"Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it" (Deut. 31:12, 13).
"Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:13, 14).
"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Cor. 2:1-5).
Of late years there has been a marked awakening, on the part of Christians, to the realization of the tremendous importance of Child Evangelism. By this is meant the winning of children to a saving and satisfying knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, as their Savior and a confession of Him as the Lord of their lives.
The ever increasing emphasis on this phase of gospel activity should be a cause for much thanksgiving to God, for it was long overdue. A great false religious system makes no secret of its aims in this direction, and boldly affirms: "Give us a child until it is eight years of age, and it is ours for life." This fact is also seen in the political realm, for in the ideology of both Nazism and Communism, great emphasis is placed on the education of children in their particular tenets.
While every true Christian realizes, in some measure, the value of child evangelism, yet many have but a vague idea of how to engage in it, and consequently do little or nothing about it. Others, in their zeal for the evangelizing of children, have allowed their enthusiasm to run away with their wisdom, and this is equally to be deplored.
Knowledge and zeal are essential partners in this work of winning the young for Christ. Knowledge without zeal results in a cold and formal orthodoxy, which accomplishes nothing. Zeal without knowledge issues in a hot and wild fanaticism that accomplishes altogether too much! The ideal combination is spiritual intelligence linked with warm enthusiasm.
We are assured in the Word that: "God hath not given to us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). The Christian worker amongst the young will discover how much he requires this combination of virtues. He needs the word of God to enlighten and furnish; the Holy Spirit to lead and empower; the love of Christ to constrain and restrain, and a sound mind to rightly form and consistently maintain his spiritual balance in this most important phase of gospel activity.
We shall consider three things regarding Child Evangelism; first, its delights; second, its dangers; third, its design.
I. The Delights of Child Evangelism.
There can surely be no more delightful task than to so teach the word of God that children shall be brought to a knowledge of their need as sinners, an acceptance of Christ as their personal Savior, a confession of Him as Lord of the life, and a subsequent growth in His grace and knowledge. This is the great aim of every true Christian worker among the young. There is no joy comparable to soul winning, and this is particularly true in regard to children. Let us enumerate some of these delights.
1. The delight of obeying the plain teaching of Scripture.
God has left us in no doubt as to His desire for children to be instructed in the Scriptures. He gave explicit instructions, through Moses, that when the people of Israel appeared before the Lord to have the law read to them, both men, women, children and the strangers among them, should be brought under the sound of the word of God. The purpose for this gathering is stated thus: "That they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known anything, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it" (Deut. 31:12-13).
One of the reasons given for certain of the ordinances of Israel was that they might become object lessons for children who were yet to be born. This is definitely stated regarding the feast of the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the redemption of the firstling of an ass, and the memorial of stones taken from the river Jordan. See Exodus 12:26; 13:8; 13:14; Joshua 4:5-7. Incidentally, here is the teacher's authority for the use of pictures and object lessons. God made provision for the curiosity of children and, from what they saw, they were to be instructed in the spiritual lessons conveyed by the object seen, or the incident related.
The following Scriptures should be carefully considered by all Christian parents and workers amongst the young, for they combine to emphasize the tremendous importance of the spiritual instruction of children. Josh. 8:35; Prov. 8:17; 29:15; 22:6; Eccles. 12:1; Isaiah 40:11; Neh. 8:2,3; 12: 43; Psa. 34:11; II Timothy 3:15.
Of course, these Scriptures presuppose parents who fear God, and consequently have the spiritual development of their children at heart. Unsaved parents are unable to give their children this spiritual training. The Sunday School teacher and the gospel worker among the young must therefore step into the breach, and give to these children the teaching that their parents cannot give them.
The story is told of a political orator who was addressing a crowd on a very hot day. A mother and her child were seated on the front row, and the child, becoming restless because of the heat, began to whimper. The speaker, noting the disturbance, and desiring to turn the interruption to his own advantage paused and then remarked: "Just listen to that baby!" Then, addressing the mother, he said: "I'll guarantee, lady, you wouldn't take a million dollars for that child, would you?" The harassed mother looked up to the speaker and with a smile replied: "No, I wouldn't take a million dollars for my baby, but I'll tell you what I am willing to do: I'll let you hold it for an hour!"
The moral surely is obvious. There are hundreds of children living in non-Christian homes all around us. While their parents would not sell them for a million dollars, they are willing to let the Sunday School teacher hold them for an hour on Sundays, and the wise Christian will take full advantage of this priceless opportunity, and use that hour to the best advantage.
2. The delight of heeding our Lord's words, and of following His example.
When, in the infinitude of His grace, the Son of God condescended to clothe Himself with humanity and become Man; He left us in no doubt, either by principle or practice, of the importance of work amongst the young.
Due to the fact that His public ministry was of such short duration, our Lord confined Himself largely to the instruction of adults. But even so, His words and acts concerning children are full of the deepest significance. The Scriptures to read in this connection are: Matt. 18:1-10; 19:13-15; 11:25-26; Luke 18:15-17; John 21:15; Matt. 21:15-16.
