Evangelism Of Our Pagan Kids

evangelism

My wife and I were discussing this the other day: there are more non-Christians in our home than there are Christians. We weren’t talking about what happens when, heaven forbid, a child dies, but the fact remains: none of our kids (aged 5, 2, and 1) have accepted Christ, and our oldest is getting to the age where we are starting to introduce her to the concepts of sin, grace, forgiveness, and repentance. Until the day they all (Lord willing) fully grasp these things though, the uncomfortable truth remains:

Our Kids Are Sinners

Can we get that uncomfortable truth out of the way early? Our kids, yours and mine, are all little pagan sinners. Can we all just say that out loud? I’m not even talking about the sin nature that is passed along to all of us from Adam, I mean actual, real-world sins of commission. After all, did you teach your kids to be selfish or defiant? Did you teach them to talk back and sass you? Did you teach them to throw temper tantrums in the grocery store? Of course not, odds are you’re a great parent, and you’re raising your kids well, but they still behave like this, they still sin, and it’s our job to teach them how to behave in the world. Mike McGarry does a great job of expanding on this idea. Even if we are Christians, our kids are sinners, we need to recognize that.

God Never Promises To Save Our Kids

It’s true. There is nowhere in the Bible, no verse that God promises to ensure all the kids from Christian homes become Christians. Even the staunchest covenant theologian would say that the individual must make a profession of faith and repent for themselves. There’s no Biblical guarantee of that. Alternatively, there’s no guarantee that, for a Calvinist, that our kids are a part of the elect. The best we can do is our best human effort to teach, train and equip our kids by living a Christ-filled, grace-filled life, teaching them the Gospel, and praying that the Holy Spirit convicts them and God saves them. When I realized that, in those terms, I realized that many of us are doing evangelism backwards.

The Evangelism Of Our Kids

Children are the closest thing we have in our world to understanding unconditional love. But it’s not unconditional. I love my kids, but there’s a condition on that love; they are my kids. Now, there’s no changing the fact that they’re my kids, but my point is that I love my kids because they’re mine, I don’t (and shouldn’t) love your kids the same way and to the same degree that I love my own.

Here’s my point about Evangelism though: my kids don’t have to behave a certain way to be allowed into my family, and they also don’t need to be “good kids” before I share the Gospel with them. In fact, there’s nothing they can do that would make me stop loving, caring, and teaching them about Jesus. There is nothing they can do to stop being my kids. When they sin, as their father, it is my role to correct them, but they don’t stop being my kids. Put another way: Their behaviour does not dictate or determine the love I have for them.Their behaviour does not dictate or determine the love I have for them. Click To Tweet

The Evangelism Of The World

So, why do we treat “traditional evangelism” any differently from evangelism inside the home? Why do we treat people outside of our immediate familial bubble any differently when it comes to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to them? My kids belong to me whether they behave or believe; why, then, do so many believers think evangelism done outside the home is any different? You don’t need to believe OR behave to belong. If you’re not a believer, I’m not concerned about your behaviour at all. All the good that I do, all the righteous things I do come out of a heart of thankfulness for the thing that Christ has done for me. Dying on a cross and being raised again. Why in the world would I insist that ANYBODY who isn’t a Christian behave like a Christian when they don’t have that understanding of and heart of thankfulness for the Gospel? After all, the prophet Isaiah himself (Isaiah 64:6) calls righteousness without faith a “filthy rag” and useless. In essence, if we put behaviour before the Gospel, Isaiah tells us we are wasting our time.

Evangelism isn’t hard, it isn’t intimidating, it’s easy. Love people, be kind, live thankfully for the grace you’ve received, and don’t talk about behaviour until after you’ve talked about the gospel.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t judge others just because they sin differently than you do.

