St. John’s Baptist Church

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Will Our Children Have Active Faith?

The St. John’s Pulpit

St. John’s Baptist Church    300 Hawthorne Lane    Charlotte, NC 28204



Deuteronomy 6:4-9;20-25;  Gospel of Mark 9:33-37; 10:13-16
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, October 20, 2019

by Senior Minister, Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD


Jesus loves the little children; All the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white;

All are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.

More than 150 years ago, this song was inspired by Jesus’ words,  “Let the little children come to me. Do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.

If you were part of St. John’s during your childhood, would you please stand.

Please continue to stand while our children of today stand with our children of yesterday.

If you have ever served our children or if you are serving our children today, please stand.

Now, please take a moment and look at one another; see one another. Thank you.

As you can see, St. John’s has been caring for children for generations.

In fact, we have been caring for the children of St. John’s from our first day in 1922.

Today, I offer 3 messages: 1 to our children, 1 to our parents and families and 1to our church.

First, A Message to Our Children

Boys and girls, we built rooms in these buildings for you before you were born.

We saw you coming. In fact, we saw some of your parents and grandparents coming.

We put huge windows in children’s rooms for you to see light and for you to see the world.

We have rooms for your learning, singing, worshipping and playing.

We have ministries to help you learn about God and God’s ways as taught by Jesus.

We have ministries to help you learn the stories of the Bible and other important truths.

We have ministries to help you be involved in God’s mission to people.

But, do know why we have all these buildings and rooms and ministries for you?

It is because, in St. John’s, we value you. Because of God’s love, we love you very much.

We pray for you. We care about you. We are showing God’s vision of life to you.

You are part of today’s Church and you are part of the leadership of tomorrow’s Church.

When we look at you, we see God at work smiling, caring, accepting, helping, and being

kind, forgiving, helpful, joyful, playful, thoughtful, tender and compassionate.

Children, when we make decisions and take actions as a church, we are thinking of you.

You do a good job of obeying your parents. You brighten our lives by being you; so, just be yourselves.

Continue to learn; continue to care for one another and help one another. Keep showing God to us.

Second, A Message to Our Parents and Families

We are celebrating with five of our young families either expecting or bonding with newborn babies.

Four of these five newborns are firstborn children adding to the numbers of our families with children.

Parents, I thank you again for entrusting the spiritual growth of your children to St. John’s.

Today, as we expand Rev. Allison Benfield’s ministry alongside us, we are enhancing this effort.

Allison will continue to minister with our children AND she will offer new leadership for all age groups.

Our Leadership Council will help her enlist members to serve on a Spiritual Growth Resource Team.

One idea we will discuss with this group is providing resources for families under the name, Oikos.

Oikos is not the Greek word for yogurt; it is the Greek word for household or family.

Your children are growing physically, socially, emotionally, cognitively, morally and spiritually.

There are so many strings pulling you and them in a variety of directions.

We want to give you resources focused on the spiritual growth of your children and yourselves.

Children are enculturated into active faith in ways that are both intuitive and cognitive.

They need stories.     This is nothing new.         Thousands of years ago, Jewish parents were told how to teach the greatest commandment to their children: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.”

We read this passage this morning from Deuteronomy 6.       It instructs parents to take five actions:

Keep these words in your heart. (Memorize, reflect)

  1. Recite these words to your children. (Let your children hear you pray.)
  2. Talk about them around the house and when away; in the morning and at night.
  3. Use symbols and words to make this phrase visible (phylacteries) and (mezuzah).
  4. When your children ask what the symbols mean (and children always ask) tell them a story.

For thousands of years, parents have told God stories and the stories of Jesus to children. (Bread Box vss.)

You are already investing in the spiritual growth of your children; we want to resource you for this work.

You show love to your children in many ways: listening, making eye contact, physical contact, focused

attention, and discipline that helps them feel valued – not shamed.

Above all, you allow Jesus’ teachings to shape your living so your children see your spiritual growth.

You know that guiding your children’s spiritual growth is foundational for their lives.

Parenting has always been a major life responsibility. Today’s parents face unique challenges.

Most families are living on the run. Resources we offer must be simple, practical, versatile and portable.

We will not be marketing phylacteries or mezuzahs.

However, through Oikos, we will offer occasional stories to help with spiritual conversations.

We want to help people of all ages be enculturated into all dimensions of active faith.

Third, A Message to Our Church About Children and Families

Beloved, as a local church, we are always nurturing some kind of faith culture in the life of St. John’s.

Every local church is nurturing one of four types of faith culture: Inactive, Vertical, Horizontal or Active.

We invite our families with children to participate in and contribute to this faith culture at all times.

We strive to nurture an Active Faith culture; emphasizing Actively Faithful Faithfully Active living.

It is difficult for any person of any age to live with Inactive Faith if they are truly involved in St. John’s.

However, it is very possible to be involved in St. John’s or grow up here and live with Horizontal Faith.

Horizontal Faith is expressed when someone is involved relationally and even in ministry and mission.

yet, without experiencing any growing sense of spiritual connection with God or inspiration

emerging from humble worship or a divine encounter.

It is also possible to be involved in St. John’s or grow up here and live with Vertical Faith.

Vertical Faith is expressed when a person is immersed in worship and devotional life without any

growing sense of spiritual motivation to be involved relationally or in ministry or mission.

This next year, I will be offering an opportunity for your Sunday groups to learn more about Active Faith.

Active Faith involves both the Vertical experiences and the Horizontal expressions.

Active Faith engages with the Spirit of God and is inspired by this experience to express God’s mission.

As a church, we nurture an Active Faith culture by (1) helping children learn Bible stories through Godly

Play, (2) helping them understand important ideas and symbols, (3) teaching them how to worship,

(4) giving them opportunities to express worship unto God, (5) showing them a healthy theology of

the compassionate God, and (6) providing them opportunities to learn about and serve in God’s

mission while also (7) developing teachers and (8) providing parental support.

We do not know what challenges lie ahead for future generations.

But we do know how to help them be spiritually prepared for whatever may come.

Today, let us renew our commitments to invest in the children and families of St. John’s.

And, let us grow spiritually so we live in ways that show our children what Active Faith looks like.

Jesus said,

Let the little children come to me.

                                              Do not stop them;

                                                          for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs.

Amen – May it be so!