Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Evangelism is a scary word for many of us. We have faith and love God, but find it hard to share it with others. There are plenty of forces working against us, for sure. We have a hard time entering a conversation about faith for fear of rejection. We make the process way too complicated and over-think how to talk about our faith. We are trapped in a culture that generally has a bad opinion of Christians, making it nearly impossible to find a safe space. And, there are terrible things that happen in our world that we all struggle to understand through a Christian lens on our own, much less in a conversation with a non-believer.

Like so many of the things I talk about, I think we can learn a lot from observing how kids see and do evangelism. Here are a few simple observations.

  1. Kids don’t start with a judgment. How often do we look at someone and form an opinion of that person before we even realize what we are doing? I think this prevents us from doing much work for God. Children see all people as beautiful and unique creations. The “weirder” someone is, the more a child’s curiosity will draw him near.
  2. Kids seek common ground.  Don’t you love how kids will walk right up to a stranger and ask “Who would win a fight between Iron Man and Spider Man?” Or “Why is the sky blue?”  When kids make these overtures, they seek a common ground. This is the easiest way to begin a discipleship with another. Just find something you have in common; not necessarily a matter of theology or faith.
  3. Kids don’t make it overcomplicated. Kids welcome confusion as it leads to curiosity and discovery. And, they are willing to discover new things with someone, together, without worry of being wrong, not knowing the right answer or being rejected.
  4. Kids are capable of unconditional love. Kids don’t hold grudges or avoid someone after a bad experience. Adults, however, have a much harder time. And, if we try to talk with someone about our faith and get rejected, most of us crawl back under the rock we came from. We don’t let go and move forward…and we sure need to.

The Bible tells us to be more like kids in a lot of different ways and when we really think about the profile of a child, we see a striking number of similarities with the characteristics of Christ, himself. I guess to get others to understand the real meaning of being a Christ-follower, we just need to act a little more like Him. If that sounds like too lofty a goal, then we can always take the much easier path and act like children!

Dr. Allen Hilton

What is mission? To this question, a cross-section of Christians would offer three main answers. 

“Mission is evangelism,” say some. Jesus calls his followers to ‘make disciples of all nations,’ ‘be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,’ and offer the ‘message of reconciliation’ between God and people. (Matthew 28.16-20; Acts 1.8; 2 Corinthians 5.11-21) Powerful missionary biographies track twenty centuries of the nearly-miraculous transmission of the Christian good news to those who haven’t heard. Mission obviously means spreading the gospel.

“Au contraire,” cries another. “Mission is service!" John the Baptist told people with two cloaks or two cans of tuna to hand one to a neighbor without. Jesus met need with help; and in a powerful moment before his trial and death, he called all of us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned. (Luke 3.11; Matthew 25.36-40) Pinnacle members experience God’s work through direct service in Haiti or at Open Table. Mission is helping the least of these.

A third voice interrupts: “No, justice is mission! Moses brought Pharoah down. John the Baptist told power-brokers like tax collectors and soldiers not to extort their status inferiors. Mary celebrated and Jesus preached God’s intention to raise the poor and the hungry from their lowly station and bring the rich down a peg. (Exodus 3—12; Luke 3.12-14; Luke 1.46-55; 6.20-21, 24-25) Christians do mission when we call a congressperson or march for the rights of the voiceless. Mission is doing justice!”

Which is it, then? Some do argue an either/or choice, but I say both/and/and. Evangelism, charity, and advocacy all deserve a loud “Amen!” Robustly missional Christians and churches do all three. 

In fact, I propose a fourth kind of mission – call it Mission 4.0. Here’s a clue: you’ve been doing this kind of mission for a while, and you haven’t even known it. 

Last Sunday, as American emotions are running hot around terrorism and its link to radicalized Islam and how both connect to immigration policy, 125 Pinnacle people gathered in the chapel to do a hard thing. We asked the controversial question: “Is the U.S. a Christian nation?” We listened to one another – even listened for God through one another. No vote was taken, no resolution passed. We simply set out to listen when most Americans are shouting, to imagine that our opposites are also trying to get this right – even to imagine how our differences might help us. Our Courageous Conversation was civil and mutually affirming. We left a little less divided. 

So, was that hour education? or fellowship? It had elements of both, and a survey at the back door would have produced both answers. But here’s something odd: whenever Jesus tells his disciples to “love one another as I’ve loved you” or prays for them and the people who come to church with them, that “they all may be one” (John 13.34-35; 17.20-23) – in fact, whenever he pictures his followers staying together through difference, Jesus says it will change the world. People will know that we’re Jesus people, he says, by the way we love one another. 

Christian unity is mission, too, friends. When a white church pairs with an African-American church, when red listens to blue and blue to red, when difference comes together peacefully, God moves the world. This truth is both exhilarating and alarming. It thrills us, because faithful folk always look for more ways to reach the world with God’s love; it disquiets us because we have such a bad track record. Christians are infamous for being divided and divisive. Last Sunday we set out to change that record just a little; and because we gathered, the needle moved, and the world will change a little. God redeems the world when we do small things like that. God is very good!