4 thoughts on “Evangelism Of Our Pagan Kids

  1. This made me think of a few things. I probably have gone too deep here, but here are the wheels that are turning because of your post:

    (1) I am curious. Have you kids talked about how much the love Jesus or something like that? I pray with my kids and they say in prayer that they love Jesus and that they are sorry for the wrong they do. Admitfully, it they also say they love Paw Patrol and tell God that Jesus should be good too, but there is a proto-faith there that the category of “pagan” does not match. Yet, they are not mature believers either. This is why I think believer baptism is so important for children growing up in the church. They need a sign marker to mark not when they said the sinner’s prayer a hundred times (I personally was saved several times at Acquire the Fire), but a step of baptism that solidifies that they are not just saved or have faith, but have maturely repented and maturely taken responsibility for faith beyond the innocence of childhood. I think my children are saved right now. The question is whether they will be disciples.

    (2) Your statements on God not promising to save our children is interesting. What do you make of God’s “abounding love” to “a thousand generations” in Ex. 34 but only punishing sin to the “third and fourth?” That seems to suggest that if we are under the depravity of Adam’s curse, how much more do all people have the promise that the head of the serpent will be crushed (or the promises of restoration in the other covenants)? While Baptists emphasize individual responsibility, rightfully so, do we not forget these pervasive promises?

    (3) On the other angle, I find Calvinist talk of eternal security completely worthless. Yes I trust that God will save me even if I fail, but there is not tangible way of judging salvation that is not connected with obedience (this is my Anabaptist soteriology coming out). I have seen many Christians be told “you are eternally secure if you have faith,” who turn around and becoming non-practising, still assured that they are going to heaven. These people are in turn interpreted as “never saved to begin with,” and here, the notion of who the elect are becomes completely conditional on visible works and completely agnostic to the Calvinists (“Only God knows who the elect are” = I don’t actually know where I am eternally secure). For that reason, I reiterate to my kids that to be a Christian is to be loving and just. God has always has mercy on us when we do wrong, but we act on these things if it is a real relationship.

    (3) I have for a long time stopped being a Calvinists. Pertaining to my previous point, I don’t think election predetermines salvation (Clarke Pinnock as well as Dale Moody have demonstrate that election is open) or that it means simple election to salvation. Israel did not see just themselves as saved. Rather they saw themselves as particularly blessed so that they could be a blessing to all nations (Abraham) or a nation of priests. This is important because I think a Christian parents concern is not just the salvation of their kids in the shallow evangelical sense. It is to get them to live fully obedient to God in order to take up their calling to bless others in this world It is not to got to heaven (for that would be a really selfish notion on our part) but to realized that are are called to bring heaven to earth. It is not because God loves us or our kids more than others, it is because God want to use us and our kids for his Gospel purposes.

    Anyways, there are my thoughts.

    1. Spencer, I think you made some excellent points. I disagree with your general critique of Calvinism, but I do think that our depth of understanding in regards to what Scripture teaches of salvation and sanctification is horribly shallow, and that as a result, we often suffer from inconsistent ideas of what it means to be saved, and what we expect to see from those who claim to be saved.

      I do think that it’s important to realize that there are ditches to fall into regardless of whether one accepts the Reformed doctrines of grace. It’s absolutely true that many who believe in the concept of the “perseverance of the saints” fall into some sort of Antinomian nonsense. It’s equally true that many who reject that concept fall into a sense of works righteousness. In regards to the “works” comment, I would say that much of your critique is right to whom it would be applied; however, I would argue that such a belief is a perversion of that doctrine and not its true form.

      Also, I greatly appreciate that you brought up the OT promises regarding offspring. I’ve been wading through those passages for a little while now and most people don’t even recognize that they exist.

  2. It should be noted that there is a difference between talking about behaviour in relation to making yourself outwardly righteous and talking about behaviour in regards to revealing sin and calling to repentance. If we are pointing out sinful behaviour simply because we want people to look good on the outside, then we are obviously wrong and don’t understand the Gospel; yet to be faithful to the Gospel, we are required to talk about behaviour, particularly in relationship to God’s law, since “we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” This applies to both those inside and outside our home.

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