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Are You In or Are You Out? Part 1

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by alana jonez)

I really hate spiders. OK, it’s more than just hate… I’m terrified of them. Today, I found a dead one in one of the ethernet ports of a wireless router and had to clean out the port because it was freaking me out. This post has nothing to do with spiders, though. I was looking for a picture in Flickr with the keywords “peace with God” and the above picture stood out to me… for more than just the spider comment (BTW, I used to think I wanted to go to Australia… this is the second spider I’ve heard about in Australia that I would rather not encounter!)

One of the biggest challenges, I think, in ministering to kids is trying to explain salvation… more specifically, how do you know if you are “in” or how do you know if someone else is “in?”

[If you are a fan of the television show 24 and have not seen the season finale, then you might want to skip the next paragraph to avoid any kind of spoiler.]

In the season finale of 24, the show’s main character Jack Bauer is supposedly on his deathbed. Now, Jack is known for taking any measures necessary to get information that he needs to save the world, even if it means torturing or killing someone. Being close to death, Jack sincerely is searching to make peace with God and seek God’s forgiveness. He calls upon an imam (a Muslim cleric) to confess to and seek God’s mercy. Is Jack “in” or is he “out” when he stands before God?

C.S. Lewis posed a similar situation in his book The Last Battle. At the end of the story, there is a young Calormene who has faithfully followed the false god Tash rather than Aslan yet finds himself in Aslan’s country (heaven). Aslan answers the confused young man by saying, “all service done unto Tash has been done unto me.” Lewis implies a measure of grace to those who are sincerely searching out God yet find him through non-Christian avenues.

I’m not suggesting that all paths lead to God, which is a Universalist mindset. I am simply asking that we take a look at the criteria we teach kids when it comes to salvation and what it means to be “at peace with God.”

Over the next few posts, I want to take a look at how we evaluate whether someone is in or out and how I think we can help kids have a greater understanding of what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ.

How would you evaluate if someone is “in?”

How do you present the idea of salvation to a child?

If the kids you minister to were asked to describe someone who follows God, what would their descriptions be? What would your description be?

5 Responses to “Are You In or Are You Out? Part 1”

  1. Andy Johnson May 20, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks for the challenging post. This is such a difficult thing for me in CM as well. We know several things that can help guide us to a better understanding of this:
    1. Jesus was adamant that he is the only way and the apostle Peter boldly proclaimed that the Name of Jesus was important as well (John 14:6, Acts. 4:12)
    2. The gospel is clearly laid out in I Cor. 15:3-4 (Belief in Christ dying for our sins, being buried, being resurrected–I call it the DBR)
    3. Jesus calls for a "new birth"/a change/ a transformation in order to be in God's family.

    In communicating the gospel to children, it boils down to something very simple for me. Give them the simple message–DBR (don't sugar coat it since children are largely concrete thinkers) and then give them Jesus some more!

    You can find two helpful articles that I have written at
    One is called "Why Your Child Should Not Ask Jesus into Their Heart" and the other is a basic article on "Evangelizing Children."

    • Henry Zonio May 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

      Thanks for those thoughts. I wonder, though, at the hidden curriculum we teach kids. Yes, we need to teach them that Jesus is the way to Christ but what about scriptures that speak to people who do not know Jesus (Psalm 19, Roman 1:20)? And what about those who believed in God before Jesus? I know we have our nice answers for all of that. I think that we do a disservice if all we do is leave kids with the nice, neat answers as they grow up through our ministries. I'll expand more on my next post :)


  1. Seires Exploring What It Means To Be "Saved" >> Are You In or Are You Out? Part 2 >> Bounded Set Paradigm - May 21, 2009

    [...] I threw out the question of how to determine whether someone is “in” or someone is “out” for [...]

  2. Are You In or Are You Out? Part 3: Centering In On Christ - May 23, 2009

    [...] we wrap up the conversation about the criteria we use to determine whether someone is “in” or “out.” [...]

  3. I Like It Just Because >> Developing a Christian Ethic of Story - July 20, 2009

    [...] and bounded sets when evaluating what it means to follow Christ. You can read the posts here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part [...]

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