“HINDRANCES TO EVANGELIZING CHILDREN”
1. As I mentioned in my sermon last night on “Puritan Evangelism,” a distinctive characteristic of the Puritans was their understanding of the Biblical principle of evangelism being a congregational activity.
2. They correctly recognized that evangelism was not the sole prerogative of high powered personal soul winners who had magnificent powers of persuasion to accompany their charismatic personalities.
3. They recognized that evangelism was an extremely difficult task that required the concerted efforts of the entire congregation in prayer, in exhorting the lost to attend to the primary means of grace which is preaching, and in personally attending the preaching services and prayer meetings themselves.
4. Our guest missionary this morning was wonderfully encouraged when he arrived and found dozens of our people ready to get down on our knees to pray for the lost and beg for God’s blessings on our services, just as my soul was thrilled when a number of our young people pulled an all night prayer vigil with members of the other Church at camp.
5. Such efforts can only be helpful in bringing the lost to Christ, including our own children. But we are not consistent across the board in our efforts to bring our little ones to Christ, so that is the subject that I will preach on tonight.
6. Turn in your Bible to Mark 10. When you have found Mark chapter 10, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
7. This is a hastily put together sermon. I threw it together in a couple hours instead of spending the week thinking and praying and studying, as I usually do. So, I hope you will excuse the roughness and lack of polish of the message.
8. This message will essentially be a collection of thoughts and impressions that I believe God would have me to share with you so that you better understand your role and responsibility in evangelizing children, whether you are a parent or not, whether you are an adult or not, even if you yourself are a young child.
9. Let’s consider several items for discussion that can be found in our text:
1A. First, LET US CONSIDER LITTLE CHILDREN BROUGHT TO CHRIST
And I do not mean by this phrase that they were brought to Christ in a saving way, for it must be understood that conversion only occurs when a sinner, even if the sinner is a little child, comes to Christ himself. Conversion is not something anyone can do for you, though bringing a child to Christ in the sense of delivering a child to the means of grace, getting a child to Church, is, of course, a great responsibility.
Let us understand that these children were almost certainly too young to have the kind of understanding necessary for conversion. But though they were too young to be converted they were not too young to receive a distinct blessing from the Lord Jesus Christ. And in like manner, though your child or another child be too young for conversion, no child is too young to receive a spiritual blessing of significant importance to make it worth while.
The Lord Jesus Christ, however, is no longer here. Is there then no way in which little children can be brought to Him for blessing? Yes, there is a way. As I mentioned last night, Richard Sibbes, the great Puritan pastor of long ago, correctly taught that “Preaching is the chariot that carries Christ up and down the world.” So, it needs to be understood that the way to get a child nearest Christ is to get the child under preaching about Christ.
A few remarks about those who brought the children to Christ, and about those who bring children to Church, are in order:
1B. Those who bring children to Church demonstrate that they care about their souls. And this is the important part of a child, far more important than his physical comfort. If it is well with a child’s soul then it is well with the child. And if the child is unconverted then the child is in poor shape, no matter his disposition. Show your care for a child’s soul. Get that child to Church when the doors are open. “But this child is too young to be saved.” Perhaps, but not too young to be blessed. And at what age, precisely, is a child old enough to be converted? Who knows that but God?
2B. Those who brought the children to Christ believed that Christ’s blessing would do their souls good. Therefore to him they brought them, that He might touch them, knowing that He could reach their hearts when nothing their parents could say to them or do for them would reach them as deeply or as profoundly.
3B. You can bring your child under the Savior’s influence, now that He is in heaven, when you get your children to Church, under the means of grace, to be taught in the nursery, to be taught in their Sunday School class, to be taught on Wednesday nights, and then to be taught by me. There’s a blessing promised in Isaiah 44.3, please turn there: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”
4B. I think we ought to claim this blessing. I think you ought to personally claim this blessing. But I don’t think you will successfully claim this blessing for your children as you drive away from the Church camp minutes before the Gospel preaching is to begin, or by staying home with your children during special preaching services, or by missing regular services.
2A. Next, LET US CONSIDER THE DISCOURAGEMENT THAT IS GIVEN TO BRINGING CHILDREN TO CHRIST
There are at least four types of discouragement that can interfere with children coming to Christ in a saving way that I would like to talk to you about:
1B. First, there is the discouragement of the type the disciples gave to bringing children to Christ. These men were obstructionists. In their officious and unctuous manner they rebuked those who brought the children. This would correspond today to cutting children off from the preaching of the God-called pastor, supposing that they are too young, when actually they should be allowed to sit under preaching just as soon as they can do so without undue distraction of others. And we even allow the very young on Sunday nights as a means of training them to sit still.
