Leading a Child to Christ
By Mark Buhr and Barry Pendley
One evening, a man was startled to see his granddaughter choking in the driveway. He quickly sprang from his chair and ran frantically to help her. As soon as he reached her, he noticed a peculiar thing – her choking was deliberate. She explained to him that she had accepted Christ into her heart and wanted a better look, so she thought she would cough him up!
This true story simply shows that the gospel was not presented clearly to this child. This imaginative six year old took her teacher’s words literally. Since that time, that teacher has made some observations.
Say what you mean. The following phrases are frequently used by Christians when they give the gospel. However, to the young child, these phrases either give the wrong impression or no impression at all. It is the goal of the gospel giver to make sense to the child. The following statements by themselves are inadequate to convey the true idea of faith.
- Ask Jesus into your heart (or life).
- Come to Christ.
- Give your heart to Jesus.
- Believe in Jesus.
- Accept Jesus as your personal savior.
- Be born again.
Carefully lead a child. It has been said that children are the easiest to lead to the Lord. Children, for the most part, are easy to lead. To say that they are easier to lead to the Lord may not necessarily be true. It is difficult to stand by such a generalized statement. There are many factors that one should consider when leading a child to the Lord.
You are leading. Explain the gospel as clearly and as slowly as necessary so that when the child is ready to make a decision, it is of his own accord. Do not press the child to make a decision (manipulate) by saying things like, “You want to go to heaven, don’t you?”; “You want to be with your friends in heaven, don’t you?”, “You don’t want to go to hell do you?” etc. Don’t rush for a decision. Take your time! It is important that the child fully understand the message. If the child does not understand, he will be manipulated into an insincere decision.
When asked about how he would witness to someone if he only had one hour to speak, Francis Schaefer said he would spend 45–50 minutes showing him that he is a sinner who does not match God’s standard. Then he would spend the last 10–15 minutes preaching the gospel.
Will Metzger in his book [amazonify]0830823220::text::::Tell the Truth[/amazonify] notes the danger in approaching the gospel in a too simplistic fashion.
For Paul, the only right method of evangelism was the teaching method. Therefore, Scriptural evangelism has extensive – not minimal – instruction as its goal. In place of this Scriptural stance, since about 1900, a new method of packaging the gospel has now come into evangelicalism. We are to make the gospel readily transferable so as to gain the mental assent of the hearer. This has led to the idea of “the simple gospel,” which we all supposedly know as soon as we become Christians. But this approach encourages us to think of the gospel as a pill that will cure all. . . . Thus many of us abridge our analysis of the disease (sin), instead of taking time to expose the person’s sinful nature which creates the sickness. Our object has become merely to convince people to take the cure. They do not need to know the problem – just the answer.
Remember that the gospel message is the same for both children and adults. You may present the message in different ways, but the message itself must be explained. There are no legitimate shortcuts here.
Note some truths about the salvation of children:
- The Lord Jesus specifically invited children to come to Him.
- All who respond to Christ with understanding can be saved.
- Children are saved in the same way as adults.
- Children are saved to the same degree as adults.
- Children can often understand more than we give them credit for.
You are a fallible human tool. God is using you to explain His Word. He does not give you the ability to read a child’s mind. So, avoid telling a child “You are saved!” Let the Holy Spirit, by means of the Word of God, assure the child of that.
You are to use discretion. If the opportunity comes to lead a child to the Lord during an invitation; be inquisitive. This will help you “weed out” children who only want to follow their friends, go to the bathroom, or do something else.
Don’t overlook the basics. Child educators universally recognize that children have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Given that truth, many have attempted to boil the gospel down to simple truths. The danger is this: “Have they boiled the gospel down too far?” Some have. They speak voluminously of God’s love that they fail to mention the most basic elements of the gospel. So, what are the basic elements? In other words, what elements of the gospel are so important that if one fails to mention them, he has not communicated the gospel? The following propositionally lays out a solid plan for explaining the gospel to children.
- God is . . . the holy Creator who expects you to obey Him (Acts 17:24-27).
- You are . . . a sinner who does not obey Him (Ro 3:23; Isa 53:6).
- God hates sin and must punish sin . . . Therefore, sinners will go to Hell after they die (Isa 64:7; Ro 6:23; 2Th 1:8).
Christ is . . . God the Son who became a man and died on the cross in order to make one way of salvation. Since sin must be punished, you deserve Hell for punishment. However, because Jesus Christ was sinless, He was able and did take your punishment (Jn 3:16; Ro 5:8).
Therefore, man needs to repent of his sin. Repenting means that you turn from sin and follow God (Ac 8:22; Ac 26:20)
And man needs to place faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. Faith is knowing that these things are true, believing them, and trusting in Christ as your Savior and Lord (Ro 10.9).
The last two points, repentance and faith, are the most commonly overlooked elements in child evangelism. For proof, look at a number of tracts used for child evangelism. Rarely will you find these two concepts explained. If you neglect to mention the concepts of repentance and faith, then you have not communicated the gospel. Notice how the Bible repeats these themes in certain gospel passages.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Ac 3.19).
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Ro 3.22).
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Ac 20.21).
Your goal as a gospel giver is to communicate the entire message of salvation. There are many legitimate ways to present the gospel, but if one forgets to mention either of these two elements, he has not given the gospel.
What should we say? We have noted some misleading (vague) phrases at the beginning of this study. Now, the question comes, “What should we say?” The following are helpful replacements:
- You need to reject your sin and believe in Jesus to forgive you.
- You need to trust in Christ and what He did for you on the cross.
- You need to ask God to forgive your sin and trust in Him.
- You need to seek God’s forgiveness and commit your life to the Lord.
Are there other ways I can explain the gospel? There are many tracts for children today. Not all are the same. Most tracts written for children leave out the concepts of repentance and faith. Be wise and diligent in your search for biblically sound tracts.
Children like pictures. Use illustrations that help them visualize the gospel (or elements of it). Whatever illustration you use, make sure that children understand that salvation only comes through repenting and believing in Christ alone.