If you are thinking, I wonder what a good way would be to encourage my pastor or the leader of a country, you might want to start with blessing their children. I know that if you want to win my heart, you pay attention to my kids.
by Carl Medearis, author of 42 Seconds: The Jesus Model for Everyday Interactions
Jesus liked kids. He wanted them around. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the time when the crowds were bringing their children to Jesus so that he could lay his hands on them and bless them. And all three gospels note that the disciples “rebuked” the parents for doing so.[i]
It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad. Imagine. The holier-than-thou closest followers of Jesus thought he had more important things to do. He’s got to be preaching. He can’t be rolling around on the grassy hillside with a bunch of grimy munchkins.
In Luke 18:17, Jesus said that if we don’t become like a little child, we cannot enter his Kingdom. This was his response to the disciples. He went on to say that “whoever receives one such child” receives him.[ii] The insinuation was not even veiled: if you don’t receive a child, you are not receiving Jesus.
So I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to go find some young’uns to hang out with.
But I often find myself thinking that I’m pretty important. Here’s a list of people who, over the years, I thought God wanted me to focus on:
Not sure if you noticed, but kids aren’t on that list. Gee whiz, that’s embarrassing to write out.
Okay, some of you are probably thinking right now that there must surely be a place for helpful focus. Boundaries. And strategic mission. And I’d say, “Maybe.” I doubt there’s as much of that as we like to think in our Western, goal-oriented culture, but yes, surely some. But none that excludes the kids.
Actually, if you are thinking, I wonder what a good way would be to encourage my pastor or the leader of a country, you might want to start with blessing their children. I know that if you want to win my heart, you pay attention to my kids.
And I’m telling you, kids have an incredible built-in BS-o-meter. They can tell if you really give a rip about them or not. While our children were growing up, we had tons of people from all over the world come through our place. And our kids figured out really quickly who they wanted to hang out with, who they wanted us to invite back, and who they didn’t want around.
So many friends would come to our home and greet our kids with something like “Oh, hi. And tell me”—in a silly, condescending voice—“what’s your name?” often with a pat on the head.
Then there were the ones who almost ignored Chris and me and got down on the floor with our kids. Do you think that ever upset us? No way. We loved it. Our kids loved it. We wanted our friends to know our kids. We’ve always wanted our kids to know our friends.
And I can tell you that all our best friends love our kids, and our kids love them.
A powerful reminder of this idea of focusing on children came just a few weeks ago in Rome when Chris and I and a couple of friends from the Middle East had the chance to meet the pope and spend about three minutes with him. I was surely the least important person in his lineup that day. There were cardinals from around the world, some heads of state, and who knows who else. So it wasn’t like he woke up that morning thinking anything like Oh boy, today I get to meet Carl. I’ve heard he’s sort of a big deal. Nope.
But before he came to meet the others who may have actually been big deals, he took a long time—frankly, an annoyingly long time—to greet kids in the crowd. Random children. He talked to them. Got out of his fairly cool pope-mobile and walked among them. Held them. He didn’t give much time to their parents, but man, did he ever focus on the kids. It seemed to bring him joy.
So here’s the challenge. Take a moment to scroll through the list of your closest friends. Do you know their kids? By name? Their interests? Do you buy them birthday gifts? When you talk to your friends, do you ask about their kids—and really listen?
What about your neighbors? Do you know their kids’ names and where they go to school and what their favorite classes are? If not, all it takes is a little time. If you want to reach someone’s heart, love their kids.
42 Seconds by Carl Medearis
The average length of Jesus’ conversations as recorded in the Gospels was 42 seconds long. This is good news for all of us. It frees us up to talk about the most important part of our lives in a way that’s natural, meaningful, and helpful instead of clumsy, awkward, and irrelevant.
Anyone who has spent countless uncomfortable hours walking from house to house with a clipboard or flash cards that talk about four spiritual laws understands. Jesus’ conversations were remarkably simple. Contemporary Christian lingo has set up a dichotomy between what we call “discipleship” and “evangelism,” but the Bible doesn’t do that. Jesus had conversations all the time with those who thought they were close to God, as well as with those who deemed themselves lost and without hope. He invited all of them to come and learn from Him.
42 Seconds is a simple book that uses the ordinary moments of our lives the way Jesus used the same moments in his own. The premise is straightforward: If we can learn from Jesus how to have great conversations, it will change our lives and the lives of those around us. Its four-part structure, including five short chapters per section, is for churches and small groups to engage with the practical ideas together. 42 Seconds includes discussion questions to help groups and individuals implement Jesus’ natural rhythm of interaction in their own lives.
[i] Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17.
[ii] Matthew 18:5, esv.