Here’s an interesting fact about the Old Testament priest, Eli. Most of the sermons that we’ve heard about Eli generally focus upon his parenting skills or the lack thereof. But have you ever stopped to think that Eli is the only Children’s Pastor mentioned in the Bible? If there is another one, I sure can’t think of it. And, Eli provides a tremendous lesson about what to do and what not to do as a Children’s Pastor. Consider this …
In reading 1 Samuel, we learn a lot about a young boy entrusted to Eli. Samuel “grew up in the presence of the Lord”, grew “in stature and in favor with the Lord”, and “ministered before the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:21,26; 3:1) and yet “Samuel knew not the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:7)
Samuel had been under the tutelage of one of Israel’s most seasoned priests. Eli would have taught Samuel the priestly ways; the rigors of ceremonial washings, the intricacies of food laws, the precise articulations of ritual prayers, the study of the Torah. He would have initiated Samuel into all of the guild secrets: shown him how to slit the throats of goats and bulls, boil and roast their flesh, carve the fat and the meat of sacrifice. He would have shown him how to mix various concoctions of incense and anointing oil, and which to use for what. Eli would have groomed him well for priesthood. And yet, Eli failed in his primary assignment. Eli, the priest that was assigned to commune with God and to receive His directions and instructions, failed to train his young disciple to know God and to recognize His voice.
Many children’s ministry leaders are modern day Eli’s. We are great at dispensing Bible information. We hopefully are laying a strong foundation of the Word. We are teaching the do’s and don’ts, the how’s and why’s, the where-to’s and therefore’s of the Word. Samuel had all of that too. He sat at the feet of one of the greatest leaders and teachers of his day. And yet many of our children are just like Samuel in that they aren’t able to recognize God’s voice.
I am convinced that God wants to speak to and through our children. He has so much to say and do through the children in our ministries. But, He is looking for those who will recognize and respond to that voice.
Let’s learn from Eli’s mistake. Let’s teach the Word and recognize that the Word (our solid teaching each week) without the ability to hear the voice of the Spirit of God will produce children incapable of being the world shakers that God desires. And, to keep things in balance, let’s be aware that the voice without the foundation of the Word is havoc in the making. Thank God for the foundation of the Word. Thank God for a recognizable voice. But, let’s not have one or the other. Children’s leaders, let’s learn from Eli’s mistake and produce children who know the Word AND know God’s voice!