Over the past 6 years ECPC has many times wondered, debated, and wrestled with the question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And Christ’s prophetic and pastoral response has consistently been, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4).
If you asked Jesus, “What’s the measure of a good leader?” or “What’s the most perfect paradigm for developing leaders?” He’d say, “Become like a child.” The wisest leaders in history say things like, “O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in.”
It is tempting to think that “growing up” means graduating from smallness. But when you look at Jesus’ leadership team, you find smallness to be a non-negotiable, and essential, characteristic for leadership. For instance, Simon Peter wasn’t truly able to feed, lead, and protect Christ’s lambs until he became thoroughly acquainted with his smallness (see Luke 22:24-34 and John 21:15-19). When Jesus prevailed upon Saul, the first order of business was to change his name to Paul (Paul means small).
It is tempting to believe that “the tyranny of urgent business” and “serious social issues” prohibit childlike curiosity, freedom to fail, vulnerability, play, and rest. But the truth is, becoming and being childlike actually pulls people together and fosters perennial productivity! Prophetic stories and characters like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Malachi, Mary Poppins and Willy Wonka have been proclaiming this truth for millennia.
Embracing our smallness, partaking of play, and curious exploration is how we actually experience healthy productivity and cultivate vibrant civilizations. And above all, we must come to grips with the fact that fellowship with God is not found through the debates and doings of the “adult-world”, but entering Christ’s Kingdom and enjoying Christ’s fellowship happens through becoming like a child. We must be tenacious in our commitment to direct people down the path of childlikeness (the Christ-centered composite of thoroughly admitting our vulnerability, and joyfully receiving God’s good gifts).