Careful Child Evangelism
Enlarged June 6, 2024 (First published May 4, 2016)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

One of the greatest fields of evangelism is the Christian home. The church is to build strong homes to raise a godly seed (Mal. 2:15). One pastor said to me, “I used to believe the children are the future of our church, but now I believe the future is those we reach outside the church.” He changed his view because so many of the youth have gone astray. 

In truth, the future of a church should be both. The instruction for the home is given to the church (i.e., Ephesians 5-6; Colossians 3). Children can be saved when they are old enough to exercise biblical repentance and saving faith, but they are children and they must be dealt with in much wisdom. 

The church I grew up in probably didn’t have even one saved young person, though we all knew the right things to say. We prayed a sinner’s prayer and made a “profession of faith” and were baptized, but we didn’t know the Lord by life-changing conversion experience. 

On a recent preaching trip, I talked with a seven-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old, and a 16-year-old. All of them professed salvation and had been baptized, but they couldn’t answer basic questions such as these: What is sin? What is God’s punishment for sin? What did Jesus do on the cross? What is the meaning of baptism? Why did you get baptized? What is born again? What is repentance? How have you repented? How do you know you are saved? 

In these cases, I exhorted the parents and pastors to be more careful and to examine these professions. I exhorted them to go through this study and to use the Seeker’s Bible Study with their children and youth.

One of the pioneers of child evangelism was Edward Payson Hammond (1831-1910), who was known as “The Children’s Evangelist.” In the 1860s and 1870s he conducted large meetings in many U.S. cities. He had those who came forward to his anxious benches sign a “Covenant Card” that stated, “I, the undersigned, hope I have found Jesus to be my precious Saviour; and I promise with His help, to live as his loving child and faithful servant all my life.” The convert’s name was recorded in a book, and the statistics were published. For example, Hammond claimed 2,000 converts in San Francisco and 1,000 in Washington, D.C.

Hammond’s “Covenant Card” did not reflect a sound gospel. To say, “I hope I have found Jesus to be my precious Saviour” is not the confident hope of the gospel. The hope of the gospel is “a strong consolation” and “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Heb. 6:18, 19). And apart from such hope, to make a pledge to live for Christ is mere vain Christian religion. Over half of his professions were from children.

Following is a dialogue between Hammond and a six-year-old during the meeting in San Francisco in March 1875. Hammond called the child out of the audience and interrogated him on the platform, as follows:

How old are you, my boy?
Six, sir.

Have you signed the covenant card?
Yes, Sir.

Do you love Jesus?
Yes, sir.

Why do you love him, dear?
Because he first loved me.

Were you a great sinner?
Yes, sir.

And you felt very sorry for your sins?
Yes, sir.

What sins did you commit?

What did you do that was so wicked?
I forgot, sir.

You see, dear children, that the little boy could not remember all of his sins, but by his intelligent answers showed that he fully understood the great plan of life (The Liberal Christian, New York, Mar. 27, 1875).

The child’s answers showed no such thing. Nothing was said about what Jesus did on the cross, about repentance, about what it means to believe in Jesus for salvation. The child could not even answer about his own sins. What he did was parrot back what he had been taught.

It is a tragedy to deal so carelessly with the souls of children. How many have been led in a sinner’s prayer as a child and given “assurance” and trusted that childhood profession even though they never had clear evidence of the new birth? I would say multitudes and multitudes! 

Children can be saved, if they are old enough to understand the gospel, repent, and exercise saving faith in the blood of Christ, but they are children and must be dealt with in exceeding caution and wisdom. 

There are no children’s evangelistic meetings in the New Testament. There are also no covenant cards, spiritual birth certificates, sinner’s prayers (as a technique), and other elements of modern evangelism.

Children are too easily manipulated by this type of thing.

In the following testimony, David Sorenson, Pastor Emeritus of Northstar Baptist Church, Duluth, Minnesota, explains how easy it is for a young person growing up in church to make a false profession of faith:

I believe one problem in many Christian homes is that the children have made professions of faith, but have never actually been born again. ... A child who has a divinely created new nature within his or her heart will be spiritually sympathetic to being trained in righteousness. ... Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we carefully instruct and coach our children about salvation. ...