From these references it will be seen that Christ laid His hands upon and blessed them. (See also Mark 10:13-16). His words of rebuke to those who would have hindered the children have become the charter of the children's worker: "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." How intensely solemn are the words of warning He addressed to those who would offend, or stumble children: "Better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea!" (Matt. 18:6).
Christ used a little child to press home upon His disciples the necessity for the grace of humility (Matt. 18:1-3). He also used them to illustrate the fact that great truths are revealed to those possessed of a child-like spirit of simple confidence in God (Matt. 11:25-26). He drew attention to their loyalty to Him in contrast to the attitude of enmity showed by the Pharisees (Matt. 21:15-16). From all this we can surely gather that he who interests himself in the spiritual welfare of children is following in the footsteps of his Lord and Master.
3. The delight of being the first to cultivate the virgin soil of their hearts.
What an inexpressible privilege it is to be first to plow the fertile ground, and thus prepare it for the reception of the good seed of the word of God; and then to prayerfully and carefully sow this precious seed in their hearts and see it grow; and then to so cultivate the soil that fruit is produced to the glory of God, and the eternal blessing of the regenerated soul.
Children, unlike adults, have little to unlearn. They are characterized largely by simplicity, conscious weakness, trustfulness, naturalness, humility, affection and freedom from selfish ambition. What a delight, therefore, to have the care of these little ones and to bring them up for God!
4. The delight of approaching the child's receptivity of mind.
With the young there is a far greater readiness to hear and a willingness to respond to instruction from the word of God, than is the case with an adult. This fact may easily be verified by inquiring of an audience of Christians how many were saved before they reached the age of seventeen. Statistics seem to indicate that 75 per cent of Christians were converted before they reached this age.
Those competent to judge have declared that eighty per cent of a child's character has already been formed by the time it reaches eight years of age. The truth of the adage: "The child is the father to the man" is thus demonstrated. In view of this, the old saying: "Boys will be boys," should be changed to: "Boys will be men"! How important, therefore, to begin early with the spiritual education of the child.
A child's readiness to hear and respond to the word of God is due, in no small measure, to the absence of pride and prejudice, those twin evils that do so much to blind the mind and warp the judgment of the adult. Children are not only conscious of, but willing to admit their ignorance. By this very attitude they fit themselves to receive and retain knowledge. It has been well said: "The first step into the hall of knowledge is the confession of one's ignorance." Thus their minds being plastic, and their hearts tender, it is indeed a delight to be the honored instrument, under God, to mould them for Him.
5. The delight of the boundless possibilities of present blessing, and future usefulness.
Almost anyone may count the number of acorns that grow on an oak tree; but no human being has ever been able to calculate how many oak trees there are in an acorn, provided the acorn is planted in the earth. Take an acorn and plant it, and an oak tree will result. Plant the acorns of this tree, and as many more trees will develop. Plant the acorns of these trees, and continue this process ad infinitum and lo, a vast and illimitable forest will cover the earth! Now take a child, look carefully at this morsel of humanity and remember that, wrapped up in that little body, there are tremendous possibilities for either good or evil.
Every great preacher, missionary, teacher, or Christian worker, whose life has been a blessing to his fellowmen, was once a little child. On the other hand, every criminal, traitor and tyrant, whose life has been a curse to humanity, was once a little child. Each Christian would do well to pause and consider this fact, and then ask: "Is it possible that I can be used of God to lead this child to become a blessing to this world in which its lot is cast? Then let me dedicate myself to this noble task and seek, by all the means in my power, to so yield myself to God and be fitted by Him, that I may be used to accomplish this blessed result."
The story is told of Queen Victoria who, at a banquet attended by many brilliant scholars, scientists and political leaders of that day, remarked to John Bright the great orator: "Sir, where did all these great people come from?" The statesman replied promptly: "From babies, your majesty!"
6. The delight of seeing children won to Christ, led on for Christ, and then brought into fellowship with an assembly of believers.
If we consider children, merely from a financial standpoint, we shall discover they will prove a liability for a few years. A building has to be provided to which they can come. This has to be heated in winter and kept in repair. Bibles, hymn books, prizes, picnics, treats, and special meetings all mean expense to an assembly. Is this expense justified? Go to an assembly that has a well conducted Sunday School, and there will be no doubt as to the answer. It will be a most emphatic: "Yes, praise God!"
My good friend, the late H. P. Barker, used to delight in telling of a visit he paid to an assembly for a special effort in the gospel. On his arrival at the station, on Saturday evening, he was met by one of the elder brethren who was to be his host, and who remarked: "We are so glad you have come, brother Barker, there has been a great spiritual dearth in our midst, and we are looking to the Lord to bless your ministry, so that we may have some fruit in the gospel."
