as in Bulgaria, I noticed an alarming trend. The children were kept at home much of the time. They might be at worship on Sunday morning, but nowhere to be seen until the next Lord’s Day. “Where is your little one?” we would ask, and a good answer was never given, just a shrug of the shoulders.
It thrills my soul to see all the little children running around at Milwaukee Ave, and I know that they shouldn’t run, and we are working on it. However, if we had the choice, would we rather see children running around after services, or none at all? When we see visitors struggling with their kids because they are not as trained as ours to sit still for that long, do we give an empathetic smile, or a judgmental scowl of disapproval? In all that we do, we need to be more like Jesus; it is no different when it comes to the children. It is encouraging to see that we will have even more children with us in the near future. The Morrow’s and the Van Dykes come to mind. Let’s be there for them and encourage them. They will need it just like my family did when we first moved here. Open arms and smiles instead of crossed arms and frown lines will do more than you know. Many of us say that these kids are the future of the church, but in reality, they are a part of the church now. Maybe they have not been baptized yet, and some never will. However, they are here, and it is up to us to plant and water, and when we do, they will sprout up like weeds, not weeds, but trees. Jeremiah 17:8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.”