I have known of many young people who] professed to be saved in their childhood; but in reality, they were never born again. They went through the motions and walked an aisle. They learned the language, but they were never regenerated. ...

As a boy of five, I had gone (or been taken) forward in an evangelistic meeting. I do not know who the preacher was. I do not remember what the sermon was about. In fact, as I recall, I slept through much of the service. I have absolutely no recollection of who prayed with me or how I was dealt with in the prayer room. ... After that meeting, I was coached to tell others that I had gotten saved. Therefore, over the next fifteen years, if someone asked me if I was saved, I would reply, ‘Oh yes. I was saved when I was five years old.’ Now, I believe that five-year-old children can be saved, but I do not believe that I was saved then. If it had not been for faithful parents who continued to pray for me over those years, I may not have been genuinely converted when I was in Bible college. I believe in my case and in many others, there was a lack of conviction about sin and its consequences in both heart and mind. It is a crucial prerequisite to the new birth. ...

In Bible college, I was searching spiritually. I went to a spiritual leader and told him of my heart’s confusion. He dismissed my concern and told me I was just seeking assurance of my salvation. Well, as it turned out, what I really was seeking was salvation. ... If your children come to you and tell you they are not sure that they are saved, treat it as though they have never made any profession of faith. You do not know their hearts; only God does. Beware of saying, ‘Oh, honey, you took care of that a long time ago. Don’t you remember?’ It may be that the Holy Ghost is dealing in his heart. Do not assume that because he has gone through the motions that he is born again. ... 

[Saving] faith includes repentance. Repentance is not doing anything. It is not a deed, act, work, or rite. Rather, it is a change of the direction of one’s heart. It basically means an attitude of the heart in turning from sin and self and turning to God. That’s what Paul was referring to in Acts 20:21 when he referred to ‘repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Saving faith is the human heart turning to God and then trusting in Jesus Christ. ... Even as there is the part of trusting Christ, there is also the part of turning to Him. That may seem inconsequential, but I believe that here is a spiritual reason that some go through the motions of believing in Christ but are not really born again. They seemingly want the fire escape but there is no interest in turning to God. There is no interest in repentance. They have the attitude, ‘God, gimme salvation, but I’m gonna keep on doing my own thing.’ ... However, if there is no real turning to God from the heart, they have missed the prerequisite for actually trusting Christ. ...

As a young man in my junior year at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, God convicted me. I had never really been saved though I had been a professing Christian for the preceding 15 years. ... I began to think back over my life to that point. I knew that the Bible taught that ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). I knew that if a person was really saved, there would be an interest in the things of God. There would be some sort of internal aversion to sin. Anyone who knew me during my teenage years would have remembered me as a rebellious preacher’s kid. 

I had absolutely no interest in the things of God. I only went to church because my dad was the pastor, and I had to go. I could not have cared less about the Bible. Things like witnessing and having a testimony were about as alien to me as living in Afghanistan. I loved the things of the world. My mind and my vocabulary were foul as anyone else in the world. I thought like the world thought. I liked what the world did, and I wanted to do what the world did. Only the strictness of my upbringing and of the college I was attending prevented me from actually doing a significant amount of it. 

I lay there on my bed that morning in November 1966. As I mulled all of this over in my mind, I knew that I had no recollection of conviction when I went forward as a boy. I reflected over the fact that there had never been any change in my life spiritually that I could remember. I knew the sinfulness of my heart as a 20-year-old college student, and I considered the lack of interest in the things of God in my life. 

Slowly that November morning, the Holy Spirit convicted me of the fact that I had never really been saved. I had gone through the motions of it as a small boy and had professed salvation all those years. For the first time in my life it was dawning on me that I was not saved, and for someone who had assumed himself to be saved for the past 15 years, it came as quite some shock. ... As I thought about the situation, it suddenly dawned upon me, ‘If I am not saved, then I am on my way to hell.’ I had never in my entire life given any serious consideration to that fact. It kind of shook me up. ... I realized that I was dealing with a serious matter. After wrestling spiritually with the conviction of the Holy Spirit for some time, I knew I had to settle the matter. I knelt beside my bed and prayed, ‘Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner. I really don’t know what happened when I was five years old. But I don’t think I really was saved then. Oh Lord, please save me and cleanse me of my sins and give me eternal life.’

