children in a field

The littlest evangelist

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3

I read a story today about an early Twentieth-Century evangelist named Gypsy Smith. As the story goes, Gypsy came to know Jesus as a child, but he was worried about his uncle’s salvation. Being a child, he knew it would be seen as disrespectful to say this out-loud to his uncle, so he fervently prayed instead. One day his uncle said to him, “Child, why are the knees in your trousers worn out?” And little Gypsy replied, “They have been worn out from praying for you to know God and become a Christian.” Gypsy’s uncle put his arm around the boy, and then fell to his own knees and accepted Jesus into his heart.

I don’t know how much of this story is true, but after watching my own children, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a pretty accurate re-telling. As a parent I spend a lot of time thinking about how to raise my children up to have a strong relationship with Christ. I see my husband and I as their teachers and my children as the students, and so it always seems to catch me off-guard when God uses my children to teach me something.

But the truth is my kids, with their child-like faith and audacious love, have taught me a lot about discipleship and evangelism. You see my kids are chronic “inviters”. They will not hesitate to invite a friend to come over to play, spend the night, even join us for an entire weekend! And they are constantly inviting friends and neighbors to come to our church, or join us for small group Bible study. It is second-nature to them and they never think twice about extending an invitation or coming up to me and begging “puh-leeese mommy, can’t my friend Susie come with us to Bible study? Pretty, pretty please!” They ask with earnest and sell the idea to their friends with conviction.

They are uninhibited by the lies we adults tell ourselves. Things like: “oh, I can’t invite my neighbor to church, they’ll think I’m a Bible-thumper,” “I can’t talk about my faith at work, it will make people uncomfortable,” or “I’m not going to tell that stranger in Target all about the Bible study we’re doing, they will think I’m crazy!”

This fear of making others uncomfortable by what we believe, it’s really more about our own comfort zone and our unwillingness to push past it. Our worry about being politically correct or being rejected are all lies that the enemy plants in our hearts. I’m ashamed to admit I have succumbed to these lies too many times.

Matthew 18:3

But my kids? They are amazing. In the last year all three of them have invited friends to church or our small group Bible study. And you want to know what has happened? In at least three instances the parents have followed! Instead of being offended or uncomfortable about this invite, these families were eager to accept. Some of them were looking for a church. Others were waiting for an invitation and someone to welcome them. And some have been broken or hurting and needing to receive hope and love.

I believe when Jesus said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:3) this is what he was talking about. We grown-ups need to let go of our insecurities, ignore the lies of the enemy, and stop worrying so much! We need to live our faith boldly, bravely and invite everyone we meet to join us. Because for every five people who decline, there will be that one person. That one who’s been waiting for an invitation, praying for God to give them a sign.

And don’t for a second underestimate how God will use you to answer other’s prayers. He has big plans for how He wants to use us, if only we’ll let Him. If only we will become like little children.

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