Every preacher's dream is to see the truth he preaches lived out in the lives of those he preaches to and certainly this is as it should be. This dream is rooted in our Heavenly Father's desire that there would never be unlived truth in the lives of His people. Our church is dedicated to the purpose of helping our people go deeper with the truth they hear on Sundays throughout the other six days of the week. And so each week we provide the Deep Six Study material and the Daily Devotional material. The Daily Devotional is separate from the Deep Six Study below and is available online on a daily basis. The Deep Six Study has two parts: the Message Summary section and the Discuss Together section. We hope the Deep Six Study and the Daily Devotional will assist you in some way as you seek to live out the truth of God's word on a daily basis.
Opening - Pastor Ben
We are kicking off a series today called, "Framed," because we are all framed, so to speak. We are all in a box in regard to how we see ourselves and then later in how others see us. At first the frame is great but then something happens. We are having a child dedication today and we have one little boy who thinks of himself as a "Super Hero." In a sense, we all frame ourselves as super heros early in life and then stuff gets in our frames.
We were just traveling and at the airport gate we were in the middle of 500 junior highers. It made us feel like we were in Junior High again. Our daughter said, "You can already see who they are becoming." Somehow in our "becoming" things like insecurity, insignificance, and unacceptance get in the picture. We develop a picture of ourselves that doesn't look like the picture of what Christ meant us to look like.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"
When we invite Christ into our lives, he does more than give us an eternal ticket. He gives us a new "frame." This new frame or new picture or new identity is what we will be exploring over the next three weeks. We will be looking at those who have a new story. This is certainly true of Jen Merryman who will be speaking to us today. About 10 years ago she left a successful career to focus on her family and then in 2012 she became the director of a ministry called, "Children in Christ," that reaches kids for Christ in Africa. Her new story is all about taking her life and her gifts and using them to serve Christ.
Presentation - Jen Merryman
Good Morning! For the last four years I have been living in Africa. If you knew me you would realize what a huge step that was for me. As a mom, I taught my kids 911 before I tought them how to count. So, moving to Africa was a huge thing in my life.
I want to share things I have learned over the last four years while living in a rural village of the Arusha Tribe in Tanzania.
1 - There are people groups that have never heard about our Heavenly Father or his son, Jesus Christ.
There are 2,400 people groups in our world that are completely unreached with no missionary, no Scriptures in their language, no church, and no known believers. With all our means of travel and access, I was shocked! 790 of these people groups are Africa. It only takes a 3% Christian population for a people group not to be considered unreached. When we combine these minimally reached people groups with the 790 unreached people groups, the number of unengaged and unreached people in Africa is staggering.
2 - There is little focus on children in the African culture.
When we got to Africa I was intrigued with being greeted with the title, "Mama" by people who didn't even know me. I soon came to understand that this was the common designation for all adult woman. When it is known that you are a mother than they call you Mama + the first name of your oldest child. Since I went from place to place with my youngest child, I was often called Mama Grace. I have learned that this custom reflects a culture where the focus is predominately on adults and not on children as it might seem to indicate. Children are not the focus in this culture. This emphasis of focusing on adults is reflected in church meetings as well. Church meetings are almost entirely about the adults. Children are kept aside and watched over so as not to disturb the adults.
This lack of focus of children is disturbing when we understand that 80 % of people come to Christ between the ages of 4 and 14.
Matthew 19:13-15 says, "One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” 15 And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left."
The culture of Bible times is similar to the culture of Africa where children are just not the focus. Globally, 15% of missions spending is on children. In Africa, the average church spends about 1% of their budget on children. This is startling when we consider the fact that one out of every two Africans are children.
3 - There is great need to help African churches and pastors put a significant focus on reaching children.
The realities that show this need are the realities that shape the ministry focus of "Children in Christ." Our mission is states in this way: "Children Reached, Mature, and Leading Others in Christ." So, how do we do this? We go to local churches and speak to pastors with the hope of impacting them in two ways:
First - We cast a vision - We do this by giving pastors a map of their country that shows where the unreached people groups are. Up to this moment most of them have never seen a map of their country before and haven't known about unreached people groups and so they really enter into these new awarenesses.
