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Whoever Receives One Such Child...

The statistics are disturbing.[1]  One in four women and one in six men have been sexually abused as children. Child sexual abuse is 75 times more common than pediatric cancer.  Forty percent of children between ages 10 and 17 have been sexually solicited online.  According to the US department of justice, there is one child molester per square mile in the United States.  And churches are no exception.  Child abuse allegations against churches in the US average 70 per week. 

Churches are often easy targets.  We are often desperate for volunteers in children’s ministry, so when someone shows up and wants to serve we don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth.  We struggle to find enough qualified volunteers to provide adequate supervision.  We are eager to see God’s grace at work, and so we are ready to believe that someone is trustworthy even though we know they “have a past.”  In smaller churches, we think we all know each other already--so why ask uncomfortable questions?  We don’t like to think about disturbing issues like child abuse, let alone talk about it.  So we tend to be ignorant when it comes to recognizing abuse or understanding how predators operate.  Maybe as conservatives, we dismiss all of this talk of child protection as a “liberal issue.”

Jesus says in Mark 9:37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives no me but him who sent me.”  The way we care for children reveals what we think about Jesus, and ultimately what we think about God.  So this is not just an organizational issue.  It is a spiritual issue. 

We have done the organizational work of creating a child protection policy.  For this Sunday morning, I want to look at the spiritual work that needs to be done.  Every moral failure comes from a spiritual failure.  So, if so many churches end up failing  at child protection--either in terms of prevention or response--what spiritual failures lead to those moral failures?  And how can we be prepared to stand firm?  We’ve taken a big step toward being organizationally prepared.  How can we be spiritually prepared?


[1] The statistics were obtained from GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), a Christian organization that provides resources and services to assist churches with child protection.