The first church I pastored back in the 80’s, was Hillside Bible Chapel in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In its facility we housed the offices for CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship). A very reliable reference work on Christian ministries tells us: Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is an international organization founded in 1937 by Jesse Irvin Overholtzer (1877–1955). Told as a boy that he was too young to understand religion, Overholtzer did not put his faith and trust in Christ until he was in college. He became a pastor, and after reading a sermon by Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) on children’s ability to understand and truly believe the gospel, was inspired to start Child Evangelism Fellowship. The heart of the organization’s efforts revolve around preaching the gospel to children and providing them a foundation to grow up in a local church fellowship. The ministry became the world’s largest organization evangelizing children. With more than twelve hundred workers and approximately forty thousand volunteers, CEF is active in every state in the U.S. and in more than one hundred fifty countries.

Dennis Rainey, founder of Family Life Ministries, must have read Spurgeon’s work also. He says, “Throughout church history believers have debated how old a child must be to receive Christ as Savior. I appreciate what Charles Spurgeon said, ‘He who knowingly sins can savingly believe.’ Regardless of how young a child may be to be saved, parents are responsible to be the shepherds and guardians of their children and to be sure they understand God’s plan of salvation. Presenting the gospel to children begins by explaining that when they disobey or are defiant, or when they break any of God’s laws, that is sin. This sinfulness is a part of their nature and is why they do wrong things.” Children are often much more open and receptive to spiritual truth than adults. This is why Jesus always made time for ministry to them even when opposed by His disciples.

Like many of the modern theologians of our day, Jesus’ disciples argued about who was the greatest. They each had their own opinions and perspectives and probably disagreed on issues. They spent way too much time on comparative theology than on ministry itself. It was in this context that Jesus called a child to Himself and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Another writer, in an article in a theological journal explains this. He writes, “Becoming as a little child was a natural way of saying two things: children are important in the kingdom, and adult faith must bear the marks of childlike simplicity. The child was not to imitate adult belief; instead the adult was to discover the simplicity of trust” (Matthew 18:2-4).