Are we responsible for the salvation of our toddler who just jammed an entire waffle into her mouth and the teenager who just texted us that she might have hit a pole when backing up? Will God find fault with us if we fail to usher our children into the kingdom of God before trade in their pig tails for a college I.D. card?
Some pastors would say, “Yes.” Paul proclaimed, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them to Christ” (I Corinthians 9:19). As the following verses make clear Paul did anything and everything he could to win people to Christ. He suffered all kinds of hardships; he argued the gospel from all kinds or perspectives. He worked hard to win many to Christ. “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some, ” he reported (I Corinthians 9:22b).
Paul appears to be implying that parents must work hard to win their children to the Lord. We parents seem to be responsible for making sure little Johnny walks the aisle and for making sure little Sarah gets baptized. We must talk, persuade, and influence our kids until they are willing to accept the Christian life. We must win them for the Lord while the day is young.
While such thinking is pervasive in SBC circles and in evangelicalism in general, such thinking is not ultimately biblical thinking. Flip back to 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:1. Paul tackles the Corinthians’ boastful thinking by reminding them that God does all the work. God saves sinners as the apostles preached (1 Corinthians 1:21). God chose those whom would believe (I Corinthians 1:27,28, 31). Paul clearly did not believe that his sermons, his evangelism strategies, and his programs caused people to repent and believe.
He wrote in I Corinthians 2:1-2 these words:
And I, when I came you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and hum crucified.
Paul saved no one.
We will save no one. Even if we get junior to repeat a prayer after us, we have saved not saved Junior. We are not responsible for winning our children to Christ. We do not have to play the right music, leverage the right amount of guilt, or seize the perfect moment when our kid is both still and awake. Nor do we have to hold our kid hostage in a spiritual timeout, suspending our family movie night until our girl repents and believes.
We can save no one with our passion, sincerity, and skill. Only God brings dead souls to life through his Word (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic till we have faced this shattering face and let it make it’s proper impact on us. – J.I. Packer
We do not have to worry about saving our children. We are not called to win them or anyone else to Christ. We are called to proclaim the gospel. As Mark Dever cautions us, “Evangelism must not be confused with the fruit of evangelism.”
We can rest assured that our job is only to teach our kids about the gospel. We can be like Paul and share the gospel with the son who thinks he can work his way to heaven by obeying his parents’ rules. We can evangelize our daughter who believes she can find joy apart from obedience to Christ through self-fulfillment via sex. We can point our son to Christ as he grieves his latest break up; we can point our daughter to Christ as she mourns her rejection from her top college of choice. We can at all times and in all circumstances point our children to Christ.
To be a soul winner is to be a parent who sacrifices all for the chance to share Christ with their children.
We have to be willing to skip our favorite T.V. show, mess up our vacation plans, and lose money on non-refundable tickets. We have to be willing to play with dump trucks and rub a sore knee, and do everything in between. We have to be willing to be all things to our children. J.I. Packer said,
The truth is that personal evangelism is very costly, just because it demands of us a really personal relationship with the other person.
Do we have personal relationships with our children? Are we sacrificing all to get to know our children so that we can love them, train them, and point them to the gospel? Or are we just the bank, the shuttle driver, and the tutor? Do we know the kids sleeping under our roof?
We should know our kids. But, we do not have to add ‘salvation’ to our list of parental responsibilities. To be a soul winner is to be a preacher of the gospel. We can do this. Moreover, we must do this as our own obedience and the vitality of our faith is directly tied to us sharing Christ with our children (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6).
Thankfully, many of our kids are open and receptive to hearing the gospel from our lips. Some eighty-six percent of Americans today claim that their family influenced their identity. How you respond to your kids’ angry bat toss, their perfect report card, and their completion of their driver exam will shape them for better or for worse.
What are will telling our kids? Are we sharing the gospel with them?