On Lord's day morning, when Mr. Barker came to the Lord's Supper, he was surprised to see row after row of young men and women, all of whom broke bread in remembrance of the Lord. Recalling the somewhat gloomy picture his host had painted of the spiritual condition of the assembly, he inquired of his friend: "Seeing you have had such a great spiritual dearth in the meeting, where did all these young men and women come from?" His host replied: "Oh, they are from the Sunday School!" Apparently this brother didn't consider that this was "fruit in the gospel!" Like many other short sighted individuals, he thought only in terms of adult conversions.
It is recorded that general Booth, of the Salvation Army, was once asked: "Were there any saved at the meeting last night?" He replied: "Yes, there were four and a half souls saved." The questioner inquired: "Do you mean four adults and one child?" "Oh no," replied the General, "I meant four children and one adult!"
Each assembly, if it is to survive, should have a Sunday School that is at least twice as large as the number of believers forming that assembly. The Sunday School has been well termed "the recruiting ground for the assembly," for it is from this source that most of its additions come. Thus from what, for many years, was a financial liability, comes a great spiritual asset that no assembly can possibly afford to be without! A childless assembly is a dying assembly, and it is to be feared there are many such. It is pathetic to visit an assembly composed almost entirely of aged believers. "Time like an ever-rolling stream" will bear away these elderly believers to be with Christ, and that assembly into oblivion.
Each assembly would do well to pray with Rachel: "Give me children, or I die!" It should then seek, by all the means in its power, to answer its own prayer and go in whole-heartedly for child evangelism. An assembly that takes the long view, and puts the emphasis of its gospel activity in winning the children for Christ, can look forward, in the goodness of God, to a long and spiritually prosperous life. It can be said of such a company what the Psalmist affirmed of the desirability of a large family of children: "Happy is the man (the assembly) that hath his (its) quiver full of them!" (Psalm 127:3-5).
7. The delight of anticipating the Lord's commendation and reward.
The words of Pharoah's daughter to Moses' mother should have a voice to each worker amongst the young: "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages" (Exodus 2:9). God will be no man's debtor, and any service done at His command will receive a more than adequate compensation. First, there is the present delight of doing the work of the Lord, in the will of the Lord, in accordance to the word of the Lord. Then there is the future anticipation of the Lord's commendation: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of the Lord!" (Matt. 25:20). Pay day is coming, and what a day that shall be for every faithful servant of such a royal and gracious Master!
While we cannot take our money, lands, or position with us into eternity, yet, thank God, we can take the children whom we have won for Christ, and led on in ways pleasing to Him. How grand it will be to be able to say in that day: "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me" (Isaiah 8:18).
Having seen something of the delights of Child Evangelism, let us consider:
II. The Dangers of Child Evangelism.
It may sound strange to some to hear of the dangers of gospel work amongst the young, and of special meetings for the purpose of evangelizing boys and girls. We are inclined to think only of this work in terms of delight, and certainly there can be no more delightful occupation than leading children to Christ. Nevertheless certain grave dangers really do exist, to which every Christian worker among the young would do well to pay good heed.
With this present day activity in child evangelism, as in all other phases of gospel work, there are certain definite dangers. Satan, with his host of wicked spirits, is ever ready to oppose the preaching of the gospel. If he cannot prevent it from being proclaimed, then he will attempt, by all the means in his power, to counterfeit the work of the Holy Spirit. He will seek to produce, through purely human and fleshly energy, mere empty professions of Christianity. This will further serve his purpose, for in this way his victims are blinded to their fatal lack of the essential regenerating power of the gospel. See Eph. 6:12-20; II Cor. 2:11.
This danger is particularly present in child evangelism. Children are naturally very curious, ingenuous, credulous, trustful, impressible and emotional. With their immaturity of experience, they are easily dominated by any adult who is possessed of a strong and attractive personality. Great care should therefore be exercised in dealing with them, lest an undue advantage be taken of their natural characteristics. Because of this, many have been pushed into making a premature profession of faith in Christ before they realized what it was all about. Consequently, these children are misled into believing themselves to be Christians, when they are nothing of the kind.
The first of these dangers can be described as
1. Emotion, with no motion towards God.
Children are emotional. Laughter and tears are close together in childhood, and they can pass from one to the other in a split second! The peril is to play upon their emotions at the expense of the intellect and the will. We shall note five things under this heading.
(1) It is often forgotten that children have to be saved in the same way as adults. God does not have two ways of salvation: one for adults and another for children.
Each child needs to be convicted of sin, repent, be regenerated, confess Christ as Lord, and live for His glory. "Even a child is known by his doings" (Prov. 20:11). Of course, the experience of a child at conversion is necessarily different from that of an older person, for a child's world is totally distinct from that of an adult (I Cor. 13:11). Nevertheless, true conviction, conversion and consecration can be evidenced, and in good measure, in young children.
Our Lord's words leave us in no doubt as to this. He spoke of the peril of offending "one of these little ones that believe in Me" (Matt. 18:6). The many thousands of godly Christian workers, all converted in childhood, testify to the reality of children being truly regenerated. Of Timothy it was said: "That from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Tim. 3:15). Many Christian children would put some adult Christians to shame by their love, devotion and service for Christ, often under the most adverse of circumstances.