2B. Second, there is the discouragement of the type given by parents who decide that services are not important enough to attend.
1C. Excuse me, but what do you think John 3.8 means: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
2C. One of the lessons I find in John 3.8 is that you cannot tell in advance when and where the Spirit of God is going to move. Therefore, I would suggest that since “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” First Corinthians 1.21, it is most wise to be where God’s chosen means of saving sinners is resorted to.
3C. How, pray tell, does a mother or father impress upon a child the absolute necessity of attending to preaching if the mother or the father does not attend to preaching at the most inconvenient and troubling of times? How do you convince a child that the preaching is the means by which God speaks to individuals if your attitude is that you can take or leave preaching?
4C. Excuse me, but I have been so committed to Bible preaching since my conversion that I will go out of my way, and I always have gone out of my way, to hear preaching that my pastor approves of. And I have observed the same practice since I became a pastor. How do I know who and when God will bless with preaching?
5C. Do you love your child? Then do your dead level best to get your child into each and every service, come Hell or high water, unless your child’s presence would adversely affect his own health or someone else’s. I thought it was most wise for Kevin and Angela Scott to have their kids here Friday and Saturday night, though they are in the process of moving. I believe Kevin made a wise choice that God will honor.
3B. Third, there is discouragement of a type given by those of you who are not the kid’s parents.
1C. You’re the other members of the Church who contribute to the sense of importance and excitement in a preaching service by your physical presence, by your personal enthusiasm, by your hearty and thoughtful singing, and by your silent by efficacious prayers for the unconverted during the preaching.
2C. You know from my sermon on the word “Amen” how important your participation in the preaching is. You’ve seen in First Corinthians 14.24 the role you play in a sinner coming under conviction of sins and then his conversion.
3C. How many of you have an unconverted friend or loved one who attends this Church? Do you have an unconverted dad who attends, or an unsaved mom? How about a lost brother or sister? How about a child? Do you have an unconverted kid?
4C. Are you not your brother’s keeper? How then do you explain your absence from the special services we had leading up to camp on Friday nights? Would not your brother or sister, your mom or dad, your son or daughter, have been favorably impressed with the importance of getting converted had you attended? But if it’s not important enough for you to be there then it must not be important. Amen? That’s how young people think!
4B. Fourth, there is the kind of discouragement that unconverted kids receive from unconverted kids.
1C. If you adults do not see how your children exert subtle pressure and influence on each other, and how they are influenced by other children, then you can only be blind or foolish. How many of you can remember the last time one of your kids did something or wanted to do something so she could be like the rest of the family? The question is, Do you want your child like the rest of the family?
2C. The same kind of thing happens with kids in Church. Any child who is not alarmed and convicted of sins exerts a subtle and negative influence on all the other kids his age to be like him to ignore the preaching like he does, to resist the ministry of the Holy Spirit like he does, to continue in sin like he does. And no child is more evil in this regard than the child of Christian parents who does this type of thing.
3C. I actually had a kid talk to me today who did not seek my counsel one time during camp. This kid heard 33 sermons over a course of eight days and came to talk to me this morning for the first time. I ask why she didn’t come during camp and she said, “I didn’t want to.” It wasn’t “I didn’t know I should.” Neither was it, “I was afraid to talk to you.” No. The answer was “I didn’t want to.”
4C. This is only one example. And I am sure that there are several dozen kids who didn’t seek my counsel for exactly the same reason. “I didn’t want to.” Let’s look at this in light of God’s Word. Do you realize how perverse this reasoning is? Do you see how malevolent and wicked this attitude is? An entire week in which others might have been influenced for good, in which others might have gotten converted had she only done what she knew to be the right thing.
5C. I want to ask you kids who have younger brothers or sisters a question. “Where will your little brother or sister go if they follow the leadership you are giving them now?” “If you continue on in the direction you are presently going, and if your little brother or sister follows you, where will he or she end up?” God will hold you accountable for your little brother or sister if they end up in Hell because of your poor example and your unwillingness to get converted.
6C. Parents? Listen to me. How dangerous is a 17 year old girl who visits our Church who’s a tramp, a slut, a little whore? Your unconverted child is more dangerous than a girl like that. Or how about a boy who comes in who uses drugs and who steals? Your unsaved kid is more dangerous. Why so?
