Monday, August 10, 2009

Twin gospel concerns

There are two thoughts I have had stemming from watching children respond to the gospel last June.

This year's CEF five-day kid's club had twenty-six children. A few of them were ones I felt had never heard the gospel before, and two little girls who believed in Jesus that week were ones whose mom was reluctant to let them go when I met her. Praise God!

CEF later sent the attendance record sheet for my club with all the names of the kids along with a general newsletter. At the bottom there was a tally:

Decisions, First Time: 6

Assurance: 1

I know most of these kids pretty well. One of the "first times" is my niece. She is five so perhaps she did not understand previous presentations of the gospel. She doesn't have a church-going family but she has me and AWANA. I wonder - was this really her first moment of faith in Jesus?

Another one is a boy belonging to a Spanish pentecostal church, but the mom seems to have a very good understanding of scripture and an active faith life. I wonder... was this really his first profession of faith?

Another eight year old girl is one I am pleased with. She came to the backyard club last year and I am sure, she was a "first time professor" of faith at that time. Then she came to club this year and is again a "first time professor" of the faith. Then I directly took her the following Monday with me to church to a VBS program, and Bonnie and the bible story teacher pulled me aside and said, "She accepted Christ today, but, she seemed to know a lot about the gospel. Was this really her first time?" I said, actually no. They said, "Hmm. Well, you might read her john 10 or other assurance passages."

I am concerned. A 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 gospel message is a/the gospel that saves the lost. Those who are receiving the Word of God are often not expressing faith that they are saved. What if the gospel has become just a list of beliefs to profess? What if the children do not understand that they have been invited by Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life? This is one point of reflection I have gained through this experience.

But I have a second point of concern.

There were some older boys and their little gang who I had longed to share the gospel with last summer but they do not live in this area and disappeared for the '08-'09 school year. I was thrilled to see them wandering around again this summer. I invited them but they didn't show up till the following week. Monday at two o' clock there was a knock on the door. "We're here for the club!" they declared. I laughed and said, "You missed it, I'm so sorry guys!" They asked what they missed, and I said, "come here and I'll show you!" They all sat patiently through the CEF Wordless Book gospel. I had them bow their heads and hopefully pray with me according to their own sense of believing what they had heard from scripture about becoming a child of God. Those two boys said, "We want to learn how to read the bible." I said, come and see me and I will teach you, okay?

I was pretty excited about that but somehow they did not come around very often. Then two weeks ago they showed up saying, "We want to take Grace [my daughter] with us to church on Sunday. Can she come??"

Hmm. "What church?"

"Oh, it's just down that way, you know that one? They are giving out ten dollars to the one who brings the most friends with on Sunday. We just get on the bus in the morning when it comes by." I've seen that bus. I know the church "down there." It's the Oneness Pentecostals, who will tell them, eventually after they've begun to build relationships with the people there, that they aren't truly saved till they've spoken in tongues after being immersed in water.

The eight-year-old girl I spoke of above, the one who now three times has professed faith in Jesus "for the first time" is one of those kids getting on the bus. This makes me very upset. I have been praying about what to do.

They've come back over and hung out. I told all of them them in a serious manner that I want them to know for sure that Jesus accepts them unconditionally because of their believing in the cross and I've read them john 6:47. I've done this two times when they've been with me. But now, all they're thinking about is ten dollars. Some church will pay them money, to attend. And they want money, because they're kids. What can I offer them? What can Christ offer them that will over-ride what this church has decomposed the gospel to be about?

All this hard work that CEF has done, that I have been desiring for their sake, is now at risk. This is when the sectarian group moves in and does what they do best.

Should I play on the same terms? I was thinking much better than anything I can do to convince them to be cautious with them is to implant the Word into their hearts and minds. I have tentatively decided to pay each child one dollar for every scripture they will work to memorize. That way it's guaranteed and based on their own accomplishment.

Then, even if they go to that church, and their members tell them, "you aren't saved" they will have to battle with scripture itself -

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47

But I am by no means sure that this is God's will for them. I keep praying, feeling unsettled and unsure. I believe Jesus is capable of doing more amazing things with these little ones than anything I might come up with.

