The Preschool Gospel, Take One


Yesterday my precocious 4-year-old said he wanted to be baptized.  I don’t think he’s ready yet; our church doesn’t baptize kids until they are at least seven.

But, how would I know if he was ready?

What is the minimum someone needs to truly understand in order to authentically embark on a lifelong journey of discipleship?  In short, how should you explain the gospel to preschoolers?

This seems like an obvious question, but the conventional answers tend to either be shallowly simplistic or ridiculously complex.  I am not satisfied for him to merely declare allegiance to the Christian tribe, or recite a set of ritual facts.   I want him to make a conscious moral choice to be part of God’s Kingdom, based on a useful understanding of what that actually means.  I want to give him a simple set of truths about what it means to be a Christian that he can refer back to for the rest of his life.

Because frankly, I am not satisfied with my understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.  Every decade it seems like I plateau, and God has to break and reinvent my theology.

Now, maybe that’s a good thing, and perhaps i should hope that God will continue that process with my son.  But at the very least, I want him to start with what I’ve already learned, so he can make new mistakes rather than recapitulating mine!

At this stage I’m just trying to capture the big ideas as concisely as I can, without worrying too much about readability.  Here’s my first draft — feedback welcome!

  1. I and everything around me were ultimately created for a good purpose by a God that loves me.
  2. God’s wisdom, power and love are revealed perfectly through His Son, Jesus Christ; historically through His Word, the Bible; and imperfectly but tangibly through His Body, the Church.
  3. My desires for love (belonging), honor (worthiness), and glory (competence) can and will only be truly fulfilled by loving, trusting, and obeying God with all my heart, soul, mind & strength — including loving my neighbor as myself.
  4. Because my ancestors didn’t listen to and obey God, I inherited a flawed understanding of Him, so instead I desire and do things (“sin”) that pull me away from God and His good purposes.
  5. Jesus broke that cycle.  Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus did, does and will free me from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.
  6. I choose to follow Jesus. I ask for baptism as a sign I have died to myself and now live for Him. I submit to the work of His Holy Spirit to help me know, love, and serve Him better every day, for the rest of my life and throughout eternity. Amen.

What am I missing? How can I make this more digestible? Could it be simplified further?

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