Thursday, June 23, 2016

VBS season, Child Conversion, and Baptisms

The visible church today is seeing a flood of false Christian adults. They profess Christ, but either by lack of fruit, a sinful walk, or outright eventual repudiation, in many sad cases it becomes obvious they never possessed Him.

One place that false conversions caneasily happen is with children. And VBS is the most dangerous season of all. Wikipedia gives a history of VBS, known as Vacation Bible School:
Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a specialized form of religious education which focuses on children. Churches usually hold the week-long events during the summer, though the lengths of such programs may vary, and they are sometimes held during other times of the year. he origins of Vacation Bible School can be traced back to Hopedale, Illinois in 1894. Sunday school teacher D. T. Miles, who also was a public school teacher, felt she was limited by time constraints in teaching the Bible to children. So, she started a daily Bible school to teach children during the summer. The first Bible school enrolled forty students and lasted four weeks. ...  
Today, many churches run their own Vacation Bible School programs without being under the umbrella of a national organization. Some churches opt to use themed curriculum programs from their respective denominations or independent publishing houses which provide easy preparation and include marketing tools. Modern programs usually consist of a week-long program of religious education which may employ Bible stories, religious song, arts and crafts, skits, or puppet shows which cater toward elementary school-aged children.
However either in sincere love for Christ and a desire to see people saved, or due to outright deception due to worldly church growth strategies, some churches are quick to accept a child's profession in Christ and they quickly baptize them thereafter- declaring them saved. Many VBS volunteers, without knowing the devastating consequences of a false profession, at the end of a VBS session with children, simply ask a few superficial questions such as "Do you want to go to heaven when you die?" or "Do you accept Jesus into your heart?" and then declare the child converted and even write the date into the Bible. Baptisms quickly follow, with pastors trumpeting the "success" on social media such as Facebook with lots of Woo-hoos, PTL's, and exclamation marks.

These children grow up believing they are truly saved, yet by the time they are adults, have not borne fruit, aren't growing in knowledge of the grace of Jesus Christ, have no godly sorrow over sin, care not for personal holiness etc. Some of them go away from the faith when they become teens or young adults, only to come back in their late 20s or early 30s to "rededicate their lives to Christ." As Peters says in his new teaching, he believes for most of these people, the rededication is actually the conversion.

Here is a wonderful teaching from Justin Peters on the "A Biblical and Theological Understanding of Childhood Conversion". He admits that the teaching goes against the grain of common practice. However, when he shows from scripture why it's wise to wait in declaring a person saved, especially children, the clarity of the teaching becomes apparent and foundationally attractive.

Many of you have sent me messages and emails concerning your children, asking questions about baptism, home devotionals, and VBS. I'm grateful that the Lord led me to this wonderful resource and I happily pass it along to you.

Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical and Theological Understanding of Childhood Conversion

The link is the first time Pastor Peters delivered this teaching, he said, and he has since honed it into a book, upcoming for publication. Be on the lookout for the book. The link brings you to an hour and 21 minutes' teaching, but the first few minutes are recommendations of other books and the end is a Q&A. Peters as always is humble, kind, and delivers his teaching in a quiet but scripturally persuasive manner. If you as a parent have questions about the credibility of your child's conversion, especially during this energetic VBS season when child conversion is at the forefront of church activity, then by all means please check it out.



7 comments :

  1. VBS is such a perfect example of what's wrong with so much of the American church. So much hard work. So little faith in God. So much confidence in man.

    There's nothing wrong with camp for kids, with having fun, with playing around, etc. But those things have nothing to do with saving faith.

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

    The best way for kids to learn God's truth is through catechism at home, by their fathers.

    False-conversions? Kids (and adults) should be taught what the Scripture says:

    Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (John 8:31)

    And God keeps us who are truly his:

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
    And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:27-29)



    God help the children everywhere to come to true faith.

    Alec

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    1. VBS is also a perfect example of when, done right, edifies all who are involved. "camp for kids, with having fun, with playing around," You're right, have nothing to do with saving faith, but does have everything to do with fellowship, discipling, and adult Christian influence on children. But along with the playing around are also Bible lessons, which you left out of the list of activities done at all VBS events. Now some are done wrong but some are done right and I know personally of two that do VBS right.

      I agree that the best way to learn the Bible is through the direct teaching from a Shepherding father. But it's not the only way. Supplementing a father's home teaching with church is a given from the Bible and VBS is an extension of that church gathering that is so important for all Christians.

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    2. Yes, of course kids need all kinds of strong Christian influences. And may all VBS's be done well. My only experience is those that are less than they could be. Glad to hear that there are other types.

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  2. I am saddened to read and hear this message. I disagree with most all that I heard. I could only listen to half of Peters' message. It certainly isn't anything new.

    Back in the early 1990s I ran into something similar. A large So. Baptist Church, Charles Stanley's church First Baptist Atlanta, where I was a member, decided to change the curriculum for their children's church/school. The new curriculum left out the crucifixion of Christ saying it was too violent and graphic for children and the resurrection was too difficult a concept for young ones. I tried to argue that if you left out these realities there really isn't anything left. These are the core of our belief.

