I was reading some research from George Barna. He is a researcher who studies the trends happening in our society and in the church and how each relates to the other. He writes: “Just as our culture has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, so has the way in which people come to Christ …
the weekend church service is no longer the primary mechanism for salvation decisions; only one out of every ten believers who makes a decision to follow Christ does so in a church setting or service. On the other hand, personal relationships have become even more important in evangelism, with a majority of salvation decisions coming in direct response to an invitation given by a family member or friend.”
The California-based author also pointed out some of the challenges faced by those who come to Christ later in their life. “…When someone is born again during their adult years, their beliefs are an inconsistent blend of biblical and non-biblical ideas that lead to some unusual lifestyles….” He says consistency of values and lifestyle is stronger when people come to faith in Christ earlier in life.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of the research, in Barna’s eyes, is the prevalence of decisions made during childhood. “Families, churches and parachurch ministries must recognize that primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life – especially theologically and morally. Consistently explaining and modeling truth principles for young people is the most critical factor in their spiritual development.”
I think the implications for a church are obvious. The best opportunity to reach people with the gospel is to do so while they are young. While they are young the soil is most fertile and the seed will bear the greatest fruit. If we plant the seed of the gospel in the more fertile soil, we will reap a greater harvest by doing so.