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According to Us

One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

Last night, as I was finishing up our nightly Bible reading, Sweet T. asked me {for probably the hundredth time} when she could become a Christian. For about a year now I have been avoiding this question. Not because I don’t want her to become a Christian, or because I am not comfortable with leading her. Neither of those two scenarios are the case. This is my prayer, for all my kids, that they would receive salvation through Jesus and love Him with all their heart. Also, on a weekly basis, I share with kids at our church about what becoming a Christian means.

I take my philosophy about child evangelism {i.e. leading a child to pray to God asking for salvation from their sin} from a statement that Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Matthew 19:14

During Jesus’ life and ministry, people wanted to see and touch him. They would come from far places. Some came to be healed; while others simply wanted to see them for himself. On this occasion, small kids were being brought to him so that he could place his hands on them and pray for them. His disciples and closest friends must have become annoyed at this. Jesus was a great person, he probably had little time, especially for kids to be blessed over. And so we find this rebuke to the disciples.

Let the little children come to me

Jesus made it very clear that he loved all people. Young and old. Sick and well. Dead, alive, rich, poor, religious, demon-possessed, ugly, attractive, women, men, Jewish, pagan, Gentile, popular, alone, afraid, brave, the wise and the foolish. He loved his enemies and even the ones that planned his death and hated who he was.

His love was the kind that broke all social barriers of his time. His love was more than just as acceptance of all people from all walks of life. It was a love that pierced through the barriers that separated people from the larger social world. When Jesus gave the command for his disciples to let the children come, it was to say “they are important”. This was during a time when a male wasn’t respected as an adult until the age of 30. Children mattered to Jesus.

I like to focus on the word “let” specifically when discussing child evangelism. Jesus makes it clear, we are not to hinder children from wanting this intimate relationship. Discouraging children from becoming a Christian is wrong. It is very clear that we are to allow for them to ask questions and learn what it is to develop faith in their own lives.

However, on the flip side of that, children should not be forced to believe. I think equally important is the word “come”.  We are never to push a child to become a Christian. This is a careful thing to balance. Kids want what they see other kids do or have. If one child is baptized in their church, other children will often want to do it too without understanding what it means. Salvation is so much more than this.

“Let” encourages us to provide opportunities to discuss what it means to be a Christian. Provide opportunities to talk about the need and what sin is. Explain how Jesus provided salvation, by dying on the cross and rising again. Also share what salvation does not mean.

“Come” reminds us to not push children when they aren’t ready. I, personally, do not think a call to commitment is appropriate to children services. Help your child develop their own spiritual understandings. This can only occur when you make an effort to talk to them about your own faith. Don’t shy away from questions that you don’t know the answer to. Children are far more understanding than we give them credit. Being honest that you don’t have an answer to their question is perfectly acceptable. Showing your child how you seek out answers is a natural part of their own spiritual development and discipline.

Do not hinder them

I have already discussed this briefly above. Children want to know about God. They believe in Jesus and what God can do far more easily than we can. I find myself often correcting our youngest daughter. To her, if something is not working all you need to do is pray. God will fix it. On the one hand- yes I agree, I don’t think God helps me open a jar of jelly or other daily tasks. I have to be careful, though, because I also know that God does work intimately in our lives even today. Provide opportunities for teachable moments. Encourage the faith of your child. Prepare their hearts to accept the seed of faith. Pray over them. Read the Bible with them. Teach them about love and taking care of those around you.  Practice your own faith, show them what it means to be a Christian in how you do life everyday. Even practice admitting when you mess up (GULP!) It is hard to admit, but it shows your children the need for a Savior.

At our church this weekend, we had our Family Dedication, often known as Baby dedication. Part of what we gave the parents was the picture below with Deuteronomy 6:4-9 written. It is a command to impress the Word of God into the lives of your children in everything you do. Developing the opportunity for your children to believe and follow God comes from what they see at home. Talk about what you have read in your quiet time. Display the word of God in your home. I love how Proverbs 6:20-23 echoes Deuteronomy.

20 My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life,

For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these

Jesus would often teach about the kingdom of heaven. (32 times in the book of Matthew, this phrase is mentioned) Usually he would use a simple, daily picture to compare what heaven was like. Here, Jesus tell us why children are so important. They are an example. Could Jesus be referring to their simple faith? Or maybe their innocence? Perhaps it’s a childlike meekness and frailty that he is referring, or even a combination of all the above.

As I mentioned above, Sweet T had been asking Alan and I for about a year, “when can I become a Christian?” Each time she asked, I didn’t just avoid the question. We would talk about what it means. Sometimes I would ask why she wanted to. Other times I would explain what it didn’t mean. And, if I was being honest, a few times I changed the subject. I figured if I could distract her, then she wasn’t serious about it.

So what was my hesitancy? Why am I so careful when it comes to child evangelism?

I think it stems back to the fact that kids believe easily. Almost every child that I have encountered wants to be a Christian. They want to go to heaven. They believe Jesus died on the cross. They know he came back to life again. They repeat prayers. They get baptized. We have all the right words, but I strongly believe that none if this is important until a person, no matter the age, understand what SIN is. We can teach our kids what sin is, how it separates us from God, but without understanding SIN, children (or adults) can never be saved from it. This can only be done by the work of the Holy Spirit.

And this is what I pray for my kids. That the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts. This is what I saw in Sweet T. last night. A true brokeness over her SIN. She came to the end of herself and found she needed more- a Savior.
It’s not the prayer in words that we say, or the time we go to church that saves us. No matter how we are baptized, what church we go to, or the kind of music in church we listen to. The Bible translation we read, or the type of Lord’s Supper we take doesn’t save us. Our salvation begins at brokeness over sin. Not just knowing in your head that you break God’s law, but understanding in your heart and wanting to fill that need with the saving power of faith in Jesus.

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