Note: We are using “Children Desiring God” and their book “Helping Children to Understand the Gospel” as a resource for our parents and points and wording from this post are taken from the book “Helping Children to Understand the Gospel” and are not original with the author. Books can be ordered from their website if you would like to order one.
Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: Preparing Children for the Gospel
Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23; John 6:44; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
First, I need to make it clear that my audience for this talk is parents. It is absolutely vital that we understand that Gospel work in the lives of children is not primarily done by the church as surrogates for parents.
There are occasions where that is the only option because of unbelieving parents who are absent but the child is brought to a church and this is the only location that the child hears the good news. Still then, I would argue that this instruction is best served coming from a person who loves them and serves as an ambassador to them of this glorious reality called the Gospel.
With that said, I believe most of our context is that we are made up of parents. So, that means that I’m talking to you Dad / Mom.
Radical Kids provides fuel for you and a phenomenal impetus for you to go and do the work of an ambassador making an appeal on behalf of Jesus Christ himself, but RK is not a replacement for you.
RK is not free babysitting.
RK is a priming (kids for communion with Father, Son and Spirit), equipping (students and families to collide with culture) and preparing (kids for community in the church) work of TRCC that is there to boost your work at home.
A child will get theology, OT, NT and so forth for their time in RK, but that is only to serve your work at home. I’ll say more about that in a moment.
The culture we have inherited in the south perhaps anywhere the church is in the United States, at least, has been influenced from the past.
We have a tendency to view our children’s reception of the Gospel as an end rather than a means to an end (we want them to go to heaven, so we do whatever it takes to make sure we feel sure they are going to heaven regardless of how the child feels). This is a devastating flipping of priorities.
Reception of the Gospel on the part of a person is not an end. Reception of the Gospel is the beginning of a glorious life that is then spent pursuing another world called the Kingdom of God and this Kingdom’s King, Jesus, and living a life here that is built on the foundations of that coming Kingdom that is sure to burst into reality when the King has finished making disciples of all people groups.
When we view reception of the Gospel as the end, we leave growth in what it means to be a Christian out and we have lost generations to this flawed ideology and perhaps even their salvation has been missed. One cannot be a follower of Jesus and not live like his Kingdom is coming nor care that it is. Therefore, we have generations who wear the Christian t-shirt and possess the worldview of an atheist / Marxist / cosmic humanist and we wonder why the church is the west is in decline.
No, my brothers and sisters. Reception of the Gospel is only the beginning.
This ideology is more than likely the result of post great awakening revivalist preaching that put the emphasis on reception of the facts of the Gospel in the context of a large gathering of people. This was made popular by the great awakening’s method of Gospel communication and the culture’s embrace of the Gospel. However, it must be said that the Great Awakening’s preachers did not view reception of the Gospel as the end. That ideology has morphed somewhere along the way into what it is today.
Some evangelists, after the fact, continued to use this momentary strategy as “the” method of doing evangelism: facts, prove the facts, pray a prayer led by the preacher, Christian.
I would argue that although that was an effective method during the Great Awakenings, it was not intended to be the model for making disciples of children. It may be acceptable for grown men and women, but I would argue that children are completely different and must be treated differently.
So, how do we help children understand the Gospel? We need to ask some questions and provide some answers from Scripture.
I want to warn you, that the Scriptures never promise me that my children will be transformed by the Gospel. The Scriptures do tell me what the Gospel is, and they tell me who I am and they tell me how to imitate Father, Son and Spirit.
This may create a bit of angst in your chest. It does mine. And that angst causes me to work and scratch and fight with all vehemence and violence allowed to make sure my children at least get the Gospel story, their identity without the Gospel and what the Gospel demands. Beyond that, I trust the Lord. Children will respond differently to the Gospel, and we as parents need to be equipped to observe and discern what is going on and how to sow, what to sow, the kind of soil we are sowing into, how to tend and harvest.
Jesus addresses this and people’s response to the Gospel in Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23.
“Jesus’ disciples must have found it hard to understand how his proclamation of the kingdom of God, to which they had responded so enthusiastically, was not welcomed in the same way by all who heard it. This parable, with its four ‘scenes’, indicates that the response depends not only on the message (the same seed is sown in each case) but also on the readiness of the hearers to receive it. The three unproductive areas (the path, the rocky places and the thorns) are interpreted in vs 19–22 as representing different types of hearers: those who simply will not listen, those whose response is superficial and those who are preoccupied with other concerns. All three are familiar to any preacher of the gospel, then and now. The disciples should not therefore be surprised at the divided response to Jesus’ preaching.
The fault is in the hearers, not in the message. When the seed falls in good soil, it will be productive. In this way, Jesus assured his disciples that, despite the areas of hostility and inadequate response, there would be a harvest. Even in the good soil, however, there is room for some variation in the degree of productivity, a hundred, sixty or thirty times. In other words, disciples do not come in only one size or type, and there is room in the kingdom of God for the ordinary as well as for the spectacular.”
So, what are our questions?
1. Who is the sower?
2. What is the seed?
3. What kind of soil is in the hearts of children?
4. How do we sow, tend and harvest?
5. How do we lead a child to salvation, and what are the evidences of saving faith?
Today, we will answer the first question, then next week we will answer questions 2-5.
1. Who is the sower?
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 ESV)
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ESV)
God, himself, is the sower and we are his ambassadors making the Gospel appeal through our labor.
What are we to do as his ambassadors?
1. Pray for the promise of the New Covenant to take root in your children
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (Jesus is referring to this passage when he is telling Nicodemus in John 3:5 that a person must be born of the water and the Spirit to be born again)
2. Teach Scripture to your children (Jesus Bible Story Book, Sally Lloyd Jones), and when they learn to read, use the Bible as a way to help them practice reading and do it strategically (start with the Gospel of John).
3. Live out a life of faith in front of your children. Show them that the Lord is trustworthy.