In lieu of running Sunday School at church – mainly a result of COVID-19 restrictions and lack of available teachers stemming from them – we have been producing some ‘Sunday School @ Home’ material. This has been a great way for the children to keep up with one another, to engage with the scriptures and to provoke discussions within the family (not least as we run ‘whole church curriculum’ i.e. the children study the same passage as the adults).
We try to sit down as a family and watch the videos together on Sunday afternoon so that we can have a conversation about it. That way, the sermon is still fresh in our minds and the children (who at the moment are also in the service hearing the sermon) can have some key points reinforced for them. This week, we had an interesting conversation with my daughter. It went like this:
Truth be told, this isn’t the first time we had such a conversation. Nor is it the first time it has been about that apparently successful. I suspect it won’t be the last either!
Some might have that conversation with their own child and end up beside themselves with worry. Maybe we’re not teaching them rightly? Maybe they have picked up wrong idea from bad influences? Maybe they won’t ever become believers! I understand the impulse but here are a few reasons why I am entirely sanguine about the way our conversation went and maybe we just need to chill out a bit.
Salvation is of the Lord
Standing over all of this, I believe God is sovereign. The bottom line is: my daughter will become a believer if – and only if – the Holy Spirit changes her heart. Neither my belief in Christ as her father nor my evidently world class teaching ability (!) will move her, or anybody else, one iota closer to the Lord without his intervention. By the same token, neither my lack of faith nor world class ability to mess up teaching opportunities (!) can fail to keep her out of the kingdom if the Lord chooses to change her heart either. The results of those conversations is well beyond my paygrade. So, I am OK with leaving these things with God.
The weight of one conversation
Of course, the Lord works through means and he could well work through a single conversation. But the truth is, we probably shouldn’t give a solitary question and answer undue weight. Is my daughter more likely to become a believer because I brilliantly tackled one standalone question; or, is she more likely to believe after listening to dozens of sermons she can’t necessarily remember and witnessing the ongoing Christian life of her parents? That’s not to say those conversations have no value. They are all part and parcel of the means the Lord uses. But we should keep them in healthy perspective. They are not ultimate. They are probably not even going to be the thing that has the biggest impact. We shouldn’t load solitary conversations with more expectations than they can bear.
The cogs are turning
More encouragingly for me, my daughter asked that question unprompted. It wasn’t immediately pertinent and it wasn’t encouraged by us. She just asked. That tells me something is going on to prompt it. Now, that isn’t to will her into the kingdom before there is any evidence of belief, but it is to say there are green shoots. It is a short step from wondering *if* I’m a Christian to wanting to rectify that issue *if* you are not. That may not happen immediately, but it is an encouraging train of thought.
It bears saying that my daughter is only 4. One isn’t expecting a great deal of understanding. That isn’t to say children of 4 can’t believe. My sister would say she came to believe around that age. I know I was certainly asking these sorts of questions around that age (but came to believe a couple of years later). But my wife didn’t come to believe or understand these things until considerably later again. Others are much older than her still before they come to believe, despite being taught these things as children. All that is to say, my daughter is very young and I don’t lose a lot of sleep knowing that – despite having grasped various things – she hasn’t quite fully grasped (or owned) the gospel yet. There is every reason to believe that understanding will come with time and (we pray) she will come to believe it once it is understood.
The question opened up the opportunity to talk about the gospel and what it means to be a Christian. Now, my daughter didn’t seem to grasp what we were explaining. But the cogs were turning and – as I said earlier – it may be that this conversation is something she remembers later. I highly doubt it will be the last conversation of this order we ever have. Though she didn’t seem to get it now, it may have an impact later down the line when other things begin to click. Who knows how the Lord will choose to use it? But I struggle to believe that explaining his Word to my daughter – however ineffectual is seemed to be today – is time wasted.
So, all of that is to say, I don’t worry too much about how the particular conversation went. I don’t presume my daughter will become a believer – as my son appears to have done – but nor do I presume she won’t either. We keep teaching, modelling, loving, answering, praying and ultimately leave the things that belong to the Lord – like salvation – up to him. Because the results are the Lord’s and – in the ordinary run of things – the means he uses may well be slow burning, I am entirely sanguine about the whole thing.