(2) A skilled and dramatic speaker can play upon the emotions of a child.
In the excitement which is generated by mere emotionalism, such a speaker can produce results almost at will. In fact, these results can be practically guaranteed in advance, for they are based on expert psychological experience through observation. Some adopt the tactics of the high pressure salesman in gospel work, unmindful of the fact that unenlightened worldly wisdom and the use of carnal methods are no example to follow, and cannot accomplish spiritual results. We can only reap what we sow. Read I Cor. 2:1-5; II Cor. 10:4. It cannot be over emphasized that only the Spirit of God can produce genuine cases of regeneration. It is still true that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zech. 4:6). Psychological "pep" is a sorry substitute for spiritual power!
(3) We must ever remember that each child is a distinct personality.
This personality consists of the sum total of the expression of the intellect, plus the emotions, plus the will. Each of these three parts must be reached and won for Christ before true conversion can take place. In fact, a study of the word "heart" in Scripture, will reveal that sometimes the emphasis is on the intellect. See Luke 1:51,66; 2:35; 5:22. At other times, the stress is on the emotions. See Luke 21:26; 24:32; II Cor. 2:4; Rom. 9:2; 5:5. At still other times, the emphasis is on the will. See Acts 4:32; 11:23; Eph. 6:6; Rom. 10:11. There are other passages which seem to combine all three. See II Cor. 4:6; Matt. 12:34; Rom. 10:9-10. Thus the "heart" in Scripture involves the whole personality of man. Three things are therefore essential if a soul is to be won for Christ.
(a) The intellect must he enlightened by the preached word of God.
There must be an intelligent apprehension of the truth of the gospel on the part of the hearer. He must know his need as a sinner, God's provision in Christ for salvation, and the way by which a sinner may be saved. This demands a clear and logical presentation of the gospel on the part of the Christian worker. Muddied thinking, poor definitions, involved phraseology, and hazy illustrations, all combine to merely "darken counsel by words without knowledge" (Job 38:2).
(b) The emotions must be stirred.
A measure of fear is awakened as the hearer realizes the greatness and holiness of God, and the dreadful consequences of dying in his sins. Love, sympathy and gratitude are stirred as he hears of the love of God in the gift of His Son, and the sufferings of Christ on his behalf. A desire for salvation dawns, and he becomes anxious about his soul. This, of course, necessitates that the Christian worker has entered into the spiritual reality of his message. He should convey, both by the earnestness of his voice and the sincerity of his manner, that he really believes and feels these truths for himself. He must speak from heart to heart.
(c) The appeal must now be addressed to the will.
The will must be brought to a point of decision for Christ. Until this has taken place, there can be no true conversion. This should not be forced by high pressure methods, or emotional appeals; but should come spontaneously, from the inquirer himself. God respects the human personality. He appeals to the intellect, emotions and will; but He never forces a sinner, against his will, to trust the Savior. We cannot decide for the child. He must not only decide for himself, but he must know what he is doing and why he is doing it.
(4) When the emotions are stirred at the expense of the intelligence and will, mere empty professions will result.
This is the peril of child evangelism. "Make haste slowly," is good advice for a children's worker. Under the spell of mass hysteria, produced by an over emphasis on the emotions, children are rushed, by the hundreds, into a premature profession of Christianity. This not only swells the already overstocked market of such mere empty professors, but it does the child an irreparable injury. The impression has been conveyed to him that, having raised his hand, come forward, prayed a certain prayer, and perhaps signed a decision card, he is now a Christian; whereas, in many cases, nothing was further from the truth.
While mass production may be perfectly right and proper in the manufacturing of inanimate articles, each of which is identical with the other, it certainly is not God's method in the salvation of human beings. People are not saved in batches, or in wholesale lots. God is a God of infinite variety, and He saves each soul individually. Each Christian must have his own personal experience of God's saving grace and be able to say: "Behold God is my salvation. I will trust and not he afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation!" (Isa. 12:2).
Mr. George Goodman, a devout Bible student, a gifted author and a veteran children's evangelist of over fifty years experience wrote: "If I were asked for one thing, above others, from what evangelical Christians are suffering today, I should say: premature profession, leading to false assurance. The fruit is picked before it has time to ripen. Persons who have been 'converted once' believe they are safe, even though walking obviously, as the world does, 'in divers lusts and pleasures.'"
The purpose of vaccination against small pox is to give a person a mild attack of a similar disease, so that his body can successfully combat the virus of the real disease when it comes along. It is greatly to be feared that many have been merely "vaccinated" with a purely emotional experience of religion, and thereby rendered immune to the reality of God's salvation. Because they have had "it," they imagine they do not need "Him," who is the very essence of the gospel of God. Eternal life consists in being brought into living vital union with a Person, and that Person is Christ, the Son of God. (John 17:3; I John 5:11-13).
