Evangelism of Children -- By: Edward L. Hayes
BSac 132:527 (Jul 75) p. 250
Evangelism of Children
[Edward L. Hayes, Academic Dean, Professor of Christian Education, Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver, Colorado.]
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is reprinted with minor changes from the recent volume Childhood Education in the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), edited by Roy B. Zuck and Robert E. Clark. Used by permission.]
Sparkling with controversy, the subject of child conversion prompts debate and discussion. The issue is one of theology as well as methodology. It is one of faith as well as feeling, dogma as well as response, crisis as well as process. It is at the core of our faith and is the root of true Christian education.
Jesus Himself said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). To Him, the recovery of one lost child was top priority, and those who offended children were marked for judgment.
Leading the young child to Christ has only within recent times become a specialized ministry in churches. This is due, in part at least, to particular viewpoints toward the concept of the soul, original sin, baptism, the nature of church membership, and the psychology of human maturation. For instance, the belief that infant baptism is not only legitimate but preferred over believers’ baptism forestalls the necessity of evangelistic instruction to the young. Furthermore, concepts of grace in relationship to the depravity of human nature have led to at least two dominant positions on the nature of the soul and the necessity of early conversion. One view holds that a child’s depravity demands an early conversion, as early as age three, Another holds that God’s grace is operative in a child’s innocence; until an age of accountability, no stress ought to be placed upon crisis conversion. Of course, the issue of
BSac 132:527 (Jul 75) p. 251
church membership as it relates to baptism either fosters child evangelism or forbids it. Finally, since the rise of the religious education movement at the turn of our century, the wedding of psychological insights with traditional or biblical truths has led to skepticism toward some evangelistic tactics with the very young. These and other issues combine to form a confusing mosaic. A theology of conversion, particularly as it relates to the child, is desperately needed.
The rise of child evangelism efforts can be traced to a vacuum which existed in Reformation theology. To be sure, the child was not ignored. Luther himself placed great value on the education of the young, but the matter of conversion was largely an adult co...
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