Question: Are there phrases we should avoid in child evangelism?

Answer:

Evangelizing children is a privilege and a great responsibility. Therefore, we should always exercise caution with our choice of words when closing a gospel presentation. Unclear and unbiblical language often confuses both children and adults.

Using common phrases such as “give your heart to Jesus” or “invite Jesus into your heart” can mislead and sometimes frighten young children. Children can be very literal and they understand the heart as a physical organ. The concept of someone entering their heart, or giving it away can have negative long-term consequences. In addition, that is not what the Bible is asking the unbeliever to do. Scripture focuses on belief and trust for the unbeliever to understand salvation. (John 3:16, Eph. 2:8–9)

One passage often used to support these phrases is Revelation 3:20. There are two fundamental problems, however, with using that verse in a salvation context:

  1. The book of Revelation was not written so unbelievers would know how to be saved, it was written so believers would find hope by restoring strong fellowship with Jesus.
  2. The message of Revelation 3:20 is for the believer to restore fellowship with Jesus by joining Him in a meal—something that was clear in the context of the day.

Instead of looking to Revelation we should use the book of John for an evangelistic context.  John 20:31 makes it clear that evangelism is the purpose of the book and the word “believe” appears 98 times throughout the gospel of John when referring to salvation!

It is especially important with children that we make the issue clear: placing our trust in Jesus Christ alone leads to salvation.

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