Today is special. In fact, this entry is special because I deviate from protocol. I try to compose in a way that removes time stamps—recently I…yesterday was…last year…or simply today. But this day, August 3rd, is especially meaningful to me. It is the day in my history when I became fully assured of my salvation. In a sense, it is my spiritual birthday, although I frown on dating salvation.
Please indulge me for a moment of reflection. My father died before I turned five years-old. Faith was very important to my mother, and she kept all five of her children—ages 17 to 3—in church. I joke that I was born on the front pew! But God gripped my heart from the dawning of cognizance in me. I still remember my brother and me deciding to go forward to receive Christ.
From that moment, I identified with all-things-Jesus. I admired my pastor and knew that I wanted to do what he did. I preached fervently around the house, on the front and back porches…the old car in the backyard, and in the schoolyard at recess. I drew crowds in the neighborhood and a tearful drunk to the front door of my home. I earned a moniker as the “Kid Preacher” that still remains.
I walked conscientious of my faith as I grew up. But as I approached my teen years, I became troubled, not knowing if I was truly saved. I couldn’t stand it any longer one Sunday. I sat on the back pew after the morning service deliberating. I asked a church buddy sitting next to me, “Do you wanna go get saved?” He said no, but my heart was fixed.
I met my pastor descending the podium, just after 3 p.m. (yes, church was long back then!), and we asked God to come in. My pastor was elated and returned to the mic and announced what had just occurred. I couldn’t contain my emotions. I recall Deacon Brown, Mother Lewis, Sister Fitzgerald, and Sister Patterson, all now in Heaven, gathered around me sharing the love of God.
See why this day means so much to me?
Children Matter To God
I reflect on this moment to express a concern, also. Now in my heart, I know that I entered the kingdom when I was about five, but because my church placed little emphasis on childhood salvation, I had no assurance and encountered doubt at 12, unnecessarily so. Today I say that August 3rd was the day I “became assured” or became a “student of the Word” because my spiritual discipline did become thereafter what it continues to be today. But I don’t want any kid to have to experience the uncertainty that I did.
Churches and leaders must see that children mean just as much to God as the drug addict in the alley or the spiritualist across seas. Their salvation is incredibly important because they are not only sinners by default, but they also have not yet had to deal with temptation and vice. We work from an advantage when as loving and godly parents and leaders we teach kids at their level about a benevolent heavenly Father, his expectations of them, and how to be devoted to him.
This is not brainwashing, as some argue. We believe it is spiritually necessary, but it is also what any parent of any religion or value-system traditionally (and naturally) does, which is disclose or instill the principles by which they themselves live. It doesn’t negate the fact that a time will come, as we all know, sooner or later, when that person will decide for themselves whether they will abide by their foundational knowledge or go a different way.
We teach Christian principals because they come from God and because we know that they are tremendously valuable in their essence. And we had better know that if we don’t turn people’s attention to God early, especially as kids, the forecast gets murkier. We will pray easier if we pray earlier.
This certainly doesn’t negate the power of God to save at any period of life. But if the Holy Spirit does the hard work by bringing souls to life—any soul, we must assist him by being the life support team conscientious about its mission. For some of us, however, this simply boils down to what we believe about the necessity and efficacy of childhood salvation.
Churches need to see their outreach programs beginning at knee-high level…well ankle-biter. Most churches won’t have the budget for major children’s facilities, the glitziest productions, and paid staff, but I didn’t have that either. I only had a conviction in my heart, and this is the basic that’s important: Gospel.
We must affirm childhood salvation. This is a ministry of stooping that we’ll be happy about in the long-run. Yes, Jesus loves the little children.