When are people most open to the Gospel? When do we consistently see God working? Researcher George Barna has done extensive studies to answer these questions. He reports these findings in his book Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions. He found that the probability of a person receiving Christ from age 5 to age 12 was 32%. The likelihood from age 13 to 18 was 4%. But from age 19 and beyond was reduced to 6%. He concludes, “If people do not embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reach their teenage years, the chance of them doing so at all is slim.” (Barna, page 34)
To understand these findings we must understand our ministry context.
- First, we live in a generation that is long overdue for revival. When we fail to reach the lost – we cannot consider ourselves a New Testament church. Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, recently warned that the American church is not reproducing itself and could largely disappear in the next several generations. When faced with these facts we must pray earnestly that God will wake up our churches.
- Second, God can save people at any age he chooses. I recently spoke with a Kentucky pastor who baptized a 65-year-old man on Easter morning. The church must continue to preach the gospel to all people. (Mark 16:15) This includes all nations; all tax brackets, all lifestyles, and all age groups.
- Third, people cannot accept Christ without hearing the Gospel. When are people most open to the Good News? Answer: When you share it with them. As Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) God does not convert people in a vacuum. He chooses to use the message of Christ as the means of changing hearts.
Does childhood offer a unique age of opportunity to receive Christ? This appears to be the lesson of Barna’s research. As young people move toward adulthood they begin to settle on a worldview that will hold firm the rest of their life. Parents must teach children to treasure Christ and find their joy in Him. May it never be said that we stood by as the world raised our children.