Foundational Keys to Evangelizing Children
It is not enough for parents simply to avoid these common pitfalls (see yesterday’s post)—they must also seek to put into practice the following keys to child evangelism.
1. Setting a Consistent Example of Godliness
Evangelizing children consists not simply of verbalizing the gospel with one’s mouth, but also of exemplifying it in one’s life. As parents explain the truths of God’s Word, children have the unique opportunity to observe their lives up close and to see whether they seriously believe what they are teaching. When parents are faithful not only to proclaim, but also to live out the gospel, the impact is profound.
Because marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church (Eph. 5:22–33), the relationship between the parents as husband and wife is particularly significant. In fact, aside from the parents’ fundamental commitment to Christ, the single most important foundation for successful parenting is a healthy, Christ-centered marriage. Setting a consistent example of godliness is indispensable.
2. Proclaiming the Complete Gospel of Christ
The heart of evangelism is the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). If a child is to repent and believe in Christ, then, it will be through the proclamation of the message of the cross (1 Cor. 1:18–25; 2 Tim. 3:15; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25). Children will not be saved apart from the gospel.
For this reason, parents need to teach their children the law of God, teach them the gospel of divine grace, show them their need for a Savior, and point them to Jesus Christ as the only One who can save them. It is best to start from the beginning—God, creation, the fall, sin, salvation, and Christ in His life, death, and resurrection.
As they teach their children, parents must resist the temptation to downplay or soften the demands of the gospel and must proclaim the message in its fullness. The need to surrender to the lordship of Christ, for example, is not too difficult for children to understand. Any child who is old enough to understand the basic gospel is also able by God’s grace to trust Him completely and respond with the purest, most sincere kind of repentance.
The key is to be clear and thorough. Parents more than anyone have ample time and opportunity to explain and illustrate gospel truths, to correct misunderstandings, and to clarify and review the most difficult aspects of the message. The wise parent will be faithful, patient, and persistent, being careful to look at every moment of the child’s life as a teaching opportunity (Deut. 6:6–7).
One such teaching opportunity is found in the parents’ responsibility to discipline and correct their children when they are disobedient (Eph. 6:4). Rather than seeking simply to modify behavior, the wise parent will look at discipline as an opportunity to help his children become aware of their failure and inability to obey, and subsequently, their need for forgiveness in Christ. In this way, discipline and correction are used to bring children to a sober assessment of themselves as sinners and to lead to the cross of Christ where sinners can be forgiven.
As parents explain the gospel and exhort their children to respond to the gospel, it is best to avoid an emphasis on external actions, such as praying “the sinner’s prayer.” There is an urgency inherent in the gospel message itself—and it is right for parents to impress that urgency on the child’s heart—but the focus should be kept on the internal response Scripture calls for from sinners: repentance from sin and faith in Christ. As parents diligently teach the gospel and take opportunities each day to instruct their children in the truth of God’s Word, they can begin to look for signs that their children have indeed repented and believed.
3. Understanding the Biblical Evidences of Salvation
The evidence that someone has genuinely repented of his sin and believed in Christ is the same in a child as it is in an adult—spiritual transformation. According to Scripture, true believers follow Christ (John 10:27), confess their sins (1 John 1:9), love their brothers (1 John 3:14), obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3; John 15:14), do the will of God (Matt. 12:50), abide in God’s Word (John 8:31), keep God’s Word (John 17:6), and do good works (Eph. 2:10).
Parents should look for an increasing measure of this kind of fruit in their children’s lives as they continue to instruct them in the truths of the gospel. In addition, parents should be fervent in their efforts to teach their children about Christ and their need for salvation, but they should also recognize that an essential part of that work is to guard them from thinking they are saved when they are not.
Understanding the biblical evidences of salvation—and explaining them to one’s children—is foundational to this work of protection.
4. Encouraging Possible Signs of Conversion
Because of the immaturity and fickleness of children, it is tempting for some parents to write off childlike expressions of faith as trivial, or even meaningless. In contrast, parents should encourage every sign of faith in their children and use the opportunity to teach them even more about Christ and the gospel. When a child expresses a desire to learn about Jesus, parents should feed that desire and encourage the child when they see possible signs of conversion.
Even if parents conclude it’s too early to regard their child’s interest in Christ as mature faith, they must not deride a profession of faith as false, for it may be the seed from which mature faith will later emerge. Instead, the parent should continue to point that child toward Christ, teaching the truth of God’s Word with patience and diligence, and always looking to the One who is able to open hearts to respond to the gospel.
5. Trusting the Absolute Sovereignty of God
The greatest need of children is to be born again. Regeneration, however, is not something that parents can do for them. Parents may pressure their children into a false profession, but genuine faith and repentance can only be granted by God who regenerates the heart. Put simply, the new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit and Him alone (John 3:8).
The salvation of children, then, cannot be produced by the faithfulness or diligence of parents, but only by the sovereign work of God Himself. Such a realization should bring comfort to parents. In addition, it should motivate them to bathe their evangelistic efforts in prayer to the One who does His work where they cannot—in the child’s heart.
Article from Pulpit Magazine