September 1, 2016
By Pastor Mark Bethea
Argo Baptist Church, Trussville
When a child expresses readiness to follow Christ there is great responsibility and great opportunity. Though there is no formula for a prayer of salvation, when children ask questions about salvation, we should respond in the following ways:
1. With Joy.
Jesus welcomed the little children unto Him even against the caution of the other disciples and teachers. When children express interest in becoming a Christian, it is a joyous and wonderful desire of their heart. We should never discount it, deflect it, discredit it or deter them from coming. Joyfully entertain their questions, look at Scripture together and share your own story with them.
2. With Care.
Children are impressionable. Asking them a question such as, “Do you want to avoid going to hell?” or “Do you want to spend an eternity with Jesus?” will certainly elicit the response you desire and could easily point them to saying the sinner’s prayer. It is good to be cautious and make sure the child understands what they are getting into. They will not be able to fully understand everything about sin, the gospel, redemption and the Bible, but they can understand their need for a Savior. It is a decision that does not need to be rushed.
3. With Questions.
When asking questions and having conversations with children, let them talk. Listen to their hearts. It is easy to try to feed them the right answers to questions, but simply asking questions such as, “Who is Jesus?,” “What did Jesus do?,” “What is sin?” and “What does it mean to be baptized?” are all helpful questions to ask as a child begins to learn about following Jesus. Again, they do not have to have perfect answers, but through their answers there are plentiful discipleship opportunities to show and demonstrate every person’s need for the gospel.
4. With Attentive Ears.
Listen to their questions. Listen to their answers. Use what you learn from their words to help teach, train and disciple based on their understanding.
5. With Understanding.
If we are going to train, teach and disciple children we must know the gospel ourselves. We need to understand our need for a Savior, our situation because of sin and what baptism means. We need to understand the gravity of our decision to follow Jesus and how it shaped our own lives. If it has done nothing to change our lives, it will be difficult to share with a child what their decision actually means.
6. With Prayer.
We may be cautious about using the sinner’s prayer with a child, but we must not shy away from praying with the child and for the child. It is good for them to pray and for us to pray over them. Pray that God would begin a good work in them and that they would be attentive to listen and heed His Word. Pray for endurance and protection as they begin to move forward in their Christian faith.
7. With Intention.
The conversation does not end with a prayer and a pat on the back. Be intentional about following up and continuing the conversation. If you are not the parent, do not hesitate to follow up with the parent to let them know you have been praying for them as well. Discipleship is an ongoing process, and as easy as it would be to have a conversation and call it quits, be intentional about continuing the discipleship process as you are able.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Mark Bethea serves as the bivocational pastor of Argo Baptist Church, Trussville, in Birmingham Baptist Association, and as the acquisitions and digital editor for New Hope Publishers in Birmingham. His book, “30 Days of Hope for Peaceful Living,” along with other helpful articles can be found at marklbethea.com.