    God loves children, God uses children, and God saves children. We are told by Jesus to have faith like little children (the kind of faith that believes what we are told sight unseen; and can toss one about to and fro - if not anchored in Truth).

    God is capable of keeping his own no matter what their age. Why do Christians insist on putting God in a box? He can handle this. God promises us he will never leave us or forsake us...and that ALL who call on His name will be saved (there is no age requirement). Even the title verse of Peters' message says not to hinder the little children from coming to him. That seems pretty clear to me.

    The church would serve Christ and children better if they would build upon the tiny mustard seeds that have been planted in these now baptized children from VBS, from Sunday school, from children's church or adult church, from off media, or from wherever they hear the Word and accept it. Forget about numbers there will always be those who fall away - adults or children. It's the ones that don't fall away that are in danger of being lost. Math 13 - parable of the Sower.

    Teach our children to read God's Word daily. Teach them that his Spirit lives in them now and that it will guide them throughout their lives. Teach them that God sees all and knows all. Teach them to tell others about the love of God and the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Teach them to KNOW God and how to obey Him. Teach them about praying and that we should pray about all things. We are called to teach them not to decide when and if they are mature enough to make a decision. Matthew 18:1

    Peters considers salvation a difficult decision that only the mature should make. Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Matthew 11:30

    Oh, how this message made my heart hurt.

    Bible stories and Scripture memorization need to be a large part of VBS's mission. Some of these kids don't have parents that know God or are even interested in knowing him. Schools can't and don't teach anything about our Lord so this may be the only time these kids get to experience Jesus in a social setting. I do hope they will be experiencing Jesus at VBS and will accept him as their savior.

    As a church, we should be called to pray that these tiny seeds will grow into mature trees.

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    1. Hello Vicki,

      I’m so glad you listened to the lesson, the part of it that you did. That’s good. I’m also glad you responded using scripture, that is a good start as well.

      The scripture that you did use, you used out of context, or just totally incorrectly. You referenced Mt 18:1.

      The Mt 18:1 you referenced is actually “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”” but I think you meant the following verses, 2-6. Pastor Peters spent a great deal of time explaining all those verses. He discussed how important it is for the fathers to teach and lead the children. Maybe that was the part you chose not to listen to.

      You also mentioned ‘being tossed to and fro’, that is Ephesians 4:14, another verse Pastor Peters carefully explained in support of his contention. Again, maybe that was another part of the lesson you chose not to listen to. But you used the verse incorrectly in any case. God is capable of keeping his own no matter what their age. That is not the point of the lesson. The point was, many of the children being told they are saved are NOT His at all and never were.

      Children are tossed to and fro. Peters explained their thinking and just how literal children are when it comes to conclusions.

      In addition, you said, “We are called to teach them not to decide when and if they are mature enough to make a decision”

      We look for fruit, and it is the fruit that shows us the growing maturity, not some infantile decision they were peer pressured into, which is sadly what happens so often. Neither children nor adults “decide” to be saved. It is a grace gift from God. The entire lesson was about the difference between “deciding” (which often in children is only mental assent), and demonstration of a holy life bearing fruit, which is the evidence of salvation. He spent time explaining the difference between childISH faith and childLIKE faith.

      Your reply contained a lot of womanly emotion, the woe is me, my heart hurt, oh goodness I’m too sensitive to even bear listening. That is not how to discuss. You discuss on valid use of verses without all the hyperbole.

      Last, you used a couple of straw men in your reply, The “God in a box” chestnut is one. God IS in a box, that box is called the Bible and it is His revealed word to us. We must remain in that box and not stay outside with emotionalism and badly used, twisted verses. The box is all we’ve got, it is what He chose to reveal to us.

      Your story about the First Baptist back in the 1990s had nothing to do with anything regarding the lesson at hand.

      Justin Peters’ title, “Do not hinder the children” is explained in the lesson. But maybe that was another part of the lesson you chose not to listen to.

      No one ever said that we should not pray for the children.

      No one is saying children can’t be saved, Peters made that explicitly clear several times. Maybe that was another part you didn’t listen to.

      No one is saying that God can’t keep His own, but that actually has nothing to do with the lesson. The point of the lesson was that the 7 year old who believes in Santa AND Jesus aren’t perhaps cognitively able to pursue personal holiness, die for the Savior, be a soldier for Christ, bear fruit in keeping with faith, or any of the other commands that believers are to live for.

      Ultimately the lesson’s message was: be cautious when teaching children about Jesus and their resulting declarations of belief because their brains are not adult enough yet to make the necessary abstract distinctions and because it’s wiser to wait and see while nurturing them along in faith and truth. False conversions pollute the faith and besmirch Jesus. I’m sorry that very simply explained message made your head hurt.

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  3. Dear Vicki,
    I agree with you. A child can accept Christ. He calls them. I am sorry for the rude response to your heartfelt message. I am wondering why churches put forth the effort if they are not willing to reap the harvest. It is sad.

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    1. Cladkins, no one ever said that children can't be saved. The point was that we need to be cautious about telling them they're saved, because they're impressionable. We don't need to put forth the effort that fulfills THIS verse:

      “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Mt 7:21-23)

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