Any suggestions...?


Missy said...

Oh, dear! Quite a dilemma. I was rewarded each spring as I attended a baptist church through their bus program. Not for coming, but for memorizing scriptures. Each kid who memorized all the scriptures got a summer season pass to a local water park. It wasn't just about memorizing the scripture - it was about the relationships I formed over 4 months learning them. These people did not reap what they had sown, but their sowing was invaluable to me and many others.

I don't like bribing the church to bring guests, and I'm not sure about bribing visitors to simply come is good, but I think a reward for lessons learned is an acceptable teaching technique.

Praying for you and those children.

Sanctification said...

Hi Missy, You are right, buses can be a great thing, and a water park, well I can't compete with that.... Hmm. Sometimes I wish I had a bus. I suppose there are worse things, hopefully I am not overreacting to the news that they've gone off to another church. At least I can see good that it's got me thinking about how to get them self-sufficient in their faith. The wordless book is good but it's just a story if they can't find it in the bible. I'm hurting for a shot to catch their interest before the summer is gone. I'm so glad you have prayed, you care whenever there is a post on kids. Thanks so much!!

Missy said...

Oh, I care about all your posts! It's just the ones you post about kids stir a desire in me to encourage you. Many wonderful christian men and women stepped in the gaps for me in my childhood and I don't think they ever had a clue what they gave me. I love your heart to reach these kids.

Sanctification said...

Dear Missy, let me just praise Him and also thank you for sharing your weaknesses as you do at your blog. I talk far, far too much about my goals and I think it is highly superior to talk about weaknesses like I see you do in every post. I admire your Christianity far more than my own, like sometimes I need a big kick in the posterior. Pride is too prideful to die...? I'd like it if I could be a little bit more like that. Thanks for the opportunity to pray for you. I'm going to change the link in the sidebar of my blog to A Texas Chilly.

Warmly, Michele

Sanctification said...

Yesterday and today the kids have gotten pretty excited about earning a buck per scripture. I grabbed a paperback New Testament New Living Translation Version. Each one of them practiced out loud till they memorized the verse, and I expected them to understand what the verse was saying, and they had to show me they could look it up in the bible by them-self as well.

First they memorized john 6:47:

"I assure you, anyone who believes in me already has eternal life." (N.L.T.)

I said that word "assure" is a little big so I permitted them to exchange "I assure you" with another version's "I tell you the truth." I have to say, I appreciate how this version says "already has" (eternal life).

Next I gave them Eph. 1:13, but only part,

"And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own, by giving you the Holy Spirit."

The word "identified" was also too big for five year olds and Spanish speakers, so I said they could change it to "God saw you as His own"

"And when you believed in Christ, God saw you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit."

Next they had to memorize this verse... because I imagined (probably it's just fine, but I imagined) concerned parents discovering that some strange woman was giving money to kids to learn Christianity, Ephesians 6:1

"Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do."

:) Next I chose Matthew 11:29:

"Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls."

In each one of these they listened long enough to learn who it was that was speaking these verses (Jesus or Paul) and what it means to have eternal life or be gentle and humble. The mentally challenged boy who believed in Christ through the wordless book that I mentioned last February was delighted when he heard John 6:47. He perked up and said, "I already did that!!" And, the girl who has "received Jesus as her savior" "for the first time" three times now is one of the ones who is participating. :)

So far ten children have memorized almost all of these. There are two older boys that want to press on for more, so I have given them Romans 3:25 and then I don't know which scripture I should select next.

"We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing His life for us."

It sounds very different in the NLT, doesn't it? But as far as I am concerned, the cleaner the sentence the better. These are some very sectarian-blasting scriptures, and I rejoice and wanted to express humble gratitude to any reader who prayed! :) I'm in awe of how cool God is.

I'm still not thrilled about the blatant money-angle. But I suppose it'll hold for now. Missy, if you're reading, I'm praying for you. ;)

What other scriptures are awesome ones for them to learn?


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