Often I crack a joke to church kids when they are naughty; “You’re so naughty, one day you might become a minister!” God uses all kinds of people, and sometimes it does seem like He takes the naughtiest kids, and makes them into ministers or missionaries.
There is a vivid historical story of Saul, who became Paul, the Apostle. Saul was more than naughty: as a young man he persecuted the very early church. But when God’s light shone on him, he instantly changed, and he became the premier evangelist of his time, writing a majority of the books of the New Testament, and suffering much in his lifetime for his Lord.
As part of the 40th Anniversary of our church in Cincinnati, I illustrated this point by recounting the stories of three of “our kids”, whose names are slightly altered to “protect the innocent.”
El was always getting into trouble. My son Trev was always the innocent little kid tagging along with the older El, who was often trying to teach him to do things he shouldn’t do. One day, Trev was visiting with El, and El made this dramatic scene that his dad was very upset, and Trev should quickly hide under his bed. He described how his dad had this furious temper, and he was sure that he would be beaten severely. Then he ducked out of the room where Trev was crouching under the bed, and went into the next room, presumably to bravely meet his father’s anger. Then Trev heard horrific screams from El being beaten by his father, who incidentally was a highly respected Elder of the church. Finally, the yelling stopped, and El came into the room sheepishly; quietly, he told Trev to leave by the back door, and not to tell anyone of how vicious his father was.
Of course, we found out later that El had been beating the table with a belt himself, while he screamed out his cries of anguish.
El became a respected Youth Director, Youth Speaker, English Service Minister, and Chinese Church Senior Pastor. Perhaps El’s dramatic creative skills gave him great insight into how kids function, and obviously great story telling abilities!
Exhibit 2, Jos was one of the brightest kids in the Youth Group and was made Valedictorian of Walnut Hills, the highest scholastically ranked school in Cincinnati. He even composed a Christian song that he was, surprisingly, allowed to sing at his Valedictory speech. This was a creative (even mischievous) action, since as we all know, public schools in America are very sensitive when anything “religious” pops up! As a child, he had a devious streak: he would often be the master planner, and devise schemes which pushed other young kids into action while he stayed behind the scenes and out of trouble. At the time most of the youth were boys, so one can imagine the amount of trouble the boys easily got into, especially with a good planner.
God used his creative skills and his fertile mind to strategize and plan, and he is now serving on USA campuses at the national level.
Exhibit 3, is Mic. Mic lost his father when he was only a child. His father disappeared during a swim in California. His mother was not a believer at that time, but was comforted by ladies of the church, who brought her to church. His mother recounted often that Mic was a terribly naughty boy, quoting his father’s comment that his total score for 3 subjects combined did not reach the pass mark. At home he did things like put rice into the clothes washer. At a friend’s home he would go into the closet and empty out the clothes. His mother was just terrified if something would happen when he visited a friend’s home, not being sure what would happen.
One day at the annual Children’s Vacation Bible School, the elder’s wife introduced the Lord to Mic. He went home and announced to his mother that: “Today, I have a new Father”.
After he became a believer, everything started to change: Mic started to put his creative naughtiness to good use. He would often “sneak” into public toilets and leave Christian tracts, which paved his way to become active in Campus Crusade, an active ministry to college students. As part of his ministry, he was sent to East Asia, and Albania, and finally he is now in US church ministry.
I guess we could interpret naughtiness as expression of an active, creative, and inquisitive mind, that when idled, results in unconventional actions, or pure disobedience. The beauty of spiritual rebirth is that it re-channels these energies into creative pursuits for God. Impulses that if left unchecked could bring disaster, can be turned for good. Young people, if you’re reading this article, I trust that your “naughtiness” can turn into good, and bring blessings to others. You might even become a minister or missionary!