In Matthew 18:2-4 Jesus says that we must “become as little children.” Jesus said this in response to the disciples’ question, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (v. 1). He is exhorting us to seek the humility of a child.
In his article Childlikeness: An Essential for Disciples, Richard J. Leyda of Biola University encourages believers to value children as disciples of Jesus and to become childlike in our own faith. Click here to download the entire article.
Jesus, in his teaching from the Gospels, conveys important truths about children and their value, yet sometimes alludes to them in a figurative way to illustrate important truths about the kingdom— and challenge adults to faith and spiritual growth. In a few key passages—this study will primarily focus on those from Matthew—the child is held up in Jesus’ teaching as a radical new model for understanding God and the kingdom of heaven. An understanding of children and childlikeness appears to be more important in a basic understanding of the gospel and the way of the disciple than those of Jesus’ day—as well as many in the current day—have conceived. These truths have important implications for changing Christian education ministry to both children and adults.
- The Child in Greco-Roman and Jewish Societies
- Childlikeness in Jesus’ Teaching
- Re-entry into Childlikeness
- Disciple’s Receptivity to the Childlike
- The Childlikeness of Jesus
- Conditions Conducive to Childlikeness
- Childlikeness Contrasted with Childishness
- Childlikeness in Maturing Disciples
- Childlikeness in Mature Relationship with God
- Childlikeness in Leading Others
- Application to Ministry
Excerpt from the “Application to Ministry” Section
“Jesus’ teachings serve as a “reality check” for all disciples, and especially Christian education workers and ministry leaders, regarding faith and spiritual growth. Conformity to the image of Christ can be gauged to some degree by the qualities of childlikeness and the extent to which that individual values children and others who are marginalized. One might even devise a self-inventory of questions such as the following that informally assesses life change:
- To what degree does my prayer life reflect a genuine humility before God and a trusting faith in his provision?
- Do I have a childlike receptivity to God as I plan my teaching or other ministry endeavors and a trust in him for the results?
- Do I regularly ask forgiveness of others, including children, when I have been wrong or caused them to stumble?
- To what degree am I involved with or supportive of ministry to children and those like them?
- Do I have a proud or independent spirit directed toward anyone in my family, work, or ministry?
A few such questions could prove crucial in the selection process for those choosing pastoral staff, volunteers, or other leadership. Qualities of childlikeness are central to the life and character of leaders and have far-reaching implications for countering a proud, independent spirit that is so detrimental to Christian leadership.”
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About Richard Leyda
Richard J. Leyda (Ph.D., Biola University) has taught at Biola University, in La Mirada, California and Talbot School of Theology since 1989. He is currently an Associate Professor and former chair of Talbot’s Department of Christian Education. His experience includes camp leadership and Christian secondary education prior to teaching at Talbot. A number of his articles have appeared in Christian Education Journal, with other contributions to Research on Higher Christian Education and The Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Christian Education. Textbook chapters he has written cover the topics of camping ministry, the parachurch, and leadership development. Other ministry includes leadership on both church and parachurch boards and teaching in the mission’s contexts of Africa and Eastern Europe. Dr. Leyda and his wife Ellen have two daughters, Laura, a Wheaton College graduate, and Lisa, a University of San Diego graduate. The Leyda’s live in La Canada, California.
Christlikeness: An Essential for Disciples taken from the Christian Education Journal, CEJ: Series 3, Vol. 4, No. 2. Copyright 2007; p 322-339. All rights reserved. Permission granted by Christian Education Journal.
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