Second - We share our heart for children - We do this by showing them two candles. One has been burnt down to half the size of the other one. We ask them which one they think represents an adult and which one represents a child. Invariably, they say the big one is the adult and the little one is the child. We tell them, "NO" and that it is just the opposite because the adult's life is half spent, while the child has his whole life ahead of him. The pastors often weep as a result of this clear illustration on the importance of putting a great focus on children. The pastors want to know what they can do and they ask us to help them?
And so we offer free training. We encourage them to bring people with them who are suited for being trained to reach children in Christ. So we train them and then they go out and start children's clubs in unreached people areas.
There was a pastor from the country of Chad who went to a village in a Islamic area. He spoke with a young girl who knew the story of creation. She had heard that God had made the creation but as she said, "I had never heard that God made me and loved me." To be free and not have to chase God's love and acceptance is compelling to her. Children loved the message and parents do also. There are two predominant religions in Africa: Islam and witchcraft. One is system of trying to "please" and the other is a system of trying to "appease."
There are 19,041 volunteers connected with the "Children in Christ" mission. With me as the volunteer CEO that makes 19,042. We have taken our ministry to 37 completely unreached people groups and 75,232 children have received Christ. How does one capture more fully what has gone into God accomplishing that? Here is the story of Terry Anderson (founder of CIC). She was sent into Guinea. She wanted to teach her three old son, Joe, about the Lord. She knew getting him to sit still and listen would be a challenge. She talked to a Muslim neighbor who had a 3 year old about joining them as she taught her son the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible). He said yes and later when they showed up for the first session it wasn't just two people but his 19 other children and his 4 wives. This was his entire family. Terri bravely taught them and within 3 months there were over 100 people and they were out of room. The head mistress of the local school noticed that the grades of these children were improving as well as their overall demeanor. She wanted Terri to do this teaching at her school. Terry told she could not make what she taught fit their religion. She said it was okay and that she just wanted good grades for her students. Well it grew and grew and this was the start of CIC.
There is the story of boy named Frances from Guinea who went back home after receiving some CIC training and having come to Christ. Soon, 100 children were reached for Christ. On one occasion, the adults of the village heard that raiders who had been destroying area villages were coming to their village. Fearing that the deities of their religious system would not protect them, they asked this group of Christian children to pray. The adults hid themselves out of town while the children stayed and prayed. At 2 am the raiders came and said that there was nothing in the village for them and left. The children ran to the adults and said, "Our God has saved us. He is not just our God, but yours." The adults believed as well.
Frances was 16 years old when this happened and he and another boy named James wanted to go to another village to share Christ with other children. They went to a family who could only offer them a broken down car to stay in. For almost two years the lived out of that car and ministered Christ in that village. Today, Frances is the North African Director of CIC and James is the Liberian Director of CIC.
Pastor Ben used the image of a picture frame. Terri, Frances, and James imagined frames for themselves but God had much bigger frames for them. My story goes along the same lines. Many years ago the relationship between my husband and me was like a car without oil. We kept running and chasing but our marriage was broken. We didn't pursue divorce but turned to God. God put us back together. 10 years later a left a successful career to devote myself to my family. 10 years after that my husband left his career to for ministry in Africa. Our frames had changed dramatically over years. In Africa I made it clear that my role would be focused on the family and supporting my husband while he did mission ministry. Then I met Terri and God gave me a bigger frame than I could have imagined. I became the CEO for Children in Christ (CIC) in 2012. And here is the last thing I want to share with you that I learned from my African experience:
4 - Wherever you are, God can take what you do and multiply it (new frames) when you faithfully serve him.
Oh, how much we need a spirit of impact. I did some figuring and came up with the following: A husband and wife with three kids who faithfully pour themselves into their children spiritually will after 10 generations result in 177,147 lives impacted from one faithful mom and dad.
Let me end in prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, you have shown us you love us beyond what we could ever imagine. You have also shown us the influence we can have. Give us the courage to pour ourselves out into the lives you have given us. Seal to our hearts the truth that pouring our lives into a child is what the kingdom is all about. Bless all the children and families. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Posted on Sun, May 10, 2015
by Alan Porter