(5) True conversion therefore involves:
(a) An intellectual apprehension of the truth of the gospel.
(b) An emotional reaction to the facts which have been believed;
(c) A volitional decision regarding these truths, which leads to a definite acceptance of Christ as Savior, and a confession of Him as Lord of the life. As Paul puts it: "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (I Thess. 1:9). Thus, mere emotion, with no motion toward God, is a peril that must be avoided like a plague in children's work.
Often children are urged to "decide for Christ" without in the least knowing why they should decide, and what this decision involves. It will surely be admitted that there is a vast difference between "deciding to become a Christian," and actually becoming one. Suppose a boy says to his parents: "I have decided to become a doctor." Is he now a doctor? Far from it. There are certain essential conditions he must fulfil, ere his desire can become an actuality. He must apply himself to a prescribed course of study and successfully pass certain tests ere he can emerge with his M. D. degree.
So it is with becoming a Christian. Merely deciding to become one, does not make that person a Christian. While it is true that no one will become a Christian unless he decides to become one; yet the mere decision to become one does not constitute him a Christian. We must make perfectly clear just what is involved in becoming a Christian, and seek to "hold fast the form of sound words" (II Tim. 1:13). Otherwise, instead of enlightening, we shall only confuse the child.
We must ever have before us the fact that regeneration is not an end, but only a beginning. We enter the door, to walk in the way. We are born, to live. We are brought into the light, to walk in it. We come to Christ, to follow Him. We must ever remember that plowing, sowing and watering must precede reaping. The former may take months, the latter, moments. Reaping must never be at the expense of sowing. The curse of modern professional high pressure evangelism is that it does a minimum of sowing, from which it extracts a maximum of reaping. There is often only one ounce of gospel preaching which is followed by a ton of appeal!
It is a fairly common thing for the "invitation" to last longer than the gospel address. All sorts of clever schemes and devices are adopted, by which people are tricked into making some sort of a profession to satisfy the evangelist's insatiable appetite for statistics. These look quite imposing on paper, but, like everything else of a fleshly origin, "profiteth nothing" (John 6:36). It doesn't take long for the wind of testing to blow away the chaff of mere empty profession. The words of James 5:7 should be laid to heart by all Christian workers amongst the young: "Behold the husbandman (farmer) waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain." Faith to sow, patience to wait and wisdom when to reap are essential requirements for all workers with children. There are no "short cuts" in this process.
The second great danger could be termed:
2. Salvation by formula.
By this is meant a series of affirmative answers to a number of leading questions after which the child is assured he is now a Christian.
(1) Here is a sample series. Let us imagine a Christian worker speaking to a child.
(a) "Since God has declared that all have sinned, therefore this means that you, too, are a sinner, doesn't it?" Answer: "Yes."
(b) "If you die in your sins, you will be eternally lost, won't you?" Answer: "Yes."
(c) You believe that God loved you, and sent His Son to die for you on the cross, don't you?" Answer: "Yes."
(d) Since Jesus died for sinners on the cross, and you are a sinner, therefore Jesus must have died for you, didn't He?" Answer: "Yes."\
(e) "You will trust Him as your Savior, won't you?" Answer: "Yes."
(f) Having trusted Jesus as your Savior, you are now saved, aren't you?" Answer: "Yes."
(g) "You will confess Christ as your Lord, won't you?" Answer: "Yes."
Thus, having answered "Yes" to seven leading questions, the child is made to believe he is now a Christian! Words have been put into his mouth, the meaning of which he knew but little or nothing. All he did was to simply answer, "Yes," seven times.
(2) By all means give children the opportunity of staying behind, after a meeting, for further conversation, if they feel so inclined.
It is best to give the invitation at the beginning of the meeting. The speaker could announce something like this: "Should any of you boys and girls discover your need of salvation, and really and sincerely desire to be saved; you may wait behind at the close of the meeting, and I shall be glad to explain things further to you. But do not stay behind unless you know what you are doing." No further reference should be made to this after-meeting. If there is real soul concern, this announcement will be remembered, and the anxious soul, or souls, will remain behind for further conversation.
(3) Beware of asking boys and girls to hold up their hands, indicating they want to be saved, or you will have a landslide on your hands! Children love to hold up their hands. They do it dozens of times a day in school, and are eager for the opportunity.
(4) Children are also born imitators.
They love to play "follow the leader," and will carry this into the field of profession of Christianity. "Decision Day," in many denominational churches, has been responsible for a host of empty professions. Unregenerated, or poorly taught and over-zealous Sunday school teachers, will persuade their classes to go forward en masse. They urge them to "go to the altar;" or to "join the army of the Lord;" or to "unite with the church." With no clear conviction as to what they are doing, these children are encouraged to "make a start," or "make their decision." All this succeeds in doing is to swell the ranks of the already large multitude of dead "church members."
(5) Children are also very obliging.