7C. Those visitors have very little influence on our kids. But your own children who are unconverted and who resist the Gospel and who reject Christ have a profound influence on others. So, when are you going to start treating your unconverted kid as the dangerous to the cause of Christ person he or she actually is?
8C. I may love your kids more than you do. Oh, yes, I really do love your children more than some of you do. You see, some of you need for your kids to be nice to love. That’s why some parents work so hard to convince themselves that little precious is so nice. But I love him knowing that he is evil and dangerous to my ministry, that he undermines my efforts.
9C. So, if you love our Church’s children, don’t discourage them. And work to diminish their effectiveness in being a discouragement to others.
3A. Finally, LET US CONSIDER THE ENCOURAGEMENT THAT CHRIST GAVE TO BRINGING CHILDREN TO HIM
1B. He was “much displeased” that His disciples hindered the approach of the little ones, verse 14, and He rebuked them for it. In like manner, anyone who hinders children from coming to Church, or from coming to Christ, be it parents or others in the Church or their friends of their own age, is wrong. You are wrong to stay home when you could be at Church. You are wrong to keep kids home when they could be at Church. And you are wrong to so influence them by your own behavior that you discourage them from seeking conversion.
2B. The Savior ordered that they should be brought to Him, and that nothing be said or done to hinder them. So it is direct rebellion against Jesus Christ to keep children home when they could be at Church, to stay at home when you could be at Church, and to so act at Church that you hinder their prompt response to the Gospel.
3B. The Lord Jesus came to set up the kingdom of God among men, and took this occasion to declare that that kingdom admitted that little children can be subjects of His kingdom. As well, there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ receives.
4B. Each person must receive the kingdom of God as a little child, verse 15. That is, you must be like little children are to their parents, nurses, and teachers. You must be inquisitive as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe.
5B. The mind of a child is in many respects a white paper (tabula rasa--a mere blank), you can write on it what you will. But something will be written on it quickly. If not the truth then error, as has happened with many of our own children. When that happens, it is much more difficult to reach them with the truth, because their hearts are so hardened to the Gospel and so resistant to the truth. “But my child is very tender.” You think a child who cries easily is tender who at the same time grieves the Spirit of God? Don’t be a fool. You’re being manipulated by one who Jonathan Edwards called a viper.
1. Let us be encouraged by the encouragement of our Savior to bring our children to Him for blessing, even when they are too young to come to Him for salvation. And let us be comforted by the fact that He wants our children brought to Him.
2. At the same time, let us recognize with discernment the true nature of our children. “They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies,” Psalm 58.3.
3. Therefore, do not so readily think your child to be tender so long as he refuses Christ and stubbornly resists the wooing of the Holy Spirit. He lies to you who sheds tears easily to evoke a compassionate response from you.
4. At the same time little children are more tender than those older kids who are unconverted, those older kids who have for a longer time wallowed in their sins and cultivated their garden of wickedness.
5. They are easier to direct when they are younger, so long as the influences of others do not hinder them. I would that parents not hinder their own children with unwise choices. I would that others would not hinder their brothers, their sisters, and their friends, by their lazy or selfish choices.
6. Were it just little children and the Gospel for little children to consider, more would get saved and they would get saved younger. But the little ones have no wisdom, no judgment, no discernment. So, the girls look at their brothers and their mothers, as well as the preacher. The boys evaluate the importance of things by their dad’s priorities and their friend’s preferences, as well as the preacher’s urgings.
7. Parents, converted brothers and sisters, Christian friends of unsaved kids? It is extremely difficult to bring a child to Christ. That’s why Paul described the entire effort as “the work of faith” and “the labor of love.”
8. To get it done, I need you to pray really hard. To get it done, I need you to put forth some real effort during evangelism. You also need you to faithfully give to this ministry so our Church’s growth and development won’t be hindered and constricted.
9. And when our Church is excited with visitors who are getting converted, then our own children will be easier to reach. Feeling like you might be passed by as God works in the lives of others is a wonderful incentive for our kids to consider the Gospel seriously.
10. I urge you, between now and Wednesday night, pray hard for these kids and adults who went to camp. Some are getting serious, and others are realizing how foolish they are for having lost this last week to foolishness. At least one has greatly regretted the lamentable decision to go to school this week rather than camp.
11. But pray hard, and ask God to work powerfully over the next couple of days, and we’ll see what happens Wednesday night.