01/07/10 Mario, 14
At Burger King I walked up to a table where a young man was reading (actually, doing his homework) and began a conversation before I realized how young he really was. Mario is the youngest person I've initiated this type of exchange with, but I think we both learned a lot from our conversation. Mario and his brothers and sisters have been attending a church in Indiana with a bus ministry that picks up kids in Chicago neighborhoods and brings them to their Indiana location for church on Sundays. He is no longer interested in going to church, but said he believes in God and knows he will go to heaven because he was "saved" at about age 8 while at the church. "Saved from what?" "From going to hell" "Who goes to hell?" "People who don't believe in God" I explained that hell is God's punishment for those who disobey God's commandments, and spent a lot of time explaining them in detail. I felt it important to help teach this young man some basic Judeo-Christian values which will help guide him in life while helping him understand the seriousness of his sin and his need for forgiveness. His idea of being "saved" was simply going forward after a sermon and having someone pray for him. He had no idea how this had saved him or what Jesus had to do with it. I told him that Jesus encourages a childlike faith but that it is best to understand what his faith is in, so I explained the way of salvation as clearly as I could. I believe Mario may be a good example of someone who has been "inoculated" against the Gospel. They are given a weak form of it based not on faith in Christ but faith in one's good works, sincerity of repentance, baptism, or, in Mario's case, a "salvation decision". From what I could tell he had decided to be "saved" without actual faith in Christ. He was then given a false assurance of salvation and ended up going on in life without giving God another thought - a result of churches who try to plant the seeds and reap the harvest without waiting for the growth that only God can bring.