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.