Andy Peck gives you some appoaches that will help you lead your child to faith
I was in the back of a car, where were you?
I’m referring to the time when I became a Christian. I was aged seven and travelling in a pale blue Ford Anglia with my parents on the Isle Wight where I was born and deciding that I really did need to make absolutely sure but I was going to heaven when I died.
I attended church with my family: three times on a Sunday including Sunday school prior to the 11:00 o’clock service. In our church we had a 6.30 Gospel service in the evening so preachers would typically outline the importance of choosing for Jesus. The choice of eternity in paradise with my family or eternal conscious torment in hell was a bit of a no brainer even for a seven year old! I don’t remember anything about what I said, but I remember telling God I was on his side and asking for Jesus to be my saviour.
Looking back I’m not sure I quite see things in quite the same way - especially my understanding of what hell may or may not be which is a bit more refined. But that’s a whole other article…
But earnest parents up and down the country, perhaps including you, are asking the question about the state of faith of their children. I appreciate that those who had their children christened may be less concerned, but even they are looking for signs that they are following the faith and that their ‘confirmation’ to be genuine.
And although you may be delighted to be asked ‘how’ by your child, how should you respond?
1. Looking for the motivation
As much as you may be keen to stop everything and take your child through a prayer there and then, it is worth checking what’s going on. After all Jesus’ Parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15) tells us that at least two ‘soils’ who respond to the Word don’t get very far ( I am thinking of the rocky and thorny soils)
So without giving you the precise words, a response like: “that’s really great to hear, what makes you want to become a Christian?” would be wise.
Are they simply trying to please you? Are they feeling especially bad about something they have done? Are they wanting to keep up with their friend(s) who have come to faith.
I am not suggesting there is some ‘pure’ motive that you are looking for: but you are wise to make sure they are ready.
2. Counting the cost
There are versions of the Christian faith where you pray ‘the sinners prayer’ and you are ‘in’!
I am not questioning the wonderful simplicity of responding to Jesus, but he stressed the cost of following and you will recall many stopped following when they realised what it really meant.
Now who of us is fully ready for what following Jesus may really mean? We can only respond to what we know at the time of coming to faith and trust God to provide all we need to take the next step. But whatever discipleship means it will mean turning away from all we know to be sinful and trusting in Jesus as leader of our lives. There is no one formula (form of words) given in the New testament to ‘use’ in order to make our conversion ’kosher’. But all do include the need to ‘repent’, change your thinking. Here’s three examples
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matt. 4:17)
Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath (1 Thess 8b-10).
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:9)
Chances are your child has some grasp of this in asking the question and especially if the Holy Spirit is convicting them of sin. But checking they know the need to turn from sin, is very important.
3. Understanding the Gospel
If all this sounds a bit deep for your child, then so be it. The Christian faith is wonderfully simple and also profound. Do they know enough about Jesus to know what they are doing? This question might lead you to study the Gospels with them, or go through a basic Christianity course.
If they don’t want to do this, maybe that’s a sign that they are not quite ready? It’s not about being academic, but it is about helping them understand something of the wonder of the Gospel news so they can embrace it joyfully.
4. Praying a prayer
But if you are sure they are ready. What do you say and do? Metaphors abound to describe what happens when we come to faith.
Growing up our local evangelist used to speak of ‘inviting Jesus into your heart house’.
The Two Ways To Live outline has images of you having a crown on your head, suggesting you are the ruler and coming under Jesus who has a crown on his head. There are two ways to live: with you running the show, or acknowledging that Jesus is the world’s true leader
You may be familiar with the ’bridge illustration’ with the u shape valley and humanity on one side of a chasm and God’s people on the other and a cross in the middle with the middle beam providing a way to walk from one side to the other.
Many have used the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
You thank God for his love and the gift of his son who died and rose and say you believe in Him and have confidence that his life death and resurrection have the power to save you from perishing and enter into ‘eternal life – a life that begins now and goes beyond death.
These illustrations may help, but God’s not in the least concerned by the precise words, and welcomes all who truly turn to him, whatever they say.
5. We are all in process
Children are notoriously fickle and capable of siding with the angelic and the demonic, seemingly in the same afternoon! So when a child has made a decision to follow we can expect the spiritual pathway to be bumpy. Don’t use their faith step as leverage to get them to ‘behave’ as you want(!) ‘Now that you are a Christian I expect….’ They are growing, they may have times of falling backwards, wondering whether they have made the right choice.
It is the Christian’s job to ‘work out’ what God has ‘worked in’ and they like us will have good days and bad days, good seasons and bad ones. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2:12,13)
6. We’re part of a community
Of course you want to he is engaged as much possible in your children’s journey of faith but there will be others: their peers and other adults who may be better placed to speak into their lives. And that’s fine. Coming to faith or learning our faith best takes place in community and so do all that you can do to help your children be with other Christians.
I have never regretted my time with God in the back of a car. I may see it differently now and God may know that he was at work in me even before that. Your role is to work with him in what he is doing in and with your children and trust him to take them on into the future he has for them. Why not pray for your child right now?