Bringing Children to Jesus

Have you ever noticed that at certain times in our lives, or in the lives of those we love, the things we say take on special significance? These special times might include births, baptisms, weddings, or farewells. It isn’t that other conversations are unimportant; some moments are just especially unique and powerful.

I suspect that each of us has experienced those transition moments—moments when we realize that new chapters in our lives are about unfold. At those times, someone’s words can indelibly imprint themselves on our hearts and minds.

One such moment in the life of the disciples (and in the life of the church) took place when Jesus gathered them on a mountain in Galilee and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

These words, spoken in preparation for Jesus’ Ascension, would ring in the ears of the church for centuries. Even today, the church understands this mission—this Great Commission. Jesus could have made any statement, shared any thoughts, given any command, but he chose to instruct his followers to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.

Over the past 2,000 years the church has been in the business of making disciples. It is at the heart and core of what we do. We send missionaries around the world. We plant churches in our neighborhoods. We reach out in mercy to the poor and hurting. We produce educational materials. We establish Christ-centered institutions of learning, from preschools through colleges and universities. We do it all because Jesus has called us to be disciple makers.

Disciple making takes many shapes, but at its core it is about introducing people to Jesus—letting them know that following Jesus can make all the difference in their lives and in the world.

I suspect that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the how of disciple making that we forget the what. We forget that, as we go about our daily lives, everything we do and say impacts our witness in the world. Disciple making is as much about what we do as what we say. When it comes to introducing someone to Jesus Christ, actions often speak louder than words.

Perhaps we see this best in children. Children have an uncanny ability to see through the façades of life. They very quickly pick up what really matters. They watch us, often emulating what they see. That’s why it is so incredibly important to disciple children. The things that are implanted in them when they are young shape and mold them throughout their lives.

This is at the heart of the issues Synod 2010 will examine when it discusses faith formation. There is no question that we must disciple children. The question is, How can we most effectively do so? How do you and I as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and fellow Christ-followers shape and mold young hearts and minds?

What shape will Christian education take in the next generation? What can churches do to lead and guide children and adults into becoming fully devoted followers of Christ? What can parents do to assure that the next generation of disciples becomes disciple makers?

These are not easy questions, but they are questions that we, as the church, must answer if we are to fully engage in this disciple making endeavor. If disciple making is at the heart of Jesus’ commission, then it is certainly at the heart of what we, his disciples, are called to do. 

About the Author

Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.
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