My entire early childhood revolved around this activity.
My parents were missionaries in the Philippines when I was born. From my earliest recollection, their life’s work was about getting my sister and I saved (which, for me, happened when I was 3–so I’m told), then getting their families saved, then getting everyone else saved.
We moved to Australia in 1973 and dad was a church planting pastor. Our job now was to get our neighbourhood saved. Mum held a Good News Club in our house once a week for neighbourhood kids (whom my sister and I rounded up from our schoolmates). Not happy with just one, they held another in a school several miles away and yet another in another home. They ran Good News Camps, youth camps, and camping trips as well as Sunday School with a bus bringing kids in from near and far.
Then we spent school holidays travelling to country towns all over, letterboxing gospel tracts so all those country folk could get saved.
My parents then set up a church school where we learned not only the three ‘R’s but also how to “win souls” for Christ.
I remember completing all the coursework in the Personal Evangelism course but for the one thing I needed to pass: I had to “win” someone to Christ. At the time, I taught the Junior Primary Sunday School class. On the Sunday of the final week of the term, I taught the unfortunate boys about hell. I spared no details.
“You certainly don’t want to go to hell where you’ll be burnt in a fire forever, do you?” I asked. (What a loaded question!)
“No!” They responded, wide-eyed, and quite strongly.
Yet only one soul “got saved” that day . . . but that was enough to get me over the line and pass the course.
This continued on into College. I was involved in extension ministries in a church in King’s Mountain, North Carolina, where I taught Junior High kids. I also volunteered in a Bible Club in someone’s home where we played games, sang songs, told stories, and did our best to win these little ones to Christ.
It was about my 3rd year at College when I started questioning this practice. After all, it was so easy to get a 4-year-old to repeat the right words and pray “the sinner’s prayer” (by the way, not at all a Biblical concept). Some of those kids would do anything for an adult they respected–or because their friend did it.
It was around that time when I started questioning my own salvation experience and what it meant to me. Actually, I didn’t remember it at all. Did I believe? Yes. Could I pinpoint a date and time? No. Why did I believe? Was it to do the right thing by my parents, or obey them, or impress them? Did that make any difference to God’s love and acceptance of me as his child? No.
I came to the conclusion (slowly, over the ensuing7 years) that God’s grace did not fall on me because I read the verses in the Romans Road, or repeated a prayer, or even because I said that I believed the right things. God’s grace was extended to me in spite of those things I did. Because God’s grace is free. There are no requirements to meet. There is no standard we must attain. There are no magic words to say. It is simply a gift which we receive with thanks, every day.
And that’s what we need to be teaching our children: grace is free. Nothing you can do/say/pray/believe will make God love you more than he loves you right now. Be aware of his grace surrounding you–today, and every day of your life. This gift is yours even though you doubt, even if you don’t believe it fully, even when you can’t find the words to pray.
But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4-6 NLT)