Tag Archives: Childhood

Can a Five-Year-Old Become a Christian?

Last week I led my  five-year-old through a prayer to become a Christian.

The prayer was simple.  I explained to him that it was an “ABC” prayer.

  • Admit that he is a sinner who needs God’s forgiveness and grace.
  • Believe (trust) that Jesus died for his sins, and was raised from the dead to overcome sin’s power.
  • Commit to live for Jesus, serve his kingdom, and grow as a Christian every day.

This moment of prayer/decision hadn’t arisen from out of the blue.  For several months Brayden had been asking questions about Jesus/God/faith/Bible, and what it means to be a Christian.  Our talks usually occurred in his bed at night while we reflected on our day.

A few Fridays ago, among talk about Star Wars and Christmas, Brayden asked me if he was a Christian.

I told him that he was not.

“But you and mommy are Christians,” he replied, puzzled.

I explained that no one is automatically a Christian, because a Christian is someone who has personally decided to devote their life to Jesus.

He seemed confused.

“But I go to church” he said.

“Yes, you do, but you can go to church and not be devoted to Jesus.  Becoming a Christian only happens when we make Jesus our King and decide to live for him instead of ourselves.”

“I want to become a Christian.  When can I become a Christian?”

That was/is a good question!  Personally and pastorally, I hold the conviction that becoming a Christian is a serious, life-altering decision.  Like marriage, it should not be entered into “lightly or hastily.”  That’s why, regardless of what age one is considering embracing Christ as King and Saviour, I think it’s appropriate to provide some resistance so that we prevent people from making a rash or impulsive decision.  Jesus said “follow me” (Matthew 4:19), but we should do what we can to help people think through what that commitment will mean for them, both now and into the future.  As Brayden’s father, I felt it was important for him to wrestle for a while with the potential consequences of becoming a Christian before saying the prayer that could change his life forever.  That’s why, for several months I’d consistently pushed the decision (but not the conversation!) off to an undetermined point in the future.

It wasn’t just for Brayden’s sake that I was providing some push-back to his request: had a lot of questions that I felt needed to be answered before I could be confident that his decision to embrace Christ was legitimate:

  • Why did Brayden want to become a Christian?
  • Did Brayden know “enough” about what his commitment to Christ would cost him?
  • Did his age invariably mean that the decision was born out of complete naiveté?  He’s watched his older sisters talk about their Christian faith and grow in it; is it just “monkey see; monkey do” mimicry?
  • Is there any depth to his motivation?  Does he show a desire for discipleship?  When his definition of discipleship is “making good decisions,” does that show a sufficient or insufficient understanding of the foundation of a Christian worldview?
  • How much theology does he need to know before he’s ready to make a commitment of this nature?  If he can (barely) articulate the Gospel (Manger, Cross, Crown), can he legitimately embrace it?

These were some of the questions I was mulling over during the months I was pushing Brayden to think about becoming a Christian until a later time, when I could better determine if he was ready.

But a few weeks ago, Brayden wouldn’t let it go.  I went into my usual, “that’s great, let’s keep talking about it…” mode, but he kept pressing me.

“Why can’t I become a Christian now?”

A Scripture that God had used to rebuke me in the past came to mind once again:

“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17

Indeed.

Brayden had shown a persistent desire to become a Christian for almost half a year.  We had talked about Jesus, God, the Bible, salvation, love, grace, and sin, all while snuggling in the warm blue glow of the nightlight beside his bed.  For months I had put a (necessary) speed bump in front of him, wanting to make sure any conversion would be from the heart, and not mere mimicry.

And here he was, resolute in the conviction that he was ready to give his life to Jesus.

Was I going to stand in God’s way?

Nope.  In that exchange what became very clear was that my little boy genuinely desired to give his life to Jesus.

Did he know “enough”?  Well, he knew the gospel.  That’s enough, isn’t it?

Did he understand what he was getting into?  Did I when I said my own unpolished and imperfect prayer at age 14?

Were his motivations and intentions pure?  Can I point to even one decision I’ve made that has been made with pure and right motives—even my decision to embrace Christ?

When God’s grace-filled invitation to new life intersects with a person’s humble and heartfelt response, we may find ourselves harboring lots of questions regarding what is “actually” happening.  That’s ok.  We’re entitled to our questions.  Those questions and hesitations are important and often valid and should be identified and addressed.

But, we must be careful to never allow our questions and hesitations to stand in God’s way.  None of us (however well intended) have the right to delay another’s response to the gospel until we’ve figured things out and are sure they “get it.”

Besides, you can never really “get” grace anyways.  That’s kind of why it’s grace.  It can’t be grasped.  It can only be received.

That night, Brayden didn’t fully understand God’s grace, but he “got” it.  Or more precisely, God’s grace “got” him.  He may not have grasped it in its totality, but it grasped him.

Can a five year old become a Christian?  Yes, a five year old can.

And that night, my five year old did. By God’s grace and for His glory.