There were no bolts of lightning or thunder claps, but a peace swept across my soul. I knew I had settled the matter. There no longer was any doubt. I had trusted Christ and I knew it. I claimed Romans 10:13, ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.’ This time there had been a clear understanding of my lost condition, and this time there was a deep willingness to turn to Christ and trust Him. Praise the Lord, He saved me.

Very soon thereafter, my life began to make some radical changes (David Sorenson).

Suggestions for dealing with children about salvation

1. Build a strong Christian home. 

2. Discipline the children.

3. Fill their minds with God’s Word.

4. Teach them the gospel thoroughly.

5. Teach them the law of God.

6. Deal with Repentance.

7. Don’t pressure or manipulate them.

8. Look for the convicting, drawing work of the Holy Spirit.

9. If a child professes faith in Christ, make sure he knows what he is doing.

10. Let God confirm to the child that he is saved.

11. Look for Scriptural evidence of salvation.

12. If a child professes faith in Christ, exhort him to serve the Lord and seek His will.

13. If the child later expresses doubt about salvation, encourage him to settle it.

14. Provide a check point.

15. Pray, pray, pray.

1. Build a strong Christian home.

The quality of the home has a major impact on how the children turn out.

The father must be the spiritual head (Eph. 6:4). He oversees everything. He knows what is going on. He is not absentee. He is involved. He makes the major decisions with his wife. He controls his schedule and makes sure that he has enough time to do this business. He is a good example of what he professes and teaches. He humbles himself and confesses his sins to the family when he fails.

The mother must be the keeper of the home. “Keepers at home” in Titus 2:5 is the Greek oikourós, which is a combination of oikos (home) and ouros (a keeper). It means “one who guards the house, one who stays at home, domestically inclined” and “one who looks after domestic affairs with prudence and care” (Complete Word Study Bible). “Guide the house” in 1 Timothy 5:14 is the Greek oikodespotéo, which is a combination of oiko (house) and despotes (ruler). It is a strong word, meaning governor of the house, manager of the house. This was the role that Joseph had under Potiphar. “... he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand” (Ge. 39:4). The wife governs the household affairs under her husband’s authority and oversight. This is the exalted biblical role of a wife. She is the household governor. She orders it. She “looketh well to the ways of her household” (Pr. 31:27).

The mother and father must have a good, wholesome marital relationship. They must work on this. It is essential for their children’s sake. It has been said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love his wife. 

A practical study on these things can be found in Keeping the Kids in the Social Media Age.

2. Discipline the children.

“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Pr. 23:13-14).

God’s Word ties the proper discipline of a child directly with the salvation of his or her soul. 

The child that is under discipline is in God’s training school. Through proper discipline, the child learns the fundamental principles of the gospel: law, righteousness, sin, punishment (law and order), the fear of God, love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Proper discipline teaches the child a proper respect for authority, which in turn leads to the fear of God. Pastor Kerry Allen asks, “If children don’t respect parent’s authority, who stand as God ordained police in the home, how will they ever respect the God whom the parents represent?”

In this light, we can see more clearly why the Bible says that the parent who “spares the rod” and lets the child get away with disobedience and rebellion hates the child (Pr. 13:24).

A practical study on child discipline can be found in Keeping the Kids in the Social Media Age.

3. Fill their minds with God’s Word. 

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (De. 6:6-7).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130). 

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Ro. 10:17).

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Ti. 3:15).

Of one of his daughters, Pastor Kerry Allen says, “I began a program of memorizing salvation Scriptures with her, and rewarding her for her efforts. In less than one month, with numbers of these same Scriptures at work in her heart, she fell under deep conviction of sin. ... Don’t wait until they are teens, you will have lost them by then! ... start memorizing with them as soon as they are able to speak, surely not later than three to four years old. ... begin reading the verses to your child as soon as they are born. They will hear each verse dozens of times before you even begin memorizing, and that is a great way to begin the process from the very earliest days. Sow the Seed of the Word of God faithfully and consistently every day, and wondrous things will occur!” (Allen, How Can I Except Some Man Guide Me?). 

