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Fishing for Children

Fishing for Children In 1779, John Wesley was 75 years old. He preached to a crowd of children in County Durham. He chose his favorite theme: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” A revival broke out in this group of more than 60, ages 6 to 14. In his journal Wesley recorded: As soon as I came down from the preaching desk I was enclosed by a body of children, one of whom and another sunk down upon their knees until they were all kneeling, so I kneeled down myself and began praying for them. Abundance of people raced back into the house. The fire kindled and ran from heart to heart till few if any were unaffected. Is not this a new thing in the earth? God begins his work in children! Savor the image of a 75 year old man kneeling in a crowd of children. Ponder the value he placed on the simple faith of children as the spark of Holy Spirit revival. By this time in his life he was a household name in England. Yet for all of his adulation in the adult world, he was ardent to fish for children. Near the end of his life, Wesley was asked, “What advice can you give in order to continue the great revival of which you have been the principle instrument?” John Wesley’s response was brief: “Take care of the rising generation.” Pastor Chris Ritter has written a wonderful book (just 79 pages) entitled Seven Things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids. Ritter tells of how Wesley dealt with bullying while teaching school in Savannah, Georgia. It seems half the class was unable to afford shoes while the other half could. Despite rigorous discipline, those with shoes continued to ridicule those without. Wesley’s solution was to come to class barefoot. Seeing the teacher without shoes changed the dynamic. The bullying not only stopped but the entire class began to come to school shoeless. Now that’s what I call saving souls! Ritter writes: To minister to children, we are going to need to stretch ourselves. We need to move past our comfort, over our excuses, outside our perceived gifts and beyond the limits of our current organization…If you don’t have many children in your life or your church, you need to realize that you are unconsciously engineered for that result. Is it time for a redesign? Do we fish for children? Are we content with the kids whose families bring them to church? There are hundreds of children nearby that we could be influencing if we got out of our comfort zones and changed business as usual. Fishing is not a task to delegate to just 2 or 3 people. Ritter challenges his congregation at every infant baptism: “If you can’t have one then bring one!” What if fishing for children became part of our church culture? What if trips to church were not complete without a kid in tow? How many unchurched kids do we pass on our way to church? How can we find out? How can we reach them? The best personal response to these questions begins in prayer. Ritter invites us to establish a prayer list of one kid we know in each of these categories: 1. A child I know who is ready to be taught. 2. A child I may be able to help discern the voice of the Holy Spirit 3. A child God has placed on my heart for particular prayer. 4. A child whose exceptional potential I can encourage. 5. A child difficult to reach. 6. A child who needs an advocate. 7. A child whose basic needs are unmet. Connect, Grow, Serve Pastor Tom Anderson

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