Recent research shows that when a person believes by the age of 13, they will likely stay believers for the rest of their life.
That same research states that unbelieving adults, age 19 and over, have just a 6% probability of becoming Christians. International Bible Society’s findings are that 83% of Christians make their first commitment to Jesus by the time they turn 14.
Because of these staggering numbers, CEF offers to come alongside churches and equip them to clearly communicate the Gospel to kids using methods that bring results.
I love this. Yeah for Child Evangelism Fellowship and every other group that is committed to helping the church do all it can to see young lives experience Jesus in a way that will change them forever!
But here’s something to think about. Have you ever wondered if the reason 83% of people come to faith in Christ before they’re 13 years of age is because that’s where the church puts 83% of its effort? Is the church simply creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that they then validate through their choices?
Think about the unfolding story of the church, the movement of God, as recorded in the Book of Acts. It starts with Jesus’s marching orders in Acts 1:8, “You who are My followers are to carry the good news to every corner of the earth” (in the context He was talking with adults). The starting bell sounded in Acts 2, and 3,000 became followers of Jesus: adults. The Apostle Peter was again speaking to a large crowd of adults at the temple in chapter 4, many believed, “...and the number of men came to be about 5,000” (v4).
On the Apostle Paul’s three missionary journeys, many became followers of Jesus, churches were started, and children are not even mentioned (it’s recorded that a young man was listening to Paul at a church gathering in Acts 20:9). Paul’s first stop in a new city was usually the local synagogue, where he’d reason from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. While children may have been present, the focus was definitely on the adults. And when Paul spent two years daily discipling the new followers of Jesus in Ephesus, the result was that all of Asia heard the Gospel.
It’s safe to assume He was working with adults.
Now don’t hear what I’m NOT saying, because we need to increase our efforts to reach children. But please hear what I AM saying: we need to stop spending 83% of our efforts to reach those under 14 and increase our efforts to reach adults with the life-giving message of Jesus. Child Evangelism Fellowship offersto come alongside churches and equip them to clearly communicate the Gospel to kids using methods that bring results. But where are the churches and pastors who are offering the same thing for adults: to come alongside to equip them to clearly communicate the Gospel to their peers and friends using methods that bring results? Most encourage, challenge, and even try to guilt their people into doing this, but very few provide any practical help.
I’ve seen this going on — or not going on — in churches for decades, and it’s very disheartening. But as a church planter and pastoral leader for 35 years, my experience has been very different. In fact, I’d have to say that the “83% before age 14” has not been anywhere close to my experience. And the reason is simple: we put a ton of effort and intentionality into training our adults to reach those over 14. It’s not rocket science.
Are children under the age of 13 more easily influenced and softer concrete for the indelible impressions of Jesus? Absolutely. That’s why the church should do everything it can to get better at reaching this vulnerable age.
But it's time we stop letting self-fulfilling statistics govern our behaviors and start being influenced by the statistics of Jesus:
- "God so loved the world He gave His Son that no one would perish…" – John 3:16
- "God desires every person to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth…" – 1 Timothy 2:4
- "God does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance…" – 2 Peter 3:9
God doesn’t stop loving the eight billion people of our planet once they reach 13, and neither should we. It’s time we change the statistics by equipping adults to clearly communicate the Gospel to adults using methods that bring results. It’s the heart of God.
Ron Tewson is the President of the Therefore Project. He is also an author, husband, and father of five.