The following address was given on May 20, 2012 by Bishop Stephen Masilela, General Presbyter of Africa, to the participants of the second Southern Africa Institute of Children’s Ministry in Kafue, Zambia. Participants were present from through Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, and South Africa.
There is no better moment for Africa than this—where the whole continent is engaged in a debate of redefining and understanding who we are and where we are going in this increasingly globalized world. Those most affected by globalization and those who most need to understand the challenges they face are the youth and children. They are the future generation and therefore knowledge holders of the future. It is for that reason that our church needs to focus on ministering to children effectively.
Personally, I am deeply interested in evangelizing children. By evangelism, I mean to proclaim the Gospel with intent to convert the hearer to Christianity. This should be the business of every Christian. And we should all make it our business to evangelize children, especially the children of Africa.
Children have a fallen nature and desperately need Christ. Ephesians 2:1–3: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sin. Wherein in times past you walked according to the prince of power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
This world is dominated by an attitude of disobedience against God. And without Christ, everyone, including our boys and girls, are held in bondage to this attitude. This is the fallen nature apart from Christ. Sometimes it is easy for children raised up in a Christian home and an environment that is Christian to compare themselves to more outwardly sinful children. This comparison leads them to conclude that they are okay. They tend to evaluate their stand before God based on what unchurched kids are doing and what they are not doing. But every child, regardless of upbringing and church attendance, has the same sin nature, dead in sin, held captive by the power of sin and children of wrath by nature, desperately needing Christ. Romans 3:10–11 says “There is none righteous, no not one”. We must preach the message of the gospel to all children, those who are within our churches and those who are without.
Children are not only the church today but also church of the future. It is the duty of the church to maintain every agency intended for evangelism of children. To them we must look for the church of the future. As we sow towards them so shall we reap. The church of the future should be filled with true converts. A true convert is changed and continues to be changed by God. A true convert hates sin. “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:13). If children miss knowing God, they miss the very reason they were created.
Christ and faith in Him is the foundation of any/all true knowledge. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Colossians 2:3: “In whom (Christ) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
In today’s culture it has become somewhat noble and acceptable to “let children decide for themselves what they become concerning religion.” This idea says we should be neutral when we teach children anything. Schools teach our children reason and logic. But the very foundation of all reason and logic is faith in the God who created everything.
Deuteronomy 6:4–7 says that we should tell our children about God throughout the course of every day to lay a foundation in forming our children’s faith. If we want to present our children with effective Christian teaching, we need to connect their experiences to biblical truths. It is through these experiences that our children will learn godly wisdom.
Evangelizing children gives us a valid reason to beg God for grace to keep us from falling. Psalm 71:17–19 says, “O God thou has taught me from my youth; and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grey headed, O God forsake me not until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.” The Psalmist knows this one valid reason for which to beg God for more grace—so that he might declare God to the next generation. God allows us to live so that we might share His greatness and mighty works with the children and youth of this generation. May we be passionate about that which God is passionate. May boys and girls be attracted to Jesus Christ through us.