Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: child evangelism

A step forward, a step back

We found a house to rent just a few miles from church. I started working for Ed Klassen’s carpenter crew. Things were working out well for me; I wasn’t so sure how this was going to work for Chris. I was still a young Christian, trying to sort things out for myself and didn’t know how to be much help to her.

The big sticking point for Chris was that she knew these Holdeman Mennonites believed that if you were a Christian there had to have been a starting point, a new birth. She thought she didn’t have anything to tell and wouldn’t be allowed into the church.

Sure, there had been those times as a young girl at camp where the counsellor had led her in praying the sinner’s prayer then assured her that now shew was saved. Then she had those nightmares when we were first married that the end of time had come and she wasn’t ready. The General Conference Mennonite preacher had assured her she was fine. Her testimony before she was baptized in that church was that she had always wanted to be a Christian. That had been enough, and it would have been enough for the Conservative Mennonites. But she knew that wasn’t going to work here.

As I remember it, when I came home after my first day’s work, Chris met me with the news that minister Bennie wanted to visit with us. Lillian, his wife, had visited with Chris during the day and they had talked about the changes in our lives over the past few years. Lillian thought there was something there that sounded like a new birth experience.

We had supper and went over to Bennie and Lillian’s. Chris recounted the event she had told Lillian earlier that day. She had always believed that she was a Christian. About a year earlier she had felt that God was asking something of her that she was not willing for. She had outright refused. Then the awful truth dawned on her for the first time in her life – she was lost. She had knelt down and prayed, promising to do whatever God asked of her. At that she felt complete peace.

Since she had always thought she was saved, she had not understood this experience as the beginning of her Christian life. But as we talked it over it became clear to all of us that this had been unlike anything she had experienced before. This was where she was born again and became a child of God.

This was a new beginning for both of us. We were now fully united in faith and knew we were where God wanted us to be.

Linden was a big congregation; there were a lot of people for us to get to know, and lots of children Michelle’s age. She celebrated her fourth birthday October 28, 1975.

I had always known that carpenter work was a bit of a stretch for me, but it was the kind of work that was available. My allergies left me with an insecure sense of balance. Working on a roof was almost torture, but I forced myself to do it as best as I could. I managed to cope for a couple months, but late in November the allergy problem kicked in with a vengeance. It started with sneezes and snuffles, developed into a sinus infection and then I lost my voice. With antibiotics I was feeling fine in about a week and started back to work. Before the end of that week I was as sick as I had been the first time.

Okay, this line of work just wasn’t for me. Perhaps there might have been something else for me in the Linden area, but it seemed like we should go back to Moose Jaw.

The return to Moose Jaw was a detour from our route to the church, but it was soon evident that there was a need at home. My father’s dementia rapidly becoming worse, the burden on my mother was too much for her to bear alone.

We settled into life in Moose Jaw once again. Chris went back to working at the senior’s residence; I worked for Dennis on the farm the next two summers. In between time I taught Michelle to read. I know I wasn’t as patient and kindly a teacher as my mother had been, but she did learn. Then she could read the little books that Julia had given me when I was her age.

My father went into a nursing home and my mother went to visit him almost every day. I drove her sometimes, but there was no use trying to visit with my father. He didn’t know who I was anymore. He still knew Mom and my uncle Art, his youngest brother. But I guess I came along too late. Dad was 50 when I was born and that event didn’t seem to be in his memory bank anymore.

We went to church at Hague or Bredenbury about once a month. It was a three hour trip to get to either place. I remember one trip to Hague on a very cold winter day. We were driving a 1972 Toyota Corolla, a very small car in that era. We found that the heating system was just enough on that frigid day to keep the windshield clear or to keep ourselves warm, but it wasn’t up to doing both. The choice was obvious, we had to see where we were going. It wasn’t a comfortable trip.

We enjoyed the Sundays in those small congregations, the fellowship, the opportunity to worship with fellow believers, and looked forward to a time when we would be free to move into a congregation.

Parents: Don’t run ahead of God!

I heard it again the other night — the failure of a childhood conversion.

The counsellor at a Christian summer camp had talked about Jesus and heaven and then asked the children if they wanted to go to be with Jesus in heaven when they died. A little girl was among those who said yes. The counsellor led her in a prayer and then told her that she was saved. She tried to do all the right things after that, but God didn’t seem very real and eventually she quit trying. After many twists and turns in her life she found herself a single mother in desperate need of help.  This time her prayer came from her heart and God was there to answer and has continued to guide and sustain her.

It’s not always the camp counsellor, most often it’s Mom and Dad. They want an assurance that their precious child will not be lost and so they begin at a tender age to prompt their child to give her heart to the Lord. Precious Child is happy to please Mom and Dad and recites the sinner’s prayer, often at the age of four, five or six. Mom and Dad rejoice that Precious Child is now a child of God. As soon as Precious Child grows up and leaves home, she drifts away from the church and her profession of Christianity.

One Canadian writer described these young people as the Goodbye Generation — those who appear outwardly to be faithful Christians during their youth. Yet when they say goodbye to Mom and Dad and face life on their own, they also say goodbye to faith and church. I think it is fair to ask if they ever really had a relationship with God. A survey a year or two ago found that young people who find meaning and direction in Bible reading and prayer while growing up, continued to live out their faith after they left home.

I know Moms and Dads, you love your children, you want them to be saved. But salvation is a personal relationship between your child and God. You cannot arrange, manage or force the beginning of that relationship. If you try, the results might be heart-breaking.

Wait for God to call your child. You are not the Holy Spirit, you cannot force God to do His part. Just trust that He will. Neither can you persuade or force your child to do his part. That is entirely between him and God.

I know that it can be painful to wait. While you are waiting, you might want to check your own relationship with God, ask Him if your life is all the He wants it to be. Don’t give your child a mixed message by calling yourself a Christian, yet living as though God has little place in your life.

So many of the things that are done to make church attractive to young people are a tragic waste of time and effort.  Churches should not be trying to convince young people that they can have Jesus plus all the worthless baubles that the world runs after. Tell them that it will cost something to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Young people are searching for meaning in life, don’t try to sidetrack them with empty fun.

But most of all, let God do the God part. Let God do the calling, let your child make the choice to respond to that call and then let God do the adopting. God will not adopt your child as His own if all He sees is a forced or halfhearted repentance. But when the repentance is truly from the heart then God responds by wrapping your child in His love. This is what you really want, isn’t it? Then try not to get in God’s way.

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