On Wednesay night, during the adult Bible study at First Baptist we looked at the topic of “The Gospel and Children.” I thought I would post some of my notes in order to help anyone who was looking for clarification, or would like to ask other questions.
The Gospel and Children
If you cannot explain the gospel you probably don’t believe it.
That statement is both a rebuke to those of us who don’t think about it often, and an encouragement because the gospel can be be understood by a child.
What are some popular ways to share the gospel?
- Romans Road
- Wordless Book
- Four Spiritual Laws (Campus Crusade)
- Bridge to Life (Navigators)
- Steps to peace with God (Billy Graham)
- Bridge Tract
- Two Ways to Live
These plans are helpful, but my goal is not to teach you a new plan, a secret tool, or a special key to success in evangelism.
There is no one-size-fits-all presentation, but there is only one gospel.
“We must be careful that we do not modify the gospel to suit various age groups. There is no such thing as a special gospel for the young, a special gospel for the middle-aged, and a special gospel for the aged. There is only one gospel, and we must always be careful not to tamper and tinker with the gospel as a result of recognizing these age distinctions. At the same time, there is a difference in applying this one and only gospel to the different age groups; but it is a difference which has reference only to method and procedure.” (from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, knowing the times [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989], 2) HT John Macarthur.
The order and presentation are not set here. There are some parts that need to be understood before others, but not everyone starts on the same page. Each individual has a different background and understanding. So my goal is not to teach you a presentation, but to remind you of the ingredients, so as you talk with someone they all are put into the bowl.
So, what is the Gospel?
- God – Holy
- Man – Sinful
- Christ – Sufficient
- Response – Repentance and Faith are necessary
- [Shared because of the Urgency of Eternity]
These components can be explained through:
- The Big Story of Scripture: Creation – Rebellion – Redemption – Restoration
- A Passage: Eph 2:1-10
- Or even a single verse: John 3:16
How does this match with what we normally say and do?
- How does some of the phraseology we regularly use fall short? “Ask Jesus into your heart.” “Accepted Jesus.” Etc.
- How do some of our methods fall short? “Pray this prayer.”
- Why do they fall short? What is the fundamental difference between the essential components of the gospel and how we often speak and act? I would say the difference lies in the fact that we often consider faith as a prayer we pray instead of a posture we assume.
- What problems does this present later? “Did I say it right?” “Did I really mean it?” “Do I remember it?” How are we supposed to test ourselves (2 Cor 13:5)?
Considerations for adults
- If we are focused on a prayer as faith, then we will probably ask a suspected unbeliever something to the effect of “has there ever been a time when you prayed and asked Jesus to come into your heart/forgive you of your sin/save you?” If they say no, we encourage them to say a prayer. If they say “I can’t remember,” we respond, “Would you like to make sure now?”
- However, if we see salvation as a gift from God through faith, we will want to ask about an individual’s posture before Christ. Instead of asking if they have ever said a prayer, we will want to ask questions revolving around the essential components of the gospel:
- “How would you describe your relationship with God?”
- “How do you think sin has affected humanity as a whole? How about you personally?”
- “Who do you understand Jesus to be? How did you come to that conclusion?”
- “Why do you think the cross was necessary?”
- “What do you think Jesus expects of people today?”
- “Are you confident in where you will go after you die? Why or why not?”
3. Encourage people to “test yourselves, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). You don’t do this by trying to remember a prayer, but by seeing if there if fruit of repentance and faith.
As one of our college professors explained, a farmer doesn’t check his fields by digging up the seeds everyday in order to see if there is life in the seeds. He waits and watches for growth. Don’t dig up your prayer – look for life.
Consideration for Children
- Recognize that we are trying to point them to Jesus, not get them to say a prayer.
- Be sensitive. Your bedtime stories should end with “Jesus is the answer!” not the words “fiery hell.”
- If they do make a profession:
- Do not assure them in their prayer (“Now that you have prayed and asked Jesus in your heart you will go to heaven no matter what!”).
- Instead assure them that Jesus is faithful (“When we trust in Jesus, he will always keep us!”).
From David Platt
- Maximize Interaction: Ask questions; Encourage conversation; Ask open ended questions
- Utilize Illustrations: Pictures; Concrete examples
- Use Repetition: Constantly emphasize the threads of the gospel; Prioritize this teaching; Encourage a posture of repentance and faith
I would encourage you to read J. D. Greear, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart. Especially pages 47-50.