Founders Journal

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The Family and Evangelism

Ernest Reisinger

"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also" (2 Tim. 1:5).

"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).

God has ordained three institutions: the home, the government, and the church. The clearest commandment in the New Testament for the people of God is to evangelize: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15,16); "Ye are my witnesses" (Luke 24:48); "As my Father hath sent me even so send I you" (John 20:20,21); and our Lord's parting words, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1:8).

Certainly the home is in the world and is, therefore, one of the first places of responsibility to evangelize. God has not left us without instructions and illustrations for family evangelization. One of the most vivid and instructive examples is the conversion of young Timothy.

Timothy's Conversion

Not every convert is converted from a careless, wicked life of outward sinful indulgences. Not everyone is converted from a self-righteous life and is a persecutor of Christians as was Saul of Tarsus. Not everyone is regenerated from the womb as appears to be the case of John the Baptist and Jeremiah (Luke 1:5; Jer. 1:5).

There is a wide difference as to when conversion occurs and the circumstances in which it is accomplished; however, regeneration itself is the same in all. Regeneration always includes the enlightening of the mind, the convicting of the conscience, and the renewing of the will. It is by the work of the Spirit that the natural blindness is removed, the natural enmity is subdued, and the natural man becomes a new creature in all his views, feelings, desires, affections, aims, habits, and hopes.

This change is necessary. Jesus said, "Except ye be converted... ye shall not enter the kingdom of God." Both children born in Christian homes and children born in pagan homes must experience this change. This is why "family evangelization" is necessary. Timothy's conversion is very instructive as an example of the necessity, the means, and the results of conversion.

From the biblical account of this servant of Christ, we learn that his first serious impressions of Divine Truth were from his early religious education in the family from the pious care, teaching and example of his mother and his grandmother: "From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation."

Here we get the sure clue as to the proper means and method for family evangelizing. If Timothy learned the scriptures, it is obvious that someone had to teach him. Teaching is the method and the Scripture is the means. Timothy came from a home that was divided religiously. His mother was a Jewess and his father was a Greek (cf. Acts 16:1).

Paul thanked God for his mother's piety (2 Tim. 1:3-5). Thank God for home piety and for domestic instruction which often lead to the salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

The details of Timothy's experience are not recorded, but, by the things that are recorded in the two epistles addressed to him we can be sure that his experience corresponds, in substance, to that of every other child of God. For example:

  1. Paul was persuaded that Timothy was in possession of true faith and said, "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded that in thee also" (2 Tim. 1:5).

  2. Paul treated Timothy as a true minister. This may be drawn either implicitly or explicitly from the fact that he was a Christian evangelist, and nothing short of conversion would be sufficient for his own salvation or the work of the ministry.

  3. Timothy must have been convicted of sin, so as to feel his need of a Saviour from sin and its consequences.

  4. Timothy had to be enlightened in the knowledge of Christ so as to perceive the all-sufficiency and suitableness of Christ to meet his need.

  5. Timothy must have personally embraced Christ as He is offered in the gospel: a Prophet to teach and instruct, a Priest to reconcile and intercede, a King to rule, govern, and protect.

  6. From the instructions to him we know that he must have endured the inward struggles, fears, and secret conflicts such as only a true Christian knows.
    1. The terrible warfare (2 Tim. 2:3,4)
    2. The fear that every Christian experiences at times (2 Tim. 1:7)
    3. The tendency of a Christian to be ashamed of the Lord (2 Tim. 1:8)
    4. The necessity of continuing to the end (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

These six things can be learned from the epistles addressed to him and they confirm the fact that he was soundly evangelized in the family.

Some Useful Lessons for Evangelizing the Family

1. Little children need to be evangelized.

2. Little children are capable subjects of Divine grace and we must not put off or neglect family evangelism because of improper and unbiblical methods that are sometimes used in seeking to evangelize children. Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14). On another occasion Jesus said, "Except ye be converted; and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). The great evangelist, Jonathan Edwards, gives a wonderful example of the conversion of a little girl, Phebe Bartlett, in A Narrative of Surprising Conversions.

3. From Timothy's conversion, we learn that a sound and serious Christian education is often blessed as the means God uses to bring His sheep into the fold (cf. 2 Tim. 3:14,15). However, Bible knowledge alone does not always prove productive to conversion. Children can learn Bible truth intellectually, just as they learn English, history or mathematics. There must be the work of the Spirit. This calls for prayer. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13). It is the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit alone leads to fanaticism; the Word without the Spirit leads to Pharisaism.

This parental teaching must be connected with exemplary faith and true piety on the part of parents--not just a system of lessons, but a course of training by practical examples in the family. Paul made such an appeal to young Timothy. "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience" (2 Tim. 3:10).

4. The fourth lesson for family evangelism from the case of Timothy is the importance of Holy Scripture. The scripture was delivered by holy men of God. The scripture contains holy precepts and deals with holy subjects such as birth, marriage, life, death, and, yes, heaven and hell. The scriptures are designed to make us holy and lead little children in the true way of holiness.

Two Different Classes

There are two different classes among those who are privileged to be born into Christian families. Being born in a Christian home does not make children Christians any more than being born in a cow barn would make them a cow or being born in a garage would make them an automobile. Yes, they are privileged, and it is a gracious providence to be in a Christian family, but, this providence and privilege does not exclude the absolute necessity of conversion.

There are some, like Timothy, who are made wise unto salvation. There are others who enjoy the same privilege, yet they are destitute of saving grace. No human being is able to discriminate between the two classes so as to determine infallibly which class each individual is in. Many who have made a profession have proved to be destitute of saving grace; thus, we must beware of two dangers in family evangelization.

The first danger is taking too much for granted, that is, assuming all is well when in fact, there is no spiritual reality, no saving change.

The second danger is mistaking some natural and common truth of Christianity and religious education for true conversion, for example: Bible knowledge, gentle manner, proper education, outward religious habits. These are all commendable and will accompany salvation, but the Bible warns us of a form of godliness that knows nothing of its power.

Peter tells us of those who are in this category: "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire"' (2 Peter 2:21,22).

Because of these dangers, it is important in family evangelization to ask some questions:

  • Is there a conscious and sincere desire for God, such as leads to secret prayer and a welcome of family prayers?

  • Is there a desire to obey parents in spite of many actual failures?

  • Is there a desire to please God in spite of many falls and crooked steps?

We must not be satisfied with our evangelism in the family when those in our family cannot say that they have made the salvation of their soul a matter of personal concern--when they have never sought after God privately or publicly. Surely they have not been evangelized if:

  1. They are unable to discover in themselves any hopeful signs of being born again.

  2. There is a continual objection to the strict views of Christianity and a continual tendency to be weary with Christianity and the Christian life.

  3. There is fixed longing to be free from Christian parents, the Christian home, and the church.

The great Apostle gave this young evangelist some instructions that are applicable to evangelization in the family (2 Tim. 2:24-26): "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."

  1. Don't strive with your children.
  2. Be gentle.
  3. Teach them.
  4. Forbear with them.
  5. Do it in meekness.
  6. Correct them.

This passage teaches that our hope for their conversion is in God ("if perhaps God would grant them repentance").

Summary

Children need to be evangelized.

Children are capable of being evangelized.

The means of evangelism are teaching the Holy Scriptures with patience and prayer.

"Arise, cry in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord: lift up thy hands toward him for the life of thy young children." (Lam. 2:19).

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