Pastor Allen has published 150 salvation verses that can be used for a Scripture memorization program for children and has posted it on the web for free download. See the following for the pdf :

How Can I Except Some Man Should Guide Me?

This can also be purchased in print from Bethel Baptist Printing, 4212 Campbell St. N., London, Ont. N6P 1A6, 519-652-2619.

4. Teach them the gospel thoroughly. 

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Ro. 1:16). The gospel is described in a nutshell in 1 Co. 15:1-4. It must be explained (Ac. 8:30-31). Many people grow up in Bible-believing homes and churches and cannot give a clear definition of the gospel, even though they profess to be saved. 

The better the parents know the gospel, the better they can teach the children. 

It is important not to teach the gospel like a “one-two-three, pray after me” program. Teach the various elements of the gospel systematically as well as weaving it into everyday activities (e.g., God’s holiness and justice. Who is Christ? What is sin? What does it mean that Christ died for our sins? The proofs of Christ’s resurrection, etc.).

Missionary Jeremy Johnson says, “We talk with our children about salvation when different topics come up. At the dinner table, in casual conversation, etc. We do not push them, but when the conversation arises, we talk about it: Where a person goes when he dies, why people don’t go to heaven, what is sin, what did Jesus do for us, does everyone go to heaven, can I get saved by praying a prayer, etc. When they have false ideas or beliefs about salvation or where they would go, we do not overlook it or ignore it, we speak against it and correct it. We continually try to bring them to an understanding of the truth, yet not pushing them to a decision.”

Practical teaching on the gospel can be found in the Seekers Bible Study.

5. Teach them the law of God.

The law was given as a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ (Ga. 3:23). 

Have the children memorize the Ten Commandments and teach them the meaning of these laws and how these laws apply to their lives. 

Teach the children about God’s judgment. Teach them about His holiness and righteousness. Teach them that every infraction of the law will be judged. Teach them about hell and the lake of fire.

Old Baptists used child catechisms to teach these things. 

See the chapter “God’s Law and Evangelism" [Sowing and Reaping].

6. Deal with repentance (Lu. 17:3; Acts 17:30; 20:21).

Observe the strong emphasis on repentance in the New Testament:

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lu. 13:3).

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (Ac. 3:19).

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Ac. 17:30).

“Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ac. 20:21).

“But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Ac. 26:20).

“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lu. 24:47).

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe. 3:9).

I can relate to this personally. I grew up in a Baptist church, made a profession of faith at about age 11 or 12, and was baptized and became a church member, but I was certainly not born again. In fact, if anything, my life began to take a sharp turn to the world soon after. 

The missing element was repentance toward God, and this is what is missing in the lives and hearts of a great many young people. 

All children growing up in Bible-believing churches believe in Jesus. But so do the devils (Jas. 2:19)! In fact, the devils tremble, which is far more than the average “Christian” young person does! 

Repentance does not mean to turn away from sin. It is not reformation. Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life.

In Acts 26:20, Paul plainly said that he preached a repentance that produced a change in the life: “... that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” He didn’t teach that repentance is to do works; he taught that repentance produces good works. The good works are meet for--fitting for, the proper result of--repentance. 

The essence of repentance is to surrender to God’s authority. The sinner has rebelled against God and broken His law and is at enmity with God, and he must repent of this. Repentance is not a change of life; it is a surrender to God and a change of direction in the heart. This is what was missing in my life until age 23. The sinner must settle who is the Boss! 

Christ must be received as Lord and Saviour. Romans 10:9-13, a key passage on how to be saved, uses the word “Lord” three times. 

There is not one example in the New Testament of an individual that received Jesus as Saviour and did not surrender to Jesus as Lord.

Christ gave the example of dealing with people’s sins. This is repeated in all four of the Gospels by way of emphasis. See Mt. 19:16-26 and Mr. 10:17-27 and Lu. 18:18-27 (the rich young ruler); Joh. 4:15-18 (the woman at the well).