 

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Sermon Notes: “The Spiritual Journey of Childhood”

As part of Grindstone’s “Understanding the Spiritual Journey Series,” I had the pleasure of co-teaching a message on the spirituality of childhood with Tracy Crewson (one of our Children’s Ministry Co-ordinators) this past Sunday.  Our message is available via at www.grindstonechurch.com for those who want to listen to it.

Every time we do this series, I get a consistent stream of people wanting the notes from our messages, particularly the decade that is most relevant to them personally.

So I’ve decided to put an abbreviated version of each decade’s speaking notes on my blog so people can review the information whenever they would like.

Here are the notes from week one of our series: The Spiritual Journey of Childhood.

A snapshot of life in the childhood decade

Childhood is a time of enormous developmental change on every level.  Between 0-10 years of age, every 4-6 months children come into new capacities that they need to learn to adapt to and manage.

 

A. “What is happening? (Big Picture)”

  • Children are trying to develop a “container” (to borrow language from Richard Rohr) that can “hold” together their experience of the world.
  • Children are learning to manage continual and rapid growth on almost every level simultaneously.  The interior life of a child is in an almost continual state of flux, and this is part of the reason children thrive in environments that provide consistency and routine.  There is so much internal change, having a consistent and predictable external reality provides the necessary security and safety that allows children to adapt well to the internal changes.

B.  “What is happening? (Ground Level)”

       Children build this “container” be seeking the following:

  • Physically : Children are seeking touch, physical affirmation, and nourishment.
  • Emotionally: Children are seeking love, belonging, and security.
  • Psychologically: Children are seeking boundaries, expectations, consequences, and consistency
  • Spiritually: Children are in beginning stages of identity formation and “worldview coherence.”  They are asking big questions about life, death, God, meaning, etc.
  • Ideally, children are being nurtured on all four of these levels.

 

What are the major spiritual challenges?

A. Developing Trust.

  • Dr. David Richo says, “Trust is not an either / or proposition, but a matter of degree…It’s the capacity to trust, which may have been limited or disturbed in our early life, because that’s where we’ve first learned to trust. Trust is basically a feeling of safety and security. When that didn’t happen in our early life with our parents, our capacity to trust became limited. ”
  • Since our spiritual relationship with God is a relationship built on faith instead of sight, it is a relationship built on trust.  Our experiences early in life shape our capacity to trust God later as teens and adults.

 B. Overcoming a lack of nurture and care from adults.

  • Children need to be nourished on all four levels (physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritually).
  • While most people agree on the need to nurture their children physically, emotionally, psychologically, when it comes to nurturing their spirituality, we prefer a “hands off” approach.  Spiritually, it’s often viewed as progressive to “let them decide for themselves.”  This  mentality is dangerous, however, because it assumes that children are able to independently make healthy and wise decisions when it comes to spiritual matters (something Scripture and experience clearly disagrees with).

 

The Bible and Children

Scripture consistently emphasizes the importance of this decade!  Throughout the Bible there is an enormous value placed on children (which was rarely present in pagan cultures), and an enormous calling placed on communities and the raising of children. Deuteronomy 6 is a prime example:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 

  • “Impress them on your children.” Imprint. Children are not meant to figure things out for themselves. To “empower” children in this way is usually a way for parents to relieve themselves from the burden of parenting.  We are to actively instruct children in the way they should go and explain why.

Matthew 19 contains another key text that reveals children’s worth and their place of prominence within the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:13-15
13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

 

  • Matthew records that Jesus was ‘indignant’ –  he was angry or annoyed at what he perceived to be unfair treatment of these children.  Jesus was angry that the children were being seen as unimportant.
  • We cannot view our children in the way that society increasingly views them – as burdens, interruptions, and inconveniences.

 

Advice to Parents

i. Parenting is difficult.  Don’t give up! Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

 ii. Habits matter.  What habits are you letting take root in your child’s life?

iii. Disciple your child. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” Proverbs 22:6.  Our guidance (or lack thereof) during the childhood years has enormous influence and ramifications in the subsequent decades.

iv. Provide morals, but not moralism. We need to give our children the reason behind the rules God has laid out for us.  We need to teach them the Scriptural ‘whys’ so our children develop a Christian conscience not a legalistic conscience.

v. Be a disciple yourself.  Christianity is just as much caught as taught.  What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a growing and mature relationship with God, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?

vi. Seek healing for a childhood lost.  Now is an important time to seek healing for those of us who never experienced a safe and healthy childhood due to abuse, neglect, or lack of care and nurture.

 

 Advice to all of us: learn from children

  • Our spiritual vibrancy is tied to the children around us.
  •  Matthew 18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
  •  Mark 10:14, “Let the children come to me.  Don’t hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  There is something about the spirituality of children that we in the subsequent decades are to embrace and emulate in order to be thriving members of God’s kingdom.  Children, not just adults belong in the kingdom of Heaven and are not just as marginal members or on the coat-tails of their parents, but are models in the kingdom of God showing adults how to enter the Kingdom.
  •  Mark 10:14, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  •  Jesus does not mean that the kingdom of heaven belongs only to children but rather to those like them – they are the perfect object lesson in the kind of humility, faith, and “powerlessness” that is require to enter into God’s kingdom.
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