Childhood Conversion

When Should We Baptize Kids?

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Among those who practice believer's baptism (credo-baptism), there are  two basic positions regarding the questions of childhood participation in the church ordinances, baptism and communion, and childhood church membership.  The two views are:

  1. Withholding baptism and communion from children until they reach a level of maturity that is independent of their parents in matters relating to God and the church.
  2. Immediate participation in baptism and communion for believing children, who are recognized as church members with limited responsibilities.

Over the past few weeks, both Trevin Wax (Kingdom People) and John Starke (The Gospel Coalition) have weighed in on this discussion.  Both suggested four principles.

Trevin takes the "withholding" position:

  • We should actively share the gospel with our children, and we should encourage them when they trust Christ.
  • Those who are baptized must be able to make a credible profession of faith.
  • There is wisdom in delaying baptism for young children.
  • Delaying baptism does not mean we should consider childhood baptisms invalid.

John takes the "immediate participation" position.  He argues as follows:

  • The regular pattern in Scripture doesn’t give any indication of a probationary period.
  • A probationary period seems to imply that there is something more than faith we need to do in order to be a Christian.
  • Affirming belief in the gospel is never false assurance.
  • The New Testament pattern is reactive rather than proactive concerning conversion.

At Sojourn, we practice a version of the "withholding" position.  Similar to Trevin, we advocate waiting until age 12 though we definitely affirm conversions at earlier ages.  You can download the latest update of our position paper, policy, and process here and at the Bethlehem Baptist (Minneapolis) site.  The paper outlines what we see as the strengths and weaknesses of both positions.  I definitely think that the "immediate participation" position can be practice with gospel thoughtfulness.   Church leaders and parents will benefit by reading the full articles by Trevin and John, our full position paper, and these resources as well:

HT: Tony Kummer, Justin Taylor


Thursday Book Club: Children in Paul's Teaching

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

In December, I read through the new edition of Andreas J. Köstenberger's God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. Even though the book has been justly criticized for its treatment of family ministry in the church, I think it is still most helpful theology of family that I've read. One of the best sections is the book comes on pages 105-106, and it is entitled "Children in Paul's Teaching." In this section, Dr. Köstenberger overviews the New Testament's commands for children to obey their parents (Matt. 15:4; 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19; Luke 18: 20; Col. 3:20-21; Eph. 6:1).  In Ephesians, according to Köstenberger, "Paul indicates that children's submission to their parents is a result of Spirit-filling (Eph. 6:1; cf. Eph. 5:18: "be filled with the Spirit"), which suggests that only regenerate children can consistently live out this pattern of relationship in the power of the Holy Spirit."

On the one hand, the command to obey parents is part of God's unchanging moral law.  The statute appears as the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16), so "this is right" for all children, whether or not they know Jesus.  However, in this context, the command is conditioned by the phrase "in the Lord," which "indicates that children's obedience is part of their Christian discipleship."

Seeing obedience to parents as part of Christian discipleship has a number of implications.

  • First, we can't neglect to teach our kids to obey. As Köstenberger writes, "Parents who neglect to hold their children accountable for rendering obedience faith them in that they do not help them along the path of Christian discipleship, of which obedience is a central component."
  • Second, we shouldn't expect that our kids will be able to obey in their own power. Even as we discipline them, we should be realistic. Our children are sinners, and we should expect that they will sin and disobey sometimes.  Having realistic expectations helps us to respond with grace and consistency rather than anger and exasperation. Children "are not slaves owned by their parents but are entrusted to them by God as a sacred stewardship... Paul notes that as a result of improper treatment, children may become discouraged (Col 3:21). Indeed, few things are more heartbreaking than a child who has 'lost heart'" (107).
  • So, thirdly, teaching them to obey involves first teaching them the gospel. In Ephesians, "Paul treats children as responsible members of the congregation whose obedience to their parents 'is all of a piece with their submission to Christ.'" This passage, more than any other, should put to rest any debate over whether or not children can be converted.  Paul addresses kids as believers. This means that they can come to know God.  This should strongly encourage parents and children's ministries to preach the gospel with boldness. Children need to hear about Jesus, and they need us to call them to love and trust in him.
  • And, fourthly, teaching them to obey involves teaching them to pray. If Ephesians 6:1 should be logically related back to Ephesians 5:18 as Köstenberger suggests, then we need to teach children to pray.  We need to teach them to look outside of themselves for the help of God's Spirit.  This is especially important when a child has disobeyed.  We need to pray with kids both for God's forgiveness and for God's help to work out obedience in their hearts.

Do your kids have questions about baptism and salvation? Sign up for the Ask Class.

UncategorizedJared KennedyComment

Sign up now!

The goal of this class is to answer the questions of kids and their parents who are seeking to understand the gospel, salvation, baptism, and assurance.  We want to partner with parents, who have been commanded to teach their kids about God.  Our hope is that this class will be a catalyst for more gospel conversations between parents and their children.   The first session covers issues related to Jesus and salvation.  The second session covers issues related to baptism and assurance.

Next Class: Classes will meet again on Sundays, October 17th & 24th.  Register here.

Download Sojourn’s position and process for on childhood baptism.

Bethlehem Baptist's New Youth Baptism Policy

UncategorizedJared Kennedy1 Comment

Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where David Michael serves as family pastor, recently updated their youth baptism information brochure and process.  As part of that revision, they have provided a link to an explanation paper written by Scott Holman, a friend and fellow Sojourner, and myself.  Bethlehem is a model church and a mentor to Sojourn in many ways.   It is humbling that something we have been part of writing has been used and highlighted by a mentor church body that we respect very much.  May the Lord be glorified in our efforts, and in the lives of the children and families who are part of this process at both Bethlehem and Sojourn.