In our new book, Resilient: Child Discipleship and the Fearless Future of the Church, we detail our philosophy behind resilient child discipleship: belong, believe, become. Or, as we refer to them in acronym form, “The 3Bs,” which we recently explained in detail on a recent episode of the Resilient Disciples Podcast.
The excerpt below comes from Chapter 10 of Resilient, in which Awana VP of Partner Solutions, Chris Marchand, dives into the biblical basis behind the crucial need to develop an environment belonging.
In Romans 1:6, Paul greets the church in Rome by saying, “including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” The entirety of the Scriptures shouts to the world that we belong to God. In the beginning, humanity was created to be in perfect union with God and belong to Him, for we are His creation (Genesis 1:26). There is an intimacy that was always part of His original design for our relationship with Him. We are His masterpiece and reflect the image of God in this world (Ephesians 2:10). Christ’s motivation to bring us back to Himself is the very premise of the incarnation. God came down and entered into the muck and mire of this world. Why? Because we belong to Him.
Humanity was always created to be in intimate proximity to God. It’s in that relationship that we know how to love one another (1 John 4:19). As the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). This attitude of love is the essence of true belonging. Jesus desires to make a space at the table for everyone. Men, women and especially children from all walks of life and context have a space to find true belonging in Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 19, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” From children, which at this point in history, many thought to be the lowest of culture and society,
to the woman at the well (John 4) an outcast, to Nicodemus (John 3) the academic and spiritual elite of his time, and Zacchaeus (Luke 19) a conformist unwanted nobody. Each of them finds belonging in Christ.
The biblical account of Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) provides the essential framework of how Christ did ministry relationally. Jesus was passing through Jericho and there was a tiny, little man hanging out in a sycamore tree. You see Zacchaeus fit the mold of a conformist unwanted nobody. He was a tax collector. Like most tax collectors at the time, he took advantage of his position to profit from adding fees beyond the tax desired to be collected. This didn’t make him anyone’s friend or favorite person. Scripture even captures the consternation of the people. It says, and when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”
We all have a great hope to belong because of Jesus interaction with Zacchaeus. Notice what Jesus does in this story. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name. There’s a personal connection that drives the rest of the story. Jesus closed the proximity between Him and Zacchaeus. Jesus says, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” Think of all the invites and gatherings that Zacchaeus must have missed because of who he was known to be. Finally, Jesus wants entry into his daily life. There’s something very personal about inviting someone into your home. Everything is on display. The good, bad and ugly. It’s all there in living color and that’s where Jesus wants to be.
In the life of Zacchaeus or in our own lives, Jesus knows our name. Jesus wants to close the gap between us and Him, and He wants to gain access to our most intimate spaces. And the beauty of this story is that Zacchaeus was forever changed.