It is clear that if there is not a real change, there is no true repentance.

Acts 26:20 is the evidence that parents and pastors and teachers must look for. We can’t see the heart, but we can see the effects of true repentance and saving faith. “... that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

Repentance is illustrated in many places in Scripture. 

The Prodigal Son “came to himself” (by Holy Spirit-wrought conviction and enlightenment), humbled himself, acknowledged his sin against God and against his father, and turned around so that he was facing in a different direction (Lu. 15:17-20). This happened in his heart and mind before it was evidenced by his actions. 

Zacchaeus was converted so dramatically that he became an honest man who paid back those he had cheated (Lu. 19:8). And this change occurred in one day! 

The Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Th. 1:9). That is biblical repentance. 

We deal with this in the chapter “Repentance and Evangelism.”

7. Don’t pressure or manipulate them.

The parent/teacher must be careful not to pressure the children. Children are easily manipulated, and pressure can happen even when the adult thinks he is avoiding it. 

One grandfather told me how he keeps a notebook record of his grandchildren’s professions of faith, and he shows it to the other grandchildren and asks, “When will I be able to add your name to my book?” This could be a great pressure in a child’s mind, because he or she wants to please granddad.

Invitations given in Sunday Schools and youth meetings can put undue pressure on children. I responded to an invitation at a Vacation Bible School because other kids were responding. Unwise, manipulative invitations have caused a world of harm. At the very least, children should be asked to stay behind so they show at least some evidence that they are serious, and they must be dealt with thoroughly and wisely.

The Lord can and will reveal himself to each child as He did to Samuel (1 Sa. 3). “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel...” (1 Sa. 3:7-8).

8. Look for the convicting, drawing work of the Holy Spirit (Joh. 12:32; 16:7-11).

Salvation is a supernatural work of God. There is no salvation apart from a convicting, enlightening, drawing work of God. The sinner must respond to the Spirit’s wooing, but there is no salvation apart from the wooing. The soul winner’s job is to look for the Spirit’s work and help the sinner understand it and respond properly to it.

If the child shows a persistent desire to be saved (not a mere passing interest), explain how he can be saved and let him call on the Lord in his own way.

Pastor Kerry Allen says of his fourth daughter after she memorized verses about salvation, “She approached me in tears, and after further questioning, she stated she was afraid of dying without Christ, and going to hell. She then readily trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as her Saviour, and shows good evidence of it now” (Allen, How Can I Except Some Man Guide Me?). Note that she approached him. She showed evidence of conviction and of salvation.

9. If a child professes faith in Christ, make sure he knows what he is doing.

Don’t be hasty to pronounce the child saved and to baptize him. 

Probe. Ask serious questions, such as these: Who is Christ? What is sin? What is God’s punishment for sin? What did Jesus do on the cross? What is the meaning of baptism? Why did you get baptized? What is born again? What is repentance? How have you repented? How do you know you are saved? 

These are the things that a person must know well before we will baptize him in our church, whether it is a child or an adult. He must appear before the church leaders and their wives and give his testimony and submit to questioning if anything isn’t clear.

If things are not perfectly clear, wait until they are. 

At the beginning of this study I mentioned that on a recent preaching trip I talked with a seven-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old, and a 16-year-old. All of them professed salvation and had been baptized, but they couldn’t answer basic questions. They had only the vaguest understanding of essential things. They had not been dealt with properly. 

I recommended to the parents to take the children and youth through the Seeker’s Bible Study and the first studies in the One Year Discipleship Course to clarify things in their minds and hearts.

10. Let God confirm to the child that he is saved. 

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Ro. 8:15-16). 

Don’t tell them they are saved. Don’t give them a “spiritual birth certificate” like some churches do. 

Don’t remind them of when they professed Christ when they were little. 

