Most of us don’t know who Robert Raikes was, but he changed the world. He also changed the church – through children.
Robert Raikes was the founder of the Sunday School Movement back in the 1700s.
What most people don’t realize is that when Raikes began his effort, he was not exactly aided by the church. The Englishman, whose efforts sought to rescue children from what was effectively slave labour, teach them to read, and disciple them, caught the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who convened a bishops’ meeting to attempt to stop him.
They believed Raikes’ attempts to disciple children was a violation of the fourth commandment, that it broke the Sabbath.
As time went on, what were called “Sabbath School Societies” were begun across North America, particularly in the United States. But where was the greatest opposition to these groups? Clergy. It was the pastors who were opposing ministry to children because they viewed it as a desecration of the Lord’s Day. One Connecticut pastor even said of a class held in his church one Sunday, “You imps of Satan, doing the devil’s work. I’ll have you set in the street!”
Remarkable, isn’t it? That something we take for granted – ministry to children on Sunday – would have been met with such resistance initially!
So it is with so much change in the church today; it meets with initial resistance, but in the end, if God is in it, it changes the world.
Gamaliel was a learned Pharisee in Israel in the time of the early church. When people would complain about what the apostles were doing in Jesus’ name, Gamaliel’s advice was sage: “If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5.38b-39, NLT).
When change comes, church leaders with integrity are bringing it in not for its own sake, but because they know that the change can help the church change the world for the glory of God. And while that may initially be difficult to take, who wouldn’t want to get behind changing the world for the glory of God?