After seeing around one hundred fifty children decide to become followers of Jesus in the last two weeks, it occurs to me that some people are skeptical as to whether or not young children can make a life changing commitment to follow Jesus. Baptists in particular have a special concern at this point which is shared by many evangelicals. We have rejected infant baptism for several reasons. There is no Scriptural support for the practice. In every Scriptural example of the practice, faith is exercised before baptism is performed. Finally, Jesus, our supreme example, was baptized as an adult. His baptism could not have been about sin since he was sinless. His baptism was an example for us and a picture for us of death, burial, and resurrection. This is why we immerse in water, for only immersion can carry the imagery of burial and resurrection. It is beyond question that Jesus was immersed in the Jordan since the word “baptiso” in Greek clearly means immerse. So what does this have to do with young children making the choice to follow Jesus? Since we have rejected infant baptism partially on the grounds of the need for a conscious choice to follow Jesus, we want to be careful not to unduly influence children to make a choice to please parents or other adults rather than to thoughtfully hear the call of Jesus. So what are we to do?
Personally, I am inclined to share the gospel with children and give them an opportunity to respond. I am not inclined to rush baptism. Some children will receive Jesus and immediately be passionate about baptism. This can be an indication of the depth of their understanding and commitment. Other children will simply see the challenge to follow Jesus and their response as an awakening of their awareness to the realities of the Spirit. It may come to them in waves of Truth over a period of time that will culminate in a mature decision. Those who keep the things of the Lord on their mind over a period of time and keep bringing up the matter of following Jesus are likely the ones that should be baptized. They can then connect their choice with the celebration of their choice in baptism. In any event, personal counseling is important and necessary. Some parents can do this themselves. Most feel inadequate. All pastors and ministers should seek to carefully be attentive to children in this most important decision and process. One of the best things I ever did was to post a video on our church website which explains believer’s baptism and its connection to a decision to follow Jesus. I deliberately made it brief with children in mind. Many parents in our church have sat down with their child in front of a computer in their home and watched the video and then been able to discuss with their child what was in the eleven minute message it delivers. If you would like to watch it yourself, go to peoplesharingjesus.com and find the video under the media tab that is labeled “Why Baptism”.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” Surely he meant more than their physical approach to his person in the days of his ministry. Surely he meant any child, anywhere, who hears his voice and understands who he is, why he came, and what he desires for them to do. If you are still a skeptic, you should know that I began my journey with Jesus at eight. It is a clear and consistent journey of faith. Though I have sometimes failed and fallen short, he has never failed me yet.