Is Jesus your “forever Daddy?”

I usually do not read “Perspective,” the publication of Women’s Missions and Ministries Department of the Florida Baptist Convention. However, my wife pointed out an article in the Fall/Winter 2005 issue by Dr. Sharon Thompson, the “Camp Worldlight Director.” According to the Florida Baptist Convention’s website, Thompson has a PhD in child and adolescent psychology and teaches at the William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Camp Worldlight is the new name for the GA and Acteen camp sponsored each summer by the Florida Baptist Convention. According to the website, in 2004, 324 campers made “first-time professions of faith.” Doesn’t that language betray the superficiality of our evangelism? Now we must qualify “profession of faith” with “first-time” to distinguish that kind from the “second-time,” “third-time,” etc. kind. Kinda makes you long for the good ol’ days when a profession of faith was a profession of faith! But I digress.

Dr. Thompson writes in her article in “Perspective” about the 200 girls who “accepted Christ” (I assume for the first time) and 247 others who were called to career missions in the 2005 camp. But, she writes, “the story of camp is not written best with numbers and statistics; however, but with faces of girls who lives were changed.” Then she inserts a picture of a little girl named “Brianna” who looks like she is maybe 9 or 10 years old. Thompson calls her “one little girl with one big story” because “she asked Jesus to be her ‘forever Daddy’ at Camp Worldlight.”

If this is the way the camp director is describing Brianna’s decision, one is left to wonder (with fear and grief) just what the children were instructed to do and what they were promised would happen. If it was the biblical Gospel that Briannna was taught and called to believe then one would at least expect to see Jesus referred to as Lord and Savior.

I do not know exactly what was taught nor how the children were handled so I will not comment specifically beyond what I have already written. However, I am certain of this: those who preach a false gospel to children, lead them to give some kind of assent to such a gospel and then assure them that they are saved are guilty of spiritual child abuse. There is only one Gospel that saves sinners regardless of a person’s age. To withhold that Gospel from children or to substitute something in its place in hopes of being child-friendly is to put a barrier between children and Jesus Christ.

Children, like adults, need the Gospel. If the Gospel has been lost then the most important work we can do for children is to labor to see it recovered. This is the work of reformation and is the crying need of our day.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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