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Loving and leaving children

by Pastor Chuck DeVane, Special to The Sentinel-Record | August 26, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

-- Matthew 18:3

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone!

All in all, it's just another brick in the wall.

-- Roger Waters/Pink Floyd

Summer's end is in sight (and hopefully an end to triple-digit temperatures!) and once again churches in my denomination are tooting their horns and tallying the numbers from Vacation Bible School. In a publication from my home state, an article boasts, "Thousands of kids have made salvation decisions." In one church there were about a hundred. "VBS is the most effective evangelistic outreach for churches," they proclaimed.

Now, I am all for teaching children about the word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian parents and churches are commanded to do so (ref. Ephesians 6:4). But I am very concerned about the pressure being applied to children under 12, many under 6, to make a "salvation decision" for Jesus.

I knew of a church that gave an "altar call" at the end of their VBS. They had all the children write their names on an index card, then come forward and place it in one of two buckets. One has a sign on it, "Heaven," the other "Hell," and a small candle was burning in the bottom of the second bucket. What's a little child going to do? The flames touched nada a card and the pastor baptized all the little tykes who wanted to go to Heaven. It was a notch in his belt, and another brick in the wall that eventually separates people from Christ and His church.

Most children have yet to comprehend the concept of virginity, thank the Lord; therefore, they cannot understand the importance of the virgin birth of Christ, a key tenet in understanding and accepting His person and work for salvation. Most children haven't sinned enough to be weighed down by it. Most children cannot fathom the depth of words like repentance, regeneration, atonement, and double imputation. One does not have to be a theologian to become a Christians, but salvation is much more profound than three-letter acrostics like ABC or VBS.

Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do for kids is leave them alone. Manipulating them into making false decision for Christ can only serve to confuse them later or harden their hearts with false assurance. I cannot count the vast number of people I have witnessed to over the years, who were living in obvious sin and unbelief, who showed every sign of the need for repentance and saving faith, who told me, "I took care of that when I was a kid." Another brick in the wall.

This is a message for Christians and non-Christians alike. The naked fellow in the gay pride parade in Chicago who chanted, "We're here, we're queer, and we're coming for your children," needs to leave them kids alone. The schoolteacher recently fired for reading a book to small children about gender-fluidity is no martyr to a cause, she should simply leave them kids alone. The idiot pastor who put a bucket on fire to coerce kids into joining his church should leave them kids alone. Let children have the chance to grow into young adulthood before making life-changing decisions about how their adulthood will be spent.

"Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them," said Jesus (ref. Mark 10:14), but do not give them too much help, either. Most adults can talk most kids into anything. Evangelism can quickly turn into manipulation. Manipulation can immunize them from real evangelism in the future. Let the Lord do His work, let the Holy Spirit have His way, leave time for conviction of sin to develop, and pray for the comprehension of the person and work of Christ that leads to genuine conversion.

The best thing a parent can do for a child is to live a genuine Christian life before them. Bring them with you when you gather with your church every Sunday. Make sure there is a Bible on their bookshelf as soon as they become literate. Baptize them according to your tradition, and teach them what it means. Give them every opportunity to come to Christ on their terms, in God's time. And remember adults, Jesus said we are to become like them, not them like us.

Otherwise, it's just another brick in the wall.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].

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