If you were to choose one thing to do on a daily or weekly basis, something that you thought would have the greatest impact on the world not just in your life but over the long haul – what would you do?
I’m not even going to attempt to list what some of the possible answers might be (there are too many of them), nor to rank or evaluate their relative merits. But I do want to suggest one that might seem too mundane to make the list, or at the least wouldn’t be our first response. If you want to change the world, teach children the gospel.
Surprised? I was struck by this thought while reading the book Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought by Stephen Nichols. In 1529, as Luther was touring Germany and visiting churches that had sprung up in the aftermath of the Reformation, he was dismayed by the poor spiritual condition of many of the young congregations he observed. His solution? Write a catechism to train pastors and a catechism to train children. The latter, called The Small Catechism, was one of two books that Luther considered his most important writings (this from a man whose translated writings fill fifty-five volumes). But Luther was convinced that training the next generation was crucial to insuring that the preaching of the gospel would continue long after his life. “The youth is the church’s nursery and fountainhead,” he wrote. “I admonish you parents, [that if] you do not help, we shall accomplish little with our preaching” (quoted on p.163 and 164 of Nichol’s biography).
So let’s return to our starting question. Do you want to change the world for the better? In particular, as a Christian, do you want to change the church for the better, to give your life to something that will ensure healthy, gospel-preaching churches for years to come? Then train children to know, love, and cherish the gospel. Only God can cause their salvation, but He uses means. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)
Parents, breakfast table devotions or bedtime Scripture stories may not seem like a big deal – but they are the seeds from which men and women planted deep in streams of living water grow. Children’s ministry teachers and workers, an hour on Sunday mornings trying to keep the attention of a dozen 5-year olds, follow a lesson plan, and keep Goldfish crackers from being ground into the carpet might seem like wasted time – but you are pioneering mission work among people who are only just beginning to know the name of Christ.
So let us train our children and teach our classes, for the glory of our God and the gratitude of future generations who will themselves hear gospel from these little ones in our care!