If they admire a person, they will do almost anything to please him. They will even profess to be saved in order to give him pleasure! This is a very real and subtle danger. The overzealous preacher thus practically displaces the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The attention and the faith of the child is thus focused on a human being, instead of on the Son of God. God's word to the sinner is: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Our Savior plainly said: "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me." The words of the great invitation leave us in no doubt as to this: Christ said: "Come unto Me ... and I will give you rest." (Isa. 45:22; Matt. 19:14; 11:28).
We must ever remember that in dealing with children, we must be careful to put Christ, and Him alone, before them as the Object of their faith. The worker, like John the Baptist, must only be a "voice" (John 1:22,23). It is vitally important to realize that souls must be born from above by God, and not manufactured from beneath by man. (John 1:12; 3:3-8).
The salvation of a child has been well likened to the preparing of a fire in a stove. Paper is first placed in position, then light kindling wood, followed by heavier wood, and coal in its proper order and proportion. All that is now required for a fire is that a match be lit, and its flame applied to the paper. The preparation for the fire of salvation should consist in the wise and systematic instruction of the child in the holy Scriptures. He should be shown his need as a guilty sinner, God's gracious provision for his salvation in the gift of His Son, and Christ's substitutionary sacrifice on his behalf, and what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Added to this, there should be much earnest prayer for guidance and the blessing of the Lord. Having done this, the teacher can do no more; for only God Himself can light the match and apply the flame to the prepared fuel.
Every children's worker should take warning from Nadab and Abihu, lest he be tempted, as were these two sons of Aaron, to offer "strange fire" unto the Lord (Lev. 10). The "fire" that is generated by the energy of fleshly enthusiasm, is no substitute for the "fire" of Divine regeneration, which can only be produced by the Holy Spirit. In this work of winning the young for Christ, we must ever keep in mind that "Salvation is of the Lord," and that it is His sovereign act alone to save (Jonah 2:9).
While it is true that God uses human instrumentality; yet there is a point beyond which the Christian worker cannot go. This is where the spirituality of the worker, and the gift of Divine wisdom is absolutely essential. This alone gives the worker the ability to know when to press for a reception of Christ, or when to drive the sword of the Spirit deeper into the heart. It will be readily seen that this calls for spiritual discernment of a high order. Therefore the need for earnest believing prayer for spiritual wisdom from God. (James 1:5-6).
III. The Design of Child Evangelism or the Doing of it.
Having dealt with the subject negatively, let us now look at it positively, and offer a few suggestions as to methods of dealing with children who are concerned about spiritual things. These must be viewed only as suggestions. There is no such thing as a fixed formula for dealing with souls, for no two personalities are alike. The Scripture that might help one soul will not appeal to another. Spirituality, Divine wisdom, a humble spirit, much prayer, and a working knowledge of the word of God, are essential requirements for the Christian worker. These suggestions will also apply when dealing with adults.
Let us suppose, in response to the invitation which was given at the beginning of the meeting, a boy remains behind for further conversation. What is the best mode of procedure in dealing with him?
1. Question him. By this you will be able to discover just where he is spiritually, and what he already knows. This must be done in a kindly, but faithful fashion. Do not put words in his mouth by asking: "Have you stayed behind because you want to be saved?" The only obvious answer to this question is, "yes." Perhaps this boy was only curious, or just slightly interested in spiritual things. In fact, when interrogating a child, it is best not to put any question to him to which he can answer, "yes," or "no." Each question should be framed with great care, so as to elicit from him, in his own words, just where he stands, and what he knows.
(1) Ask him first: "Why did you remain behind?" He will now tell you, in his own words, his reason; and you can determine, by his answer, whether it is mere hero worship, curiosity, or genuine soul concern.
If the boy is only curious and unconcerned about his soul, do not detain him. Inform him, in a kindly fashion, that your invitation was only intended for those who were really anxious to be saved, because they had found out they were lost sinners. Then send him home with a good Scripture verse to think over, and ask him to come back to the next meeting. Remember, no human being can awaken an anxious thought concerning salvation in another's breast. This is the sole prerogative of the Holy Spirit of God. When He does it, there will be no doubt of its genuineness. Mark well that conviction, as well as salvation, is "of the Lord" alone.
The assertion has sometimes been made that any child can be led from indifference to salvation in half an hour by a skilled worker, specially trained for this kind of work. This utterly fails to take into account the fact that only God can awaken, convict and reveal His salvation to a soul. Such high pressure methods may be all very well for a car, real estate, insurance, or brush salesman, but not for the purely spiritual work that constitutes soul winning. The thousands of lifeless professors bear eloquent testimony that such man-made converts only constitute a menace to Christianity.
(2) If this boy, who stayed behind, replies to your query: "Because I want to be saved;" your next question could be: "Why do you want to be saved?" or: "What do you understand by the word, "saved"? If he has learned the truth of his true state before God, he will express it in his own way. Do not expect a learned disquisition on the ruined state of man by nature, but at least there should be, on the part of the inquirer, some realization of his need as a sinner.
