Thursday, July 16, 2009

Evangelizing Our Children

Last night during our evening walk, my wife and I were discussing some of the methods and approaches we as Christians use to evangelize children. Evangelicalism assumes a view of man that seems at best sub-biblical. With this sub-biblical view of man, we have created a people that do not have a proper understanding of regeneration or conversion. We have placed these doctrines squarely in the hands of the sinner.

I was once asked by a Christian in a debate, "What is the difference between the natural man and the spiritual man?" The fact I was asked this shows the difficulty of the subject and Evangelicalism's ignorance of this distinction.

Much of Evangelicalism's methods of evangelization is simply appealing to the natural man. By remaining ignorant of natural man's ability to believe almost anything, including Christian religious beliefs, we have simply added Christian beliefs to the natural man's repertoire. Therefore we have churches filled with people who are able to say they believe in Jesus, because of the context in which they have learned about him.

To use an example, all of my children believe in Jesus. The reason is simple. That is all they have ever heard. One day my children will go to college and be on their own. It is then that we will see their true character on display. It is quite often that we see our children "falling away" from the faith they once professed. When this happens most Evangelicals will intuitively say something to the effect of, "They were never really saved." This is quite right and is a solid reason why theology matters.

We also use different forms of entertainment to teach about Christ. We use Hollywood style methods. Are we simply looking more like the world? This is a difficult question because the last thing Christians should be is boring. Being creative is important. Yet using worldly means to get someone to profess faith in Christ is still sinful and dishonoring to God.

Another example of evangelizing children that I have personally witnessed is telling them about hell. Now there is nothing wrong with explaining to children the teachings of the Bible, but as with any subject, we must do so in an age appropriate manner. Taking a group of young children and telling them about hell and then asking if they want to believe in Jesus to escape hell is just manipulative. What 5-year-old child is going to stay behind while all of the other children go to heaven? What child is going to say, "I want to burn." Then after we get their professions of faith, we pat ourselves on the proverbial back because we, as adults, for the moment really believe we converted sinners to salvation.

Theology Matters.

Robert Gonzales, Dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary, has written an excellent post titled, Of Free-will, An Exposition of the LBCF IX. He has also written an excellent series on how Christian parents ought to teach their children the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4. Enjoy!


Paul said...

Interesting post Howie. I love wrestling with the “evangelizing children” debate.

My children were the last “brick” to fall in the whole “I am in control of salvation” idea. I could not stand the thought they would not want to embrace Christ as their savior.

Through the mercy of the Almighty, and deepening my affections for Christ, I am a totally different father with my children in regards to the gospel. Once my son (4 years old) when asked to pray said “I don’t like Jesus”. In the past (before the doctrines of grace) his response would have kept me up at night. However, now I live with the reality that my son is an unregenerate sinner, he is dead to Christ. Not only is he dead to Christ, he is actively worshiping whatever he deems best for himself at the present moment. Why should he have any affections for Christ? It will be only by the mercy and grace of God that new life is given to my boys (and soon to be girl). So that He will get the glory.

The issue of children’s souls seems to cut so deep so fast. We are quick to assume our neighbor is lost, but our children? No. They come to church. They enjoy the Sunday school lesson. They like watching veggietales. They must be Christians.

Above all other responsibilities, my greatest is to tell my children the “glorious deeds He has done” –Psalm 78. I long and pray for the day when my children’s affections for Christ will bear fruit in keeping with repentance. I struggle and toil for that day. I want to be part of a body of believers that longs for that day too. I pray that myself and the people I serve with, will “not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done”

Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for the comments Paul. As usual, you provide another good perspective.

What surprises me most is that Baptists of all people should know better. Baptists! You know. That group of people that claim to believe in "believers baptism" and not infant baptism. We, who believe in the work of the Holy Spirit regenerating sinners to spiritual life, ought to be leading the way. Yet, I am seeing more critiques of our theology from reformed people who are not necessarily baptists.

Odd indeed.

Dean Gonzales has certainly given me much to think about in how pathetic I have been in the raising of my children. I pray that I have not been as derelict in my duties as to cause my children to have every reason to fall away.

On the other hand, I just can't go back to our modern methods of trying to make my kids something they are not. Raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is not the same thing as manipulating them to profess something they are not.

Again, thanks for the comment Paul.