“I’m not sure it’s best to look at children as distractions. Jesus didn’t. They were drawn to him and he enjoyed it. When others tried to chase them away, he told them not to. If we’re not ready to receive the littlest ones in their weaknesses, we’re probably not ready to receive each other in ours.”Ultimately, the conversation isn’t about what to do with children when we meet together, but what we meet together for to begin with. Read the entire excerpt—it’s well worth it. The answer comes down to this: "as long as we think of this life in Christ as knowledge to acquire instead of living in him, we’ll do all kinds of foolish things."
“So what should we do with children?” Ben asked. “That’s been a big issue around here.”
In the end, one of those in the group says:
“.. . But you’re talking about something bigger than [what to do with our children], aren’t you?”Amen. That whole exchange reminds me of a piece in Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson (a book which was, for me, a bit like taking Morpheus' little red pill), in which Simson responds in a similar situation to a young couple with children:
“You’re right, Roary. What I’m saying will also affect how you deal with each other. If you really want to learn how to share Jesus’ life together, it would be easier to think of that less as a meeting you attend and more as a family you love.”
“How’s this for an alternative? The house church—in the form of a neighbourhood or street church. It might start as early as 4:00, not 7:30. The wives from the neighborhood get together, have coffee and fun together with the children, sing, pray, talk, cry and laugh together. Then at five o’clock the husbands start to trickle in from work, but instead of going to their own homes and dinner tables they’re also going to the neighbourhood church tonight.While Simson is writing about what house church meetings could look like, he's also captured a much larger image: what meeting together as followers of Jesus could look like where we live, here-and-now. He's captured a glimpse of Kingdom life.
“At 6:10 that unsaved husband of one of your neighbours furtively comes in the door—for the first time and after your eleventh invitation, and that mostly because he was invited to supper, not to a Bible study. He’s nervous and stiff and shifts uneasily back and forth on his chair. His countenance says, ‘I know that you all want to convert me. I haven’t the foggiest idea how you’re going to do it, but I’m expecting the worst.’ At that instant, your one-year-old comes crawling in and makes a beeline for his trouser leg. When he manages to grab the trousers he coos, ‘Abudah!’ and smears some unidentified substance on them. Then he laughs as only a one-year-old can. In that second, a miracle of transubstantiation happens. In an instant the stiff neighbour and the house-church elder have become ‘daddies,’ glance at each other and start laughing. That little guy hasn’t just erased the tension but brought human warmth into what your neighbour has expected to find a cold, formal, religious exercise. Suddenly, neither the atmosphere nor your neighbour are the least bit stiff. Everyone’s much more natural and relaxed.
“At about 6:30, everyone sits down to a ‘potluck’ dinner, or perhaps a large pot of spaghetti or, as they do in China, a large pot of noodle soup. There’s some teaching at the table, but it happens as in the New Testament: conversations and discussions during, not after, the meal. People talk of their joys and sorrows, tell success stories and bloopers, trade insights on razors and cars, pray for and prophesy over each other, joke with the kids, who are not hindering but enriching the situation, and collect some money for an employed widow who’s moved into the area.
“Pretty soon it’s 7:30, and the time for a collective bedtime story before everyone leaves, told by one person to all the kids (from 6 months to 80 years old). Perhaps this is when the unsaved neighbour is hearing—and understanding!—the gospel for the first time . . . How would all that suit you?” I asked.
Both Simson's image as well as that posted at Simple Church articulate something that appeals to me at an oh-so-deep level—as a mom, as a seeker of Christian community, as one who wants to live as fully in the Kingdom as God would have me. They remind me that living in the Kingdom requires thinking differently, and as such, they have become two more images to add to my growing collection of what it looks like to live in the Kingdom.
(Image: suzn80 at flickr.com)