From time to time I'll listen to the Way of the Master radio program streaming over the internet as I work on other things. It's kind of odd because I really don't care for the program very much. The Way of the Master is famous for being the ministry that former "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron is the face of. Ray Comfort is the gentleman with the New Zealand accent that you often see with Cameron, and Todd Friel is the host of the radio program. Evangelism is the main focus of the ministry. Comfort is especially known as being a proponent of open-air evangelism. While the radio program does devote some time to evangelism, much of the broadcast tends to center on being a Christian watchdog. In other words, pointing out everything that's wrong with everyone else's ministry. In general, I find this kind of stuff to be counterproductive to the cause of Christ, and that's why I don't really care for the program.
Now that I've said all that, I'm going to do pretty much the same thing and point out a problem I have with a statement that was made on the program. As someone who works in children's ministry, this statement caught me completely off guard and I felt it was important to offer it up for discussion.
During hour 1 of the March 20, 2008 program (hear it for yourself here) Ray Comfort and Todd Friel called a man named Mickey at the request of a family member. Mickey is not a believer and, for the record, was expecting the call. Through the course of the conversation, it is revealed that Mickey actually grew up in a Baptist church and accepted Jesus at the age of six, but has since stopped believing in Christ. This eventually led to the following quote from Mr. Comfort:
"So God has given light to every man, you're without excuse, Mickey. What you've got to do is surrender and say, "Judge, I fling myself upon your mercy." Say that to God. And then God can forgive your sins because Jesus took your punishment. That's what you're supposed to learn when you're at a Baptist church. It's something you seem to have missed out on. Probably because you gave your heart to Jesus when you were six years old and had no understanding of what sin was."
As I'm sure you've figured out, it's that last sentence I'm having trouble with. What exactly is Ray Comfort saying? Is Mr. Comfort actually suggesting that children have no understanding of sin, or even worse, that they can't truly be saved at a young age because of it? In my experience, I've found the exact opposite to be true. I think children have a far better understanding of sin than most adults do. I mean, when my kids do something wrong they know it. I don't need to tell them and they don't need to tell me. I can see it in their eyes. I can see it in their posture. As we grow older we learn to make excuses, we learn to justify our sin.
You've probably heard the famous passage in Matthew 18:
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I think part of what Christ is pointing out here is that understanding of sin that children have. The folks at WOTM are big on their belief that people come to Christ when they understand their sin and their need for a savior. And you know what, they're right about that, but to suggest that kids don't have that understanding is ridiculous. The Jan/Feb premiere issue of K! Magazine has fantastic article by my friend Alan Root that explores a similar issue, whether or not kids can understand the concept of being "born again." Alan sums up the article with the following:
"The point is kids can understand the basics of our faith better than adults can. Why? They don't have our baggage. They arrive fresh and full of trust, with a curiosity that is satisfied with God's short answers."
I hope and pray that Mr. Comfort simply mis-spoke. I must admit, I'm having a hard time giving him the benefit of the doubt. I'm curious to hear some thoughts from my children's ministry friends on this one.