Review of Chapter 13, “When ‘Follow the Leader’ Isn’t Child’s Play”
by Henry Zonio
In this chapter Wess Stafford continues to push his overwhelming belief that children are key to changing the world by pointing us to examples from the Bible and from today of where God chose to use children instead of adults to accomplish great and important things for his Kingdom.
“So far as we see in reading the Gospels, Jesus never admonished children to become more grown-up. he did, however, exhort grownups to become more like children (Mark 10:15). How often have you heard an exasperated parent (maybe yourself!) growl at a child through clenched teeth, ‘Would you just grow up?!’ Jesus said the opposite to his adult followers: ‘Would you please grow down? That’s what it will take for you to enter my kingdom.'”
Dr. Stafford uses the stories of Miriam protecting her brother Moses (Exodus 2), Samuel being called to take up the mantel of being the high priest of Israel when he was a child (1 Samuel 3), David showing more courage than all the adults and defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17), the faith of the servant girl of Naaman’s wife that God could heal Naaman through Elisha (2 Kings 5), the generosity of a young boy giving his lunch (John 6), the stark honesty of a servant girl calling Peter out when he was trying to hide (Mark 14), and Paul’s young nephew is exposing an assassination attempt on the life of Paul (Acts 23). There are even more stories of God using children throughout the Bible for important tasks requiring great courage and faith.
Stafford also points to two stories he’s encountered in his work with Compassion where children were greatly used by God.
One of those stories was a group of Albanian children in the late 1980s. At that time in history, the government had restricted most outside communication into the country including jamming radio signals. A small group of children happened upon a radio, though, that was receiving transmissions from a Christian radio station outside the country. At certain times of the day there was programming in Albanian. Through that programming, the children eventually heard about Jesus’ love for them and began for follow Christ. At one time, they heard about Jesus as healer so they decided to visit the local hospital and pray for Jesus to heal people.
“As they worked their way down the hallway, door by door, a commotion began to build up behind them. Starting back at room one, patients ere discovering that they had been healed and were getting up out of bed in wonder. Oblivious to the distraction they were creating, the children continued their prayer trek down the hallway. Door by door they prayed, and miracles kept happening.”
The children weren’t even phased by the fact that people had been healed when they prayed. Their answer to an Albanian child-worker when told what had happened to the patients was, “Yes, Jesus is the Great Doctor. He can do that.”
Another story was of a time that a Compassion sponsored child was hit by a car and died. At the funeral, a large number of children were present, which is uncharacteristic of Ecuador. Culture there dictates that children do not attend funerals. When asked about their attendance “Child after child had said, ‘He was my friend. He is the one who told me of Jesus’ love. He helped me invite Jesus into my heart. I’m sad, but I’ve come today to send him to his heavenly home.'” This child had lead over fifty of his friends to Jesus by the age of six.
Again, I found myself in tears as the stories of how God used children connected with the passion in my heart to connect children with the living God and letting them know they can be used by God today… now. When will we, as leaders, truly understand that children can and do have real relationships with the Creator of the universe, can hear His voice, can commit themselves to following him, and can follow through with great and mighty things for the Kingdom? When will we stop putting age limits on when we can take the relationship a child has with God seriously? When will we actively help children to pursue changing the world around them through the power of the Holy Spirit who can actively live within them?
Stafford reminds us that God can use children, not just in cutesy, sing-songs-in-front-of-the-church, ways. God uses children to do real things, important things, life-changing things. And sometimes God actively chooses children over adults to do the most important things for the Kingdom.