Missionary Jeremy Johnson says: “I do not claim to know for certain that either of my older sons are saved. I believe that Scripture clearly teaches that children can be saved and that God wants them to be. We have seen changes in their lives, a desire and concern for others to be saved, and a brokenness over sin. We do not ever tell them they are saved. When asking them about salvation, we do not point to a time or place. We look for what they remember. Both of them, although they cannot remember the exact day (month/day/year), will immediately go to the circumstances and events happening on that day, reminding us of when and where they made that choice. We do not go over this often trying to get them to memorize it. Children are not saved because of their parents’ memory or their parents’ leading; they are saved when they make a choice in their hearts, and if they do they will remember it on their own. If they ever come to me with doubts, I will try to prayerfully help them examine why, but I will not tell them I know they are saved. Only God knows their hearts.”

11. Look for scriptural evidence of salvation. 

We would observe that tears are not necessarily an evidence of salvation. Tears can be a good thing, if the tears are evidence of godly sorrow and are shed over one’s sin against God, but tears alone, particularly in a young, tenderhearted child, do not necessarily stand as evidence of repentance and regeneration. Women weep at weddings and prisoners weep when they think of the trouble they have brought on themselves, but that in itself is not evidence of salvation.

Biblical evidence of salvation includes the following. These are the things adults must look for in children. These are the things we look for in our church. A child that professes to be saved must appear before the church leaders and their wives and give his or her testimony and answer any questions that the leaders might have. If there is doubt, we simply wait. We explain that we want the child to continue to learn and we want things to become more clear in his heart and life. 

A conversion experience that changes the life. 

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). 

“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3). 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Co. 5:17). 

There is no salvation without this supernatural experience that is God’s response to saving faith. 

Personal knowledge of the Lord; the essence of salvation is a personal walk with God in Christ. 

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Joh. 17:3). 

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Ga. 4:6). 

Salvation is not a reformation or a new religion. It is to know the Lord personally, to walk and talk with Him as Lord and Saviour, Father and Friend. It is to cry, “Abba, Father.”

When people express doubt about their salvation, I ask them if they know the Lord and when and how it was that they came to know Him.

Many young church people are like Samuel who knew about the Lord but did not know the Lord in a personal way (1 Sa. 3:7). 

Jesus warned about those who profess Him as Lord, but to whom He says, “I never knew you” (Mt. 7:21-23). 

Love for and obedience to God’s Word. 

“He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (Joh. 8:47). 

A person’s attitude toward the Bible is one of the clearest evidences of his spiritual condition. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him (Joh. 10:26-30).

After I professed faith in Christ at about age 11-12, I had no more interest in the Bible than I had before, which was zero. I never read it of my own accord. I had no interest in listening to the preaching and teaching. I was at church because my parents took me, not because I had an interest in spiritual things. That is not the condition of a saved person.

Love of righteousness. 

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jo. 2:3-4). 

Consider the testimony of David Sorenson, a pastor’s son. He made a profession of faith at age five in an evangelistic meeting. He was coached to tell others that he was saved, and he did that for 15 years. He says, “I had no interest in the things of God. I only went to church because my dad was the pastor, and I had to go. I could not have cared less about the Bible.” At age 20 he was saved in Bible College and his life changed radically; he began to love the things he used to hate and to hate the things he used to love.

One thing that will always change is the individual’s attitude toward authority. If a child is saved, he will change in his attitude toward the authority of his parents and teachers and church leaders. 

Divine chastisement

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8).

A child of God can and does sin, but there is an indwelling, loving Disciplinarian who chastens him. There is even a sin unto death (1 Jo. 5:16-17).

The saved person will have a sensitivity to sin and a conviction about sin. I think of a child who got saved and afterwards became concerned about sins she had committed and “gotten away with.” Before salvation, if her parents were not watching, she would do things behind their backs. For example, she took her father’s socks and stuffed them down a hole in the back hallway. The disappearance of the socks was an unsolved mystery in the home, but after she got saved she came weeping to her mother and confessed that sin, though no one had ever caught her. That is an evidence that something real was happening in her life. She stopped being “sneaky.” She starting being trustworthy to obey even if no one was watching. Those are simple, but profound, evidences of a spiritually-converted child.

When looking for evidence, we aren’t looking for sinless perfection. We must not think that the saved individual will suddenly become perfect. When “testing” others, the child of God must not forget how imperfect he was and is! What we are looking for is a regenerated heart and a changed direction in life.