(3) You could now ask him: "How do you think you can be saved?" His answer to this question will tell you how much, or otherwise, he has learned of the way of salvation. This will enable you to correct any wrong ideas he may have, such as: "I must pray," or: "I must become a better boy," etc.
(4) You may now inquire: "What has God done in order to make your salvation possible?" or: "If God does not want you to die unsaved, what has He done in order to save you?" This will test him as to his knowledge of God's love in the gift of His Son.
(5) Your next question could be: "What did the Lord Jesus do on behalf of guilty sinners that they might be saved?" This will draw from him his own conception of the work of Christ on the cross.
(6) On the basis of his answer to this question you could now ask: "What does the Lord Jesus want you to do with Him?"
(7) Lastly, you could inquire: "What are you going to do with the Lord Jesus?" or: "What do you intend to do about being saved?" His answer will indicate just how much he understands God's way of salvation.
To none of these preliminary questions can he answer, "yes." Each one is designed to draw from him the information that is vital to you, if he is to be led to an intelligent knowledge of Christ as his Savior and Lord. On the basis of his answers to the questions you have put to him, you can now form a fair estimate of what he knows and feels regarding the matter of his soul's salvation.
2. Now show him, from the word of God, his need as a sinner, and the provision for his need in the substitionary sacrifice of the Savior. Make each point clear as you proceed, by judicious questioning. Let him read the Scriptures for himself. Don't multiply texts, or he will be confused. If one text makes the point clear, let this suffice and proceed to the next point.
(1) Show him he is a sinner, lost and guilty. Use Isa. 53:6. Also point out the universality of sin in Rom. 3:10-19,23. Emphasize "none," "not one," "all." You could ask: "What does "all" mean? Who do you think this includes?" "What do you understand by the words: ‘none righteous'?" "What does ‘sinned' mean?" "What does God say you are?"
(2) Point out the consequences of dying in this condition. Rom. 6:23; John 8:21; Rev. 21:27. Test him with questions as to this fact. Ask: "What will happen to a person if he dies with his sins unforgiven?" "Supposing you were to die right now, where would God have to put you?" "What do you think is your biggest need at this moment?"
(3) Show him the work of Christ on behalf of sinners.
(a) That He came to seek and to save them. (Luke 19:10; Matt. 9:13).
(b) That He bore their sins on the cross. (I Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:5).
(c) That His death was for his sins. (I Cor. 15:3).
(d) That all the work needed for the salvation of the sinner has been done by Christ. (Rom. 4:25). Make much of the finished work of Christ and His resurrection.
(e) Some useful illustrations, (i) The substitutionary work of Christ can be illustrated very simply by one person paying the debt of another. (ii) A person risking his own life to save another from drowning is good. Ask: "What would that saved person say to his rescuer?" Then point out that this is what the Savior did for us. He came from His bright home above, into the waters of sin and judgment to rescue sinners, and died and rose again to do it. What does He now want us to do with Him, or say to Him?
(iii) Using the two hands to illustrate the truth of Isa. 53:6 is excellent. Let the left hand represent the sinner; a book, the sins of the sinner; and the right hand, the Savior. Place the book on the open palm of the left hand and ask: "Where are the sins of the sinner?" He will answer: "They are on the sinner." Now let him read: "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way." Then ask again: "Since this is true, where are the sins of this straying and wilful sinner?" He will answer again: "They are on the sinner." Then let him read the concluding part of the verse: "And the Lord (God) hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." Now lift the left palm, with the book on it, and place it on the right palm and ask: "Now where are the sins of this straying and wilful sinner?" He will reply: "On the Savior." Then ask: "Who put these sins on the Savior?" The answer, of course, is "God." Now inquire: "When did God put these sins on the Savior?" The answer is: "When He hung on the cross" Then ask: "How do you know God put these sins on Jesus?" The answer is: "This verse from God's word tells me so." Make this clear to him before proceeding, for this truth is vital to the matter of salvation.
Now test by questions again. "What did Jesus come into the world to do?" "Why did He go to the cross?" "What did He do on the cross?" "Since Jesus did all the work needed for our salvation on the cross, what is there left for us to do in order to be saved?" "What are you going to do with the Lord Jesus because of all He did for you?"
(4) Show him, simply and clearly, the way to be saved. That it is
(a) To believe on Him. (John 3:16).
(b) To receive His gift of eternal life. (Rom. 6:23).
(c) To trust Christ as his own Savior, believing Christ died for him, individually. (Isa. 12:2; Eph. 1:13).
(d) To thank the Lord Jesus for all He did for him on the cross. (II Cor. 9:15).
(e) To confess Christ as the Lord and Master of his life from now on. Show that this involves separation from all known sin, and all that displeases his Lord. (Rom. 10:9, 10).
