Great Leaders Think Small

By Gustavo Crocker

In a well-known story, D. L. Moody was asked how the night’s evangelistic meeting had gone. His celebrated response was, “We had two and a half conversions.” His interviewer responded, “You mean two adults and one child?” “No,” Moody replied, “two children and one adult. The adult only has half his life left to follow Christ. The children have their entire lives to do so.”

This exchange reminds me of the inclination to think about children as “not-yet participants in the kingdom of God.” This cannot be further from the truth! Great leaders think of children as essential players in God’s kingdom and God’s plan of reconciliation. They see them as central to their mission.

Jesus used children to illustrate some of the greatest truths about the kingdom of God. Jesus reminded the disciples that not only are children a model of faith to enter the Kingdom, but we are required to examine ourselves on how we welcome children in our midst.

What does it mean to put children in the middle?

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Matthew records the disciples discussing greatness in the kingdom of heaven. Before Jesus responded, He painted a vivid metaphor in leadership: He placed a child in their midst. Putting children in the middle means that we cannot think of children as peripheral. True leadership conversation must start with the perspective that children matter and are at the core of God’s plan of redemption.

Children are a model of faith. Jesus’ bold response to the disciples highlights the damaging power of “growing up” (Matthew 18). “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Child-like faith is absolutely necessary to enjoy the fullness of the riches of His kingdom. A child’s faith is unspoiled, genuine, and unbiased. As children grow older, their faith, already tainted by the Adamic propensity to sin, becomes spoiled by the agnostic, materialistic, self-centered societies that shape and train them. As our faith becomes sophisticated, we begin to question even the most evident truths. To enjoy the rich, unadulterated blessing of God’s kingdom, we must become like children.

Children are the most ripe and ready mission field. Around the world, in any country or culture, more than three-fourths (75 percent) of adults now filling our churches received Christ between the ages of 4 and 18. Missiologists have defined this group age as the 4/14 window, the world’s most ripe yet unreached people group.

Unfortunately, we think of them as “ways to attract their parents,” “a drain on our budgets and programs,” “a distraction to our solemn services,” or even as “non-productive entities who do not vote and who do not give.” The disciples were in the same boat. Matthew 19 narrates another event with Jesus and children. As people brought their children to Jesus for Him to pray and bless them, the disciples rebuked the parents. Jesus’ response was emphatic: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Do not hinder children. You were one of them.

Throughout church history, theologians and practitioners have discussed the “reliability of the faith of a child.” Well-intentioned leaders, infected by the “grown-up bug,” question the validity of a child’s conversion. To them, D. L. Moody responded: “It is a masterpiece of the devil to make us believe that children cannot understand religion. Would Christ have made a child the standard of faith if He had known that it was not capable of understanding His words?”

Children are the most prolific mission field. Harvest it!

Children can be agents of God’s mission. We cannot stop at ministering to children and youth only. Great leaders invest in children and youth as agents of the transforming mission of God. Children and youth are capable of sharing the love of Christ to their relatives, friends, and social networks and leading others to join them in their faith.

The Scripture is full of stories of children and youth used by God to accomplish His mission:

…a trafficked child, Joseph, brought hope to his people…

…a shepherd boy, David, defeated a giant and became king of Israel …

…a young minister, Samuel, led God’s people while serving in times of dryness and desperation…

…an anonymous, well-prepared boy provided resources for Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand…

…and Jesus Himself, while still a young boy, declared His commitment to the Father’s business…

It was said by the prophet Isaiah: “…and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

Great leaders express their greatness by thinking small. We must focus on the child in our midst.

WEF and the Mesoamerica Region

A week ago I was in Panama City for our Regional Advisory Committee meetings.  One of the things that came up several times during the four days was our response as a region in giving to the World Evangelism Fund. The World Evangelism Fund (WEF) supports nearly 700 Nazarene missionaries and the work of the Church in 162 nations around the world.  WEF is the foundational funding arm of missions in our denomination.  In future articles, we will explain further what WEF is and how it began, as well as share promotional resources for the Thanksgiving Offering, one of our most significant annual methods of raising WEF support.

For the last decade, the goal set by our leaders has been for every local Nazarene church to give 5.5% of their overall tithes and offerings to WEF.  As our General Superintendents often say, the goal is not equal amount of giving (in total money raised per church), but equal sacrifice.  Imagine what could be done if all 26,000 Nazarene congregations in every one of those 162 countries supported by giving in this way.  Our reach would be exponential!

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I have been encouraged to hear that in the previous years we have seen 100% involvement in WEF by the USA/Canada Districts.  That is incredible!  Praise the Lord!  But here’s the kick in the gut: in our Mesoamerica Region we are seeing only 37% involvement.  In other words, roughly one out of every three churches in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America is giving ANYTHING to the World Evangelism Fund. We’re not saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a full 5.5% of their income.  We’re saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a single peso, or dollar, or gourde. And guess what? Outside of the USA and Canada, that 37% involvement is the highest of all other regions!

I don’t mean to drown you in statistics, but I want to put this another way:

  • 200 local churches around the world provide 70% of WEF.
  • 6,000 local churches provide the rest of WEF.
  • 20,000 local churches do not provide any WEF.

Gulp.

I cannot speak for other regions, but in our RAC meetings we united as leaders from all around Mesoamerica to commit to do our part.  Our regional goal by 2030 is to get to $1.5 million dollars given to WEF. If we do so, that is predicted to be even a bit higher than 5.5% (currently we are giving 2.7%).  Would you pray with us that we would reach this goal? We want to generously give to others just as others have generously lavished through the years on us.

I loved what Dr. Gustavo Crocker said several months ago: “Before 1990, the missions motto was, ‘The West to the rest.’ But now we have a new motto: ‘The best to the rest.’” It truly does not matter where you come from; God is calling missionaries from everywhere to everywhere.

And that also means that everywhere has the privilege of sending and supporting missionaries financially. In the Church of the Nazarene, the World Evangelism Fund is the primary way we do that.  WEF has been an amazing and successful missions strategy to reach the nations.  Now we as the nations have the honor of giving back in order to see astonishing global impact.

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).