Summer is kids’ ministry’s peak season. You have special events, VBS’s, and summer camps. Kids all over the United States will hear the gospel in a variety of setting ranging from mosquito filled fire pits to dodge ball filled gyms. And hordes of these kids will walk the aisle, raise their hands, and sign a card saying that asked Jesus into their hearts. Millions will claim they are now saved.
But will these good times last? Will these kids truly bear fruit, become missional teenagers, and turn into bible believing adults? Or will they fall away, grow up malcontents, and write introspective books explaining how church camp missed it?
Often kids fall away because they believed the wrong thing. They trusted in a shrunken gospel. Because they never met Jesus, many kids will fall away from their faith as the leaves start to change color. As teachers, we need to make sure offer the complete gospel this summer
So what does a truncated gospel look like?
The Easy Gospel
Often a water down gospel looks easy. We simply call kids to accept Jesus as the savior without explaining the cost. We reduce the gospel to a repeat-after-me prayer, or to a hand raised while everyone closes their eyes. As a result, we zap the power right out of the gospel. We turn salvation into a game of follow the leader.
If kids (or anyone else for that matter) truly understand their sin, and the glories of God, they do not have to be spoon feed salvation. They do not have to be coaxed into a divine agreement. Those who love God, will willingly repent. You can’t find one example of someone being forced by the disciples or Jesus into believing. Jesus never told people to close their eyes and then raise their hands if they said a secret prayer.
I knew of one student who professed Christ at a revival. She prayed a repeat-after-me prayer. She walked the aisle while emotion music played. And, she filled out a card checking the “saved” box. She performed the salvation trifecta. She is now a number in someone’s newsletter. But, she did not get saved.
As I followed up with her, I saw that she never understood the gospel. She never grasped what it means to die to sin and to live for Christ. She never understood that to love God we must obey him (John 14:15). She simply followed the easy, socially acceptable path to salvation, seeking to please the adults in the room. She never repented and believed.
The gospel is not easy to believe or accept (Matt 7). The crowds that followed Jesus found the gospel offensive. The rich young ruler walked away from Jesus. The gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block (I Cor. 1:23). The solution is not to make the gospel easier to follow. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one can come to Christ. Our best efforts to save people can never replace the work of the Holy Spirit. The solution is to preach the full gospel and to trust God to do the impossible.
The Horror Film Gospel
We also short change the gospel by turning it into a horror Film. It’s easy to scare kids into professions. Spend a few minutes describing hell. Tell the kids the you are going to heaven. And then ask them who wants to escape damnation and join you in paradise. Most every kid will raise their hands. It’s the logical thing to do.
But in that moment, the kids have not embraced the gospel. They do not love Jesus. They simply want to get out of hell. And who can blame them. Hell is a real and very scary place. As a kid, I would pray for weeks at a time for God to save me from hell. But God never answered those prayers.
Salvation is more than just fire insurance. Salvation is trusting in Jesus. Salvation is loving and obeying the heavenly father. To be saved we have to want the gospel; we have to want Jesus. And once I confessed Christ as my Lord and God, he saved me. Salvation is about a relationship with the heavenly father. It is much more than a get out of jail free card!
We can scare a bunch of kids. But this will not get them to heaven. We need to offer them the full gospel!
The Full Gospel
The full gospel is the hard gospel. It is proclaiming that God is the creator,
that man sinned, that Jesus died to pay for our sins, that men and women must respond. The true gospel calls kids to repent while reminding them of the cost of dying to self. The gospel tells kids that they are ugly, horrible people in need of a savior. And it offers kids hope through the life and death of Christ.
We preach the gospel trusting God to work. And guess what? If the Holy Spirit awakens a little soul, we will not have to coax them into salvation. We will not have to pray the sinner’s prayer for them. Yes, we will need to teach them and disciple them. There is no salvation apart from the preached word of God. But once we preach; we are done. We don’t bring conviction and regeneration. The Holy Spirit does that work.
If you are looking for a great resource that explains the gospel, I encourage to grab a copy of Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel.
So will our kids’ faith make it till the fall? Did they embrace an easy or fearful gospel? Then probably not. But if they embraced the Jesus of the Bible, then yes! And big question we must all answer is this, “Are we going to offer the full Gospel to our kids this summer?”