Friday, October 31, 2014

The 4-14 Window and More

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of
the Indianapolis Recorder, picture by Steve Chenn
Happy Halloween.  Depending on your understanding of the roots of the holiday, you may have positive or negative thoughts about it.  I'll just suggest that, no matter what your feelings, God is greater than Halloween.  And any historical background just might make it a better day than most for soul winning. And it probably makes the comments on the next two speakers from the Exponential conference more appropriate.

As we get to it, the next two speakers we're covering are Pastor Noemi Chavez and Pastor Greg Nettles.

There were two things I took away from Pastor Chavez's talk.  She said that God is a God of the process.  When people come to Christ, there may be some instantaneous changes, but most changes aren't that revolutionary.  Rather, there's a process where people dismantle the old thinking, piece by piece, discard it, and replace it with the mind of Christ.  We, in our God given role as leaders and pastors, need to be alongside them each step of the way, helping to avoid their new found Christianity from getting derailed.  There will be influences from their old way of life that will try to draw them back to their old ways.  We're there to avoid that happening.  And, depending on how ingrained their old lifestyle may be, the changes people go through may be a very long process. When I think about that, I realize that I'm in the process of spiritually transforming into what I will be when I get to heaven.  I can't expect any different from anyone else.

Something else she said also got me thinking.  Pastor Noemi suggested that the Gospel is what God has done in our lives, so far.  As you might guess from her last name, she's part of a Latino church, which happens to be in LA.  Many will have gone through hardship to get to her area and a new start.  Many will live in drug infested, gang ruled neighborhoods.  Our own story may not be so exotic and exciting, but it still holds a radical change that Jesus Christ did in our life.

Even if it's the merchant woman selling purple dye and cloth or the widow with her two mites, our testimony is powerful.  We don't have to have exciting "war stories" contrasting how horrendously bad we were, compared to what God has changed us into.  Just the fact that we've been translated from one spiritual kingdom into the Kingdom of God is a powerful testimony in itself.  And it's personal.  It's us sharing our own experience with someone else.  Even the local accountant whose life may not be very exciting can find sharp contrast between life without God and life with Him. The mundane becomes more thrilling because God's in it.

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There's a heavy focus in Pastor Greg Nettles' ministry on children and what's called the "4-14 window".  That's how our title and illustration came about.  Studies have shown that most of us have our spiritual thinking determined between the ages of 4 and 14.  The influences in a child's life during that age bracket will greatly effect whether they walk with God or reside in another spiritual realm.

Pastor Nettles shared a shocking statistic.  We've all seen the infographics highlighting the huge increase in prison population.  Pastor Greg shared the fact that 80% of all prisoners had gone through the foster care system.  We've all heard the horror stories about what the foster care system can be like.  That's the major influence most prisoners have had in their 4-14 window!

From everything I've read, we're continually increasing budgets to build more, bigger prisons, making them more escape proof, adding more staff.  When we think of the statistics that Pastor Nettles shared, that money would be better spent on child care.  He suggested a solution.

Pastor Greg said there are enough Christian families that, if each adopted one child, there would be no more foster care.  And, as a result, we would create a decreasing need for prisons.  In line with what he had to say, Pastor Nettles shared this thought: “The most important people you will disciple in your life are your own children.”.

This is maybe one of our shorter posts.  But I think there's enough meat to think about.  I don't want to dilute it by adding more, just to fill some imaginary length quota.  So, we'll get to more from the Exponential conference, next week.  Till then, what does your discipleship look like?  Is it expecting changes too quickly?  Does it give the children in your life a solid foundation in Christ?

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