Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE IMPORTANCE OF EVANGELIZING CHILDREN”

 

Some years ago a pastor told me of a visit he made to a startup church on a Sunday morning, to be an encouragement to the young pastor who was working feverishly to establish the congregation. When he drove into the parking lot and got out of his car his first observation was that there were children getting out of a church bus, there were several women with younger children, and there was a bus driver. Other than the man driving the bus, there was no other man to be seen anywhere. Going into the meeting place, the experienced visiting pastor quickly perceived that the bus driver was none other than the young preacher, and that there were no other men attending the church. The young pastor’s efforts before each Sunday morning service were entirely devoted to bringing in children, not to meeting and greeting visitors. He estimated there were about fifty young grade school age kids, ten mothers with their youngsters, a couple of elderly women getting around with walkers, but not a single other adult male. From the time the visiting pastor first arrived until the actual beginning of the church service the young preacher was not free from herding children here and there to even extend him a handshake. Thus, if a man had showed up at church he would not have been afforded a welcome. Therefore, it was no surprise to him to learn several months later that the church had not succeeded, the young man quit after reaching a place of physical exhaustion, emotional discouragement, and spiritual despondency. Furthermore, he ended up becoming bitter toward those few churches that had been financially supporting him because their pastors gradually withdrew their support upon learning that his focus in attempting to establish the church was exclusively directed toward reaching young children. That experienced pastor said to me about the young preacher’s misguided efforts, “John, he never thought about who was going to pay the electric bill.”

When I learned of this sad situation my mind revisited the church where I had been baptized following my own conversion in 1974. You folks no doubt remember that my first exposure to the gospel took place in a Vacation Bible School when I was a little boy about six years old. Therefore, I have no hostility of any kind toward children’s ministry. It was a children’s ministry that God used to communicate to me the gospel. However, the church where I was baptized had about twice the number of kids in children’s church as adults in the main auditorium. That ministry was all about children and hardly tending to adults at all. Such was my introduction to one of the problems facing churches throughout much of the 20th century, a willingness on the part of many pastors and church members to minister to children, coupled with an unwillingness to minister to adults. This trend is exacerbated by the ease with which you can persuade young children to make emotional decisions in response to manipulative teaching and preaching, and the spiritual blindness and lack of discernment revealed by children’s workers who think that persuading children to make a decision, or to make a commitment, or to close their eyes and repeat words of a prayer, and such as that, results in real conversion.[1]

The reality is that the Lord Jesus Christ suffered on the cross of Calvary, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God, so that both children and adults can be reached with the gospel of God’s grace. However, the pendulum of ministerial methods that are used swings so much in churches that some congregations are so wholly given over to child evangelism that there are far more children in attendance than can possibly be ministered to effectively by seasoned and well-trained Christians. The predictable result is an astonishing number of false hopes among those same children. At the other end of the spectrum there are churches that are almost anti-children, with pastors who exhibit a dislike for children, an intolerance of children, and an unwillingness to address any of the issues that are associated with having children in and around church to deal with. My goodness, there are actually men who claim to be God-called ministers of the gospel who advise their church members not to have children, despite God’s Word clearly stating in Psalm 127.3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

The more important reality is that children are greatly loved by God and by the Savior. That is clearly established both in the Old Testament and in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry. At the same time, however, we do not observe children as prominent in the church planting ministries of the apostles in the book of Acts. This is understandable. When churches are relatively small and just getting started the great need is to reach men and women who will serve as the core group, who will provide the initial stability while at the same time reaching out to others with the gospel, and who can immediately be trained to serve God and establish ministries that will later develop in the congregation over time. It is then that ministries to the aged, ministries to the infirm, ministries to children other than their own, and so forth, can be established without siphoning off the much-need manpower that must be devoted to building the solid foundation of the congregation that can immediately give and serve and more quickly bear spiritual fruit. When a church is just starting, the greatest need is to reach people who are most able to in turn reach other people, for new members who will financially support the church, and such things as that. Ministry to children is ministry that really looks to the future, ten years or more into the future before those children will themselves be able to serve and support the congregation’s ministry. Ministry to the aged and to the infirm is also legitimate ministry, though it is ministry that is never expected to help the church grow or to finance further outreach. These kinds of practical concerns require prayerful consideration and wisdom by a pastor or a missionary, and it is not unusual for many goodhearted church members who are not yet spiritually mature to be offended by these concerns and to count them as carnal concerns and a lack of faith in God. Some wrongly think that if the pastor does not immediately go all in for a children’s outreach he is not right with God. However, wisdom dictates that electric bills be paid, facilities be provided, missionaries be supported, and such things as that before developing more forward-looking outreaches such as children’s ministries.

