My TIE Value: "Commit your way to the Lord...He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn" (Psalm 37:5a;6a)
In my third year of Bible College, I was suddenly taken out of a fun puppet ministry and put in charge of the dreaded grades 4th-6th Children's Church by my church's Senior Pastor. These kids gave their volunteer leaders a tough time. They damaged the room, and refused to listen to the leaders.
The last straw was that a group of Bible College students tried to be fun Bible dudes only to become victims of an organized escape plan that was launched during free time. These kids tackled the leaders and ran out of the room. Then they busted into the worship service screaming as they ran into the front door and out the back door behind the stage area. Perfectly timed during the song of reflection and calling after the sermon.
Like any good soldier, I made a battle plan:
1. I enlisted a couple of good friends who were bigger than me to serve as my holy bouncers at the door.
2. I instituted rules like respect teachers, each other, and church property.
3. Everyone was made to face the wall and serve a timeout when one of our 3 rules were violated after a single warning.
And 4. I was determined to have an age appropriate worship service complete with songs, prayer, sermon, discussion, and fun games.
My first Sunday with bouncers in position and ministry format ready to teach the Wide and Narrow Gates of Matthew 7:13-14, the 15 kids tested our resolve that we never made it to the short sermon. It was a continual violation of our simple rules and a lot of time facing the walls.
Afterwards, I believe the Lord gave me insight to just come back the next week with the same plan and see how far we get. And so the following week we had the same 15 kids with much face time with the walls, but we made through the Scripture reading and 3 minutes of a 15 minute sermon. The following week we had the same 15 kids plus 5 friends who were invited to come experience this strange church with “Mr. Meanie.” We made it through half of the sermon before time was done.
It took 6 weeks to have a complete worship service. However what was different is we had 20 minutes to spare and our attendance grew from 15 kids to just over 30. In many of the Sundays to come, going outdoors to play at the church’s playground became the normal habit.
I thought that the lesson I learned during those 6 weeks was that discipline and obedience allows us more freedom. While having well behaved kids allowed us to do more with our time at church as well as fun outings all over Southern California. But over the next 3 years God taught me a lesson that has shaped my ministry forever.
My TIE Moment: Christ's Peace Rules
In short time, my bouncers were no longer needed. They were replaced by a couple of guys who loved preteens and the Gospel. Rare was a time out given. But throughout that time many of these kids came to know Christ as their Savior. The Gospel proclaimed and the Gospel received was normal. I remembered one girl who once labeled me “Mr. Meanie” came to tell me during her high school years, “You were no Mr. Meanie, you just love Jesus.”
We are called to “Let the “Peace of Christ rule [take over] your hearts.” (Col. 3:15a) What did God teach me about letting His peace rule our hearts?
The narrow gate leads to life and not destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). The Wide Gate leads to destruction and not life. Yet we often teach the Bible in ways that leaves people walking around the narrow gate in hopes of finding their own way to have peace with God. We need to teach people that we are seeking peace with God not making God at peace with us.
Also, learning to do what is right helps us to allow God’s grace rule or over take our lives. Romans 5:21 states: “Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (NIV)
Learning to respect or honor God’s Word, person, authority, people, and even property helps us to grow His grace. Doing what is right helps us to cooperate better as a community. Doing what is right assists us to make a correction from what we do that is wrong.
Most of all, doing what is right brings us to the narrow gate that leads to eternal life through Jesus. Ultimately we have to acknowledge that what we do wrong has consequences that we never can correct. We need Jesus to save us from the coming judgment.
What I learned is that our experiences of discipline and God’s Word helped to lead these kids to Jesus. Since then, the same narrow path also leads us all to Jesus.