Tommy showed up at church just in time to lead his group of 4th grade boys. He’s faithfully led in children’s ministries for years. It’s the highlight of his weekend and the middle of his week too. While Tommy has impacted the lives of dozens of kids over the years, something is significantly different this year from last. He got a character exam from a kid with x-ray vision.
Good luck hiding your heart – kids see right through you!
This past fall, God used Stephen to shake up Tommy as a leader and a follower of Jesus. It happened during a typical time of Bible study, small group discussion, and personal sharing. Nothing extraordinary was on the schedule that week. This certainly didn’t stop the Holy Spirit from bringing Tommy face to face with a character challenge. It was a bit unusual for Stephen to raise his hand, but what he said was even more surprising. It’s like he had x-ray vision but didn’t know what he was looking for or at.
“Tommy, I love that you’re our leader. Are you doing ok?”
What Stephen didn’t know was that Tommy’s job was on the line and so was his mother’s health. He had been carrying this burden around for weeks. It was affecting Tommy’s focus, his ability to connect with people, his excitement level for life, and more. His impatience and frustration levels were on the rise. Tommy was riding an emotional rollercoaster, but he found ways to hide it so as not to be a bother. He thought he was doing a pretty good job leaving these issues in his car on the way in to serve. While Stephen wasn’t the only one who noticed something was up, he was the first person bold enough to speak up.
The good news of Christ was being held back in Tommy because he was trying to hold his life together. However, because one child mustered the courage to ask a heart question, Tommy opened up. He shared appropriately with his group of boys and shared even deeper with the other volunteers on his team. Starting that day, he received more prayer, more words of encouragement, and more ongoing support than he had in years. And, because God revived the Gospel in Tommy’s heart, the character of Christ started shining through his life in new ways.
If Christ’s character isn’t obvious, maybe your heart needs an x-ray and a new wardrobe.
Followers of Jesus instantly become beacons of light on His behalf (cf. Matthew 5:14-16). While a disciple can’t turn off his or her light, he or she can hide it. This can happen when a person’s heart becomes heavy. It’s difficult to fully exhibit the Gospel from the inside out while being weighed down with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Everyone sins or gets sinned against, but that doesn’t need to hold Christ’s character back from being formed.
If you serve closely with people – especially children – they can sense when the presence of Christ is coming through loud and clear. When it’s not, they notice that too. The most worrisome part about invisible character is that it can build upon or detract from living out the good news of Jesus Christ. Fortunately you can grow in sharing the Gospel more clearly by growing in what’s unseen not just what’s obvious to you and others.
Which virtues of Christ can you try on starting today?
Read Colossians 3:12-17 below.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
How could you and the leaders in your children’s ministry “clothe yourselves” this year in the character traits of Christ found in Colossians 3:12?
Paul gives the church at Colossae – and you – very practical ways for followers of Jesus to pursue heart transformation. Imagine how your kids, families, and leaders would respond to the Gospel if everyone in your ministry lived this way?
- Bear with each other and forgive one another.
- Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Put on love.
- Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
- Be thankful.
- Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly.
- Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.
- Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
The last verse in the passage – Colossians 3:17 – leaves no room for confusion regarding how disciples are called to be in the world. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus!” You’re to be 100% like Jesus in every way – to do absolutely everything in His likeness. Now, your character won’t be fully transformed until Christ returns, but you can still grow to be more like Him from the inside out every day.
That new shirt looks great on your heart!
Remember Tommy and Stephen? The group of 4th grade boys are now 5thgraders. The tone of their time together is different from twelve months ago. Tommy isn’t the perfect leader, but his heart is in way better shape.
The Gospel is more evident now in Tommy because the character of Christ is coming through much clearer. The kids in his group can see a difference – in obvious and unseen ways. Tommy’s transformation is pointing them to Jesus and they are discovering firsthand that God still changes lives forever.
Whether you like it or not, your kids have x-ray vision. The real question is, “Are you good with what’s going on in your heart?” In the same way people notice what you’re wearing on the outside, they can also see how your character is changing on the inside.
Take time this week to reflect on Colossians 3:12-17, then decide which Christ-like character trait God wants you to grow in first. Write down 2-3 ways you will apply this personally and in your children’s ministry so the Gospel comes to life more and more in the season ahead.