That ground covered, it should be obvious from our successful Vacation Bible School last summer, and our upcoming Vacation Bible School starting this coming Tuesday, that I am persuaded we are solid enough as a church, with both the spiritual maturity and the committed laborers, to begin children’s evangelistic outreaches. Our first step was VBS last summer and again VBS next week. Perhaps we will advance from that to someday developing an afternoon Bible class program for women and their kids from Monroe School down the street. Perhaps we will someday advance to a Sunday afternoon Sunday School outreach for unchurched kids in our neighborhood.

Whatever God has in store for us in the future, let us agree that reaching children with the gospel (in addition to reaching our own children, of course) should become an important priority in every church’s program of ministries, even if new churches and smaller congregations are not in a position to start children’s outreaches immediately.

Allow me to underline the importance of churches and church members seeking to evangelize children under six headings:

 

First, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY ARE LOST

 

You might wonder why I make this statement. I make this statement because so many among the unchurched are persuaded that children are come into this world with a nature that is basically good, that kids are innocent, and that they will therefore grow up to be good citizens if we can but protect them from the evil influences of wicked society. Excuse me, but that is a view held by communists, socialists, religious liberals, Hindus, Muslims, and everyone else who categorically rejects the Biblical description of mankind’s inherited depravity. Such ignores David’s inspired appraisal of mankind’s condition, from Psalm 51.5:

 

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

 

Such also discounts the verifiable experience of every discerning mother with her own newborn, as we see in Psalm 58.3:

 

“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”

 

Since the entire human race fell into Adam’s sin when Adam sinned,[2] it is the entire human race that is confronted with estrangement from God,[3] and it is the entire human race that is dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2.1. Therefore, each and every baby is as lost as the worst adult offender and desperately needs Jesus Christ, the only savior of sinful souls. The only means of reaching the lost, even children who are lost, is the gospel.

 

Next, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY NEED TO BE SAVED

 

Being lost means, among other things, that neither children or anyone else who is lost is capable of saving themselves. By what means does an infant save himself from the penalty of his sins? By what means does a five-year old save herself from the consequences of the sins she has committed over the course of her short life? Remember, every one of us was born with a sinful nature and we have since then each committed sinful deeds worthy of God’s retributive justice.

Being lost can be considered from two entirely different perspectives: On the one hand, if you are lost your ability is so affected that if you would save yourself you could not. While on the other hand, if you are lost your will is so affected that if you could save yourself you would not. The sad tragedy of the lost is that they have neither the ability nor the will to save themselves, being both incapable and unwilling to bring about their own salvation.

How are children in this respect different from any other human being? They are not. With respect to both ability and will, children are both incapable and at the same time unwilling to save themselves.[4] Therefore, a child’s only hope is to be reached with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Third, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY CAN BE SAVED

 

Most of you are somewhat familiar with the Biblical account of the prophet Samuel, born to the godly prayer warrior Hannah and then placed into the high priest’s care when he was weaned.[5] However, how old could the child have been when he was weaned? As well, how old was Samuel the boy when he came to know the LORD?[6] It is very unlikely he was beyond childhood at that point, establishing for us a historical basis for believing that a child can both know and serve God.

There is no doubt that children were held responsible under the Mosaic Law to both honor and obey their parents. A youngster had to be pretty young for his mother or father to be able to lay hold of him and bring him before the village elders for being stubborn, rebellious, and disobedient. By the time he is in his teens he becomes very difficult to physically handle if he does all he can to resist. Yet youngsters guilty of such sins while still being very young were held responsible for the punishment that was due them, according to Deuteronomy 21.18-21.

Thus, children are responsible for their own sins even when very young. Thankfully, then, the case of Samuel and the words of the Savior show us that those responsible for their own sins, though they are quite young, can nevertheless be saved from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ, just like those much older: That is why, in Mark 10.14, when He saw His disciples holding little children back from approaching Him the Savior said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Remember, also, the very next verse, wherein He said, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” Whereupon He “took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” What is necessary for a youngster to be saved? He has to understand. Once he is old enough to understand his condition and to comprehend the good news that Jesus saves he can become the good ground into which the seed of God’s Word is planted.[7] I commend for your reading “A Token For Children” by James Janeway and Cotton Mather, containing their twenty-three wonderful accounts of young children’s conversions.[8]

So, we are to wait until we think children are mature enough to understand the gospel message before we seek to declare the gospel to them? Not at all. Though I think I was perhaps too immature when exposed to the gospel to grasp its meaning and implications, when my understanding came the Word of God was already firmly implanted in my bosom for the Spirit of God to act upon. Therefore, my conviction is that we should seek to minister the gospel message to children as soon as they clear the church nursery, because as soon as they understand the gospel they can be saved by trusting Jesus Christ with childlike faith.

