My Testimony: One Reason Our Churches Must Invest In Children and Teens

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Here’s the way I’ve previously described how I heard the gospel:

I first heard about Christ when God planted in my seventh-grade classroom a crazy, fanatical 12-year-old Pentecostal preacher whose goal that year was to win me to the Lord. His approach was simple: he met me at the classroom door each morning and told me, “Chuck, it’s a good thing you lived through the night.” He would then continue, “If you hadn’t, you’d be in hell right now. But you can receive Jesus into your heart right now.” His technique was suspect, but somewhere in the midst of that message God drove truth into my heart, and my life has never been the same.¹

My friend was “in my face” with the gospel every day, and I hated it at the time. I’d also try to persuade him to adjust his technique a bit if he were in my evangelism class today, but I would never want to change these facts: 

1. He loved Jesus. I didn’t understand it all at the time, but I couldn’t deny there was something real in his life. I later understood my friend so loved Jesus that he wanted to live in Great Commission obedience to his redeemer.

2. He loved me. Again, it made little sense to me then, but I now know how much he genuinely cared about me. Even as a seventh grader, he loved me enough that he was willing to risk ridicule and rejection to let me know about Jesus.

3. He was persistent. He did not give up, no matter how many times I told him I wasn’t interested in his message. He bugged me back then, but today I’m grateful for him. God knew I needed someone to keep pressing me with the gospel.

4. He, his mother, and his grandmother prayed for me. I didn’t know it immediately, but they combined their efforts on their knees and asked God to save me. God heard their prayers, and He made me His child in August of 1974.

5. He knew enough to evangelize me: the facts of the gospel and the story of his own conversion. He was hardly a theologian. In no way could he have discussed much beyond what he told me, but he did tell me the gospel. I heard him when he said I was a sinner separated from a holy Creator, but God gave His Son to pay the penalty of death for my sin. He had, in fact, clearly experienced God’s grace himself.

6. He was one example of why we need to invest in children and teens in our churches. He was 12 years old, but God used him. In fact, he was more zealous for Jesus than most adults I’ve seen in churches over the years. Little did he or I know what God would do through either of us in the decades to come, but the story began with a 12-year-old whose family and church had taught him the gospel and challenged him to share it. Our families and churches must make the same commitment.

What is your church’s commitment to children and teens?

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Thom Rainer
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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