Children will be children, but there will always be a change in thinking and attitude if an individual is saved, whether young or old. We must believe the Bible when it says that profession is not necessarily possession. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Tit. 1:16).

Many children in Christian homes and churches make a profession of faith in Christ but do not show a change in their lives, and they eventually depart to the world. Too often, the parents and the church leaders still say they are saved in spite of the lack of biblical evidence. 

Consider the case of Jerry, who was my best buddy growing up. We went through junior and senior high school together, graduated together, went to Vietnam in the Army about the same time, and came back to America and became drug-using “hippies” together. I came to Christ at age 23, but Jerry never did. In fact, he mocked my faith in Christ and refused to listen when I tried to talk to him from the Bible. Early on, he told me not to visit him unless I left my Bible at home. Eventually, he got involved in “Native American” spirituality, which is demonism. After he died some years ago at about age 61, I visited his mother. His mother and father were Baptist church members, and the mom had taught Sunday School. She told me that she had hope of Jerry’s salvation because he went to church when he was a boy, yet there was zero evidence that he was saved.

For more about biblical evidence of salvation, see the chapter “Looking for Biblical Evidence of Salvation.”

12. If a child professes saving faith in Christ, exhort him or her to serve the Lord and seek His will. 

“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Ti. 2:19).

If a child is saved, it is time to serve the Lord. It is time to live according to Romans 12. 

Receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour is not the end of salvation, it is the beginning! (We don’t mean to say that salvation is a process; we are simply saying that salvation is a new life.) Salvation is a life of walking with and serving Jesus Christ. If a child gets saved, it is time for that child to grow and seek God’s will, and if he is really saved he will desire to do this.

The child or youth that is not eager to grow and to serve the Lord and please Him is not a saved individual. These things flow from salvation. Adults must not deceive themselves on this point. Recently I talked with a teen age pastor’s son. He has professed salvation for some years, but he doesn’t even read the Bible regularly. I urged him to take the Effectual Bible Student course and start a habit of daily Bible reading and study. He admitted to me that he had no enthusiasm for this.

13. If the child later expresses doubt about salvation, encourage him to settle it. 

A great many young people who grow up in Christian homes make two professions of faith in Christ, one when they are young and another when they reach maturity.

14. Provide a check point.

We have a junior church membership program whereby the children have a check point at age 18. We receive children under 18 who show clear evidence of salvation, and they become junior church members. They can take the Lord’s Supper and participate in ministries at an age appropriate level, but they can’t take part in church business. At age 18, the junior church membership expires, and they must of their own will seek full membership. At that time they are reexamined for salvation. It is a check point to re-evaluate their salvation at a time when they are entering adulthood and are no longer children. 

If they have doubts, they can express that and settle it before becoming a full church member. This program is intended to help young people not continue to live on a false profession and also to protect the church from being populated with unsaved members.

We must do everything we can to make sure that children are truly saved. We must not gloss over this. We must not accept an empty profession. If a young person is a rebel toward authority and his heart goes after the world and he has no passion for Jesus Christ and does not care for the Bible, he is probably lost, it matters not how many “professions” he has made. 

15. Pray, pray, pray.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16).

Nothing is more important in the evangelism of our children and grandchildren than effectual prayer. My maternal grandmother was a prayer warrior, and her prayers were doubtless instrumental in my conversion. She lived three years after I was saved.

The father must pray, and the mother must pray, and the father and mother must pray together. They must pray for each of their children from the time before they are born.

The grandparents must pray.

The parents must seek prayer partners. Paul taught the importance of this by his frequent, earnest requests for prayer (Ro. 15:30; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3; 1 Th. 5:25; 2 Th. 3:1). Don’t keep problems to yourself. That is often an act of pride, because we don’t want others to know of our imperfections. We need to ask Christian friends to pray for us. We need to be faithful to prayer meeting and ask the church to pray for your situation.

The parents must pray with persistence (“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” Lu. 18:1). Pray, and keep on praying. 

The parents must pray with fasting (“Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting,” Mt. 17:21). My grandmother practiced fasting with prayer and saw God do mighty things by this practice. There is a study on fasting in the Way of Life Encyclopedia and the One Year Discipleship Course.

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