 

Fourth, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY CAN GREATLY BLESS A CHURCH

 

I find it incredible to observe pastors who discount the importance and value of children by their dismissive and distant attitudes toward them. They seem to have no time whatsoever for children. Such conduct certainly does not reflect anything like Christ likeness toward children, and it denigrates the scripture’s declaration that the man who fathers many children is, indeed, a happy man, Psalm 127.5.

If God told men to replenish the earth with children, that children are the heritage of the LORD, that the man with many children should be happy, and we learn from the Savior that He was displeased when His disciples hindered the approach of youngsters to Him, how can it be maintained that children are not a blessing and that their presence can be a great blessing to a church?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not like to be around nasty and ill-tempered delinquents. However, the kids who misbehave are not the ones who are at fault at all. It is their parents who have no clue about how to raise them. This is why we must recognize that one of our responsibilities as a congregation is to engage in the training of young mothers and fathers how to raise their kids. Think about it. We have the combined expertise of centuries in our church when it comes to raising children according to the Word of God, while people out there seem eager to discard the experience and wisdom of their mothers and grandmothers. Take nursery, for example: We know how to conduct nursery like no mother who is unwilling to learn from us can know. We have dealt with hundreds and hundreds of infants and toddlers, and we have in place an approach to dealing with little ones that is time-tested and proven. Mom needs to bring her kid to the nursery, sign that child in, give whatever needed information is appropriate, and then leave. Don’t hang around until the child decides you can leave. Don’t develop some alternative to our time-tested plan. Mommies need to take a hint from centuries of experience. Bring your child to our nursery, then leave ASAP, because that is the way we have been doing it here for thirty-nine years with success all along the way. We haven’t had an injury or a fatality yet. Take Sunday School for another example: When moms and dads bring their kids to the Sunday School classroom and then leave, their child has an enjoyable experience. In some cases children find they cannot control the Sunday School class the way they run mommy or daddy, and they don’t much like that at first. However, if mom or dad will drop the youngster off and leave (rather than lurking to see if we are going to damage the child), the youngster quickly learns to enjoy the experience as much as all the other kids enjoy it. Then there is Sunday night church, that I love. I like having those boys on the first or second row of seats. I like it when they are out of their mother’s reach, where mother hens don’t so much hover over them and pester them. I even like it when a boy gets a bit out of sorts, so I can look at him and talk to him and bring him along. It is part of a wonderful growing up process, especially with boys, that many moms are at a loss to fully understand. A boy deals with a man other than his dad, thereby learning how to be manly.

It saddens me when pastors and churches do not like little kids, will not tolerate little kids, and try to keep them completely out of sight and in the background. We love children and think they are a wonderful blessing to our church, just by their being here. Imagine, then, what additional blessings are in store for a church when a little boy or little girl comes to Christ.

 

Fifth, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY CAN BE AN AVENUE TO REACHING OTHERS

 

The drawback when too much emphasis is placed on trying to reach children while neglecting efforts to reach young people and adults is that children have no say-so about where they will live. Therefore, since the average apartment building renters in Los Angeles county move on average once a year, on average your contact with a child whose parents do not attend church will end up being about six months before they move and are lost to your ministry forever.

Some people discount this alarming statistic, without considering that our commission is more than one of proclamation and encouraging decisions. Our Lord challenged us to make disciples, which is something that is very difficult to do when those you minister to are constantly moving away, and have no say-so with respect to where they live. Thus, reaching children who are liable to move away without advance notice cannot be any church’s primary outreach to the lost. Most important for a church to try and reach are those who are unlikely to move away.

These things understood, when a church reaches the place where outreach to children can be undertaken, those children provide inroads into the lives of people who could not normally be reached by a congregation. Consider two youngsters who first began attending during last year’s VBS, recently come to the USA from a foreign country. Those two kids have since brought a number of other kids to church, have opened a door of opportunity for my wife and me to meet and dine with their parents, and now my wife has met and is helping yet another adult.