(f) All these points can be illustrated. To believe is to accept, as true, the word of another. Picture him receiving a letter from his father who was visiting a distant town. Would he believe what his father said? Why would he believe? Because he was his father. To receive could be illustrated by a boy without arms receiving a gift of flowers. He cannot touch them, and yet he can accept them and thank the giver. How does he receive them? In his heart. To trust could be illustrated by putting money in a bank, in full confidence that it will be kept safely. Urge him to commit himself to Christ for salvation and eternal security. (John 10:27-30; II Tim. 1:12).
Now test again by questions. "What do you think the Lord Jesus wants you to do with Him?" "What does it mean to believe on Him; to receive Him; to trust Him?" "What are you going to do with the Savior?" "When are you going to trust Him?" "What will happen if you believe on Christ?" "How will you know that you are saved?"
If, from his answers and demeanor, you judge he is ready to trust Christ intelligently, by a definite act of faith, suggest that he go down on his knees and tell the Lord Jesus what he is going to do with Him. Do not prompt him, or have him repeat a prayer after you, but let him use his own words and speak audibly, as though the Savior were in the room with him. From his words you can now gather whether he has really seen his need, apprehended the work of Christ, and definitely trusted Christ as his own personal Savior. If he does not appear clear as to these things, deal further with him until such time as he does see these things for himself. Do not, by any means, force a decision, or put words into his mouth.
If, from what he says, you judge he has really grasped the truth as to his need as a sinner, and of Christ's substitutionary work on his behalf, and has definitely and clearly received Christ as his Savior; join him in thanking the Lord for having brought this sinner to trust the Savior. Do not tell him he is saved. Let him discover this for himself from God's word.
(5) Show him that the word of God is now the basis for his assurance of salvation. Anchor him to the word of God. Use John 3:16; 5:24; 10:9; I John 5:13; Acts 13:38; Rom. 10:9,10. Test him again on this subject: "What did you do to be saved?" "How do you know you are saved?" "What does the Lord Jesus expect of you now that you profess to be saved?" "Supposing, tomorrow morning the Devil suggests to you that you are not saved, what answer could you give him?"
It will surely be perceived that this method is a vastly different thing from putting a few leading questions to a child and having him answer "yes" to them! Far rather be used of God to lead one soul definitely to a saving knowledge of Christ, than make ten thousand empty and lifeless converts. We need to be very thorough, and take plenty of time in this vitally important matter. Make sure the inquirer really sees his need, understands the way of salvation, definitely trusts Christ as his Savior, and is assured, from God's word, of his salvation.
This may not take place at the first interview, but may require two or more interviews. If it is thought he is not ready to be saved at the first interview, arrange another meeting with him. Remember, this is a matter of eternal importance, and that only the Holy Spirit can reveal Christ to the soul. The worker must keep constantly in mind that he is only an instrument to be used, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as He directs. He must beware of either rushing ahead of God, or of lagging behind.
One thing is certain: sickly, shallow, skimpy and sentimental personal work is a menace to the gospel. The aim of each Christian worker among the young should be to so study to show himself approved unto God, that he will become "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" (II Tim. 2:15). Each Christian worker would do well to pay heed to the inspired words of Jeremiah 48:10, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord negligently" (margin).
Years ago a friend of mine told me that forty children remained behind at his first meeting of a series. He divided these forty children among his five fellow workers into as many classes. For the next two weeks these same children stayed behind each night; but each night they were placed in a different class, so that each child had the benefit of instruction from each of the workers. At the end of this period, having been well grounded in the gospel, each child professed faith in Christ. My friend informed me that though over thirty years had passed since those meetings, he personally knew of thirty of those boys and girls who were then in happy association with the Lord's people, in assembly fellowship.
3. When several stay behind, interrogate each one individually to discover how many are really concerned. Then turn these over to experienced individual workers: preferably a boy to a man, and a girl to a woman.
4. Where such personal workers are unobtainable, address the group as a whole, but as though dealing with an individual. Ask questions, and let each one answer for himself. Thus, the way of salvation will be taught, as to a class. A good test is then to ask all those who really trusted Christ and who know they are saved, to wait behind the next night and tell you about it; or ask them to write you a letter, describing in their own words what they understand the way of salvation to be, and how they know they are saved.
By these means, the Christian worker will be delivered from the subtle temptation to "heal slightly" the souls of these young people, by saying: "Peace, peace, when there is no peace" (Jer. 8:11). The quantity of professions will be diminished by these means; but this will be more than compensated by the quality of the converts. May we prayerfully seek, and diligently use the Divine wisdom and enabling that alone can fit us for this important service! (James 1:5-7; 3:17; Prov. 11:30).
It is the earnest prayer of the writer that these suggestions may prove helpful to all who are engaged in this great work of bringing the gospel to boys and girls. May it be ours, as "workers together with God," not only to realize and discharge our responsibilities to the young; but also to carefully note and avoid such dangers as we have indicated. The reward in a coming day will not be given to the successful, but to the "faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21). The Lord grant we may each merit this commendation in "that day"!
From Child Evangelism: Its Delights, Dangers and Design... by Alfred P. Gibbs. 2nd ed. Kansas City, Kansas: Walterick Publishers, [n.d.]