Could any of you have given our church access to a graphic designer and his wife just moved here from a foreign capital city? And this is just one example of how our attempts to evangelize children have led to opportunities to reach adults our church would likely not otherwise have had.

 

Finally, IT IS IMPORTANT TO EVANGELIZE CHILDREN BECAUSE THEY ARE A BAROMETER OF MISPLACED PRIORITIES AND WRONG ATTITUDES

 

Consider someone who is seventeen years old, perhaps a girl, perhaps a boy. Nothing wrong with either that girl or boy someday wanting to be a mom or a dad. However, timing is as crucial as circumstances, because just as irresponsible as it is to make a baby you are too young and immature to take care of, so is it wrong to have a baby you are unprepared by maturity and experience to provide competent parenting for. The same is true of a church and evangelizing children whose parents are not involved in church.

However, what can be said about a pastor, a church member, or an entire congregation that has no concern for the spiritual welfare of the child whose parents are not Christians, the child whose parents do not actually bring them to church, or the child who does not live with one or both parents? And by spiritual concern I refer to seeking to reach them with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just because you are too young to me a mom or a dad does not mean you are too young to care about children, to set an example for younger children, or that you are too young to be a channel of blessing from God to show to youngster the love of Christ. And what about those who are grandparent age? Too old to love kids? Too old to have a ministry in the lives of young ones? Where do you find that in the Bible?

I am here to tell you that God’s plan is for His people to love children before you have children of your own, to love children even after you have raised your own children, and to love children even you have never had your own children. On what basis do I make that claim? On the basis of clear evidence in God’s Word that He loves children and that the Lord Jesus Christ loves children, with the love of Christ being the driving motive in the life of every believer, Second Corinthians 5.14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

I am not suggesting that teens, young adults, young fathers and mothers, couples with grown children, or grand and great grand parents should have the same kind of involvement with children in our church’s attempts to reach them with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, I am more than asserting that no believer has an excuse for no involvement with our corporate attempts to reach children, just as I cannot imagine Christians not knowing or not having anything to do with children in their neighborhood.

Everywhere we turn we see children who are starved for the love of an adult, children who show the obvious signs of being raised by a television set or a computer screen, children who have no idea how to relate to anyone (much less those older than they). Who will reach them? Who will love them enough to see that they are exposed to the gospel? Do we imagine that we are to love only our own children, our own grandchildren, or our own great grandchildren, and that we have no duty, obligation, or responsibility for children we are not related to?

I submit to you that if you do not love children, if you do not like children, and if you do not want to be around children, more is at work with you than some lame excuse that you are socially awkward and don’t know how to act around them. After all, the last thing children need from an adult is childish behavior. The way you act around a kid is the way you act when a kid is not around, remembering only to show them the kindness and consideration that is due everyone else.

If you are a Christian the love that flows from the heart of the Savior is supposed to find expression in your life, Second Corinthians 5.14. Therefore, since we know our Lord and Savior both liked and loved children, the same will be true of you if you a believer and also spiritual. That does not mean you automatically know what to do around children, but it suggests to me that you will take steps to spend time around them learning what to do. Our upcoming VBS will be a great opportunity for you, and you will know what to do when you ask someone, “What do you want me to do?”

 

We know the Savior wants us to bear fruit. I preached on John 15.1-8 on Wednesday night. We know the Savior works through us to love others. Second Corinthians 5.14 reveals that to us. Let me urge you to involve yourself in some way in our upcoming Vacation Bible School. Move heaven and earth to be here by 5:30 or 5:45, but come late if you cannot come on time. You are important. You are needed.

Your prayers, your participation, the smile that you show, the songs that you sing, the warmth of your personality, all are useful in our efforts to minister grace not only to boys and girls that come, but also to those parents who happen to bring them as well.



[1] I have often related the story of one preacher at a youth camp who asked 150 children, “Who wants to go to heaven?” When he asked them to raise their hands to indicate their desire, and to repeat as he led those with raised hands in prayer, he naively concluded that everyone who had raised their hand to indicate they wanted to go to heaven and who repeated the words of his prayer had been saved.

[2] Romans 5.12

[3] Romans 3.19-23

[4] Romans 3.11; 5.6

[5] 1 Samuel 1.20-25;

[6] 1 Samuel 3

[7] Matthew 13.23

[8] James Janeway, A Token For Children, to which is added Cotton Mather, A Token For The Children Of New England, (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994)


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org