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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How To Preach Like A Four Year-Old

by Apparent Parent (bio)

"Hey," my son told my neighbor, "you didn't watch general conference."

My neighbor is not LDS and lives with his girlfriend, generally two things that make it a pretty sure bet the person won't be watching general conference. In my neighbors' defense, they are getting married this summer. I love these neighbors. They are the best neighbors you could ask for, really. They treat our kids respectfully and we help each other out all the time doing odds and ends.

With this background, you understand the confused look my neighbor shot my miniscule 4-year old while he was getting regaled about not taking part in something he probably doesn't know exists. My son then proceeded to tell him he should go to our church, something he is also guilty of not attending.

"Those two things are really good things," my son added. This made my neighbor laugh.

"Those are really good things, buddy!"

I personally fought the urge to cringe, wondering if I should call off the doctrinal attack midget. But after a moment, inspiration struck and I explained to my neighbor, who happened to be in a conversation with another neighbor, that my son always wishes he and his girlfriend would attend church with us because he likes them so well. It was true, inoffensive and made my son's proselytizing seem more friendly than accusatory.

This made both my neighbors laugh, the other neighbor saying, "Oh, how cute!"

This approach worked perfectly because I know my son's motivations were really out of love and not to pass judgment. During general conference, he had asked if our neighbors were watching it too. This was unprompted by us. He does ask from time to time why our neighbors don't go to church. Also unprompted. We would love to see our neighbors come into the church, but aside from inviting them to our daughter's baby blessing, we really haven't done much to share the gospel with them.

This got me wondering: why aren't we as bold as a four year-old? Why did I have to fight the urge to cringe when my son was sharing something out of love with my neighbor, even if the approach was a little wrong-headed due to immaturity? Aren't we taught to be bold in sharing the gospel? To open our mouths? Well, my son's mouth was wide open and I had to fight the urge to stick a sock in it.

Additionally, I know he's just trying to share the gospel in his way. My kids love the Children's Friend. They read those magazines cover-to-cover every month multiple times. Rather, Mommy (mostly) and Daddy (on the rare occasion Mommy's out of the house) read them the Friend frequently. And the Friend is filled with ways young children have brought friends and neighbors into the church in ways adults would have deemed impossible, intimidating or socially awkward.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think telling the neighbors they should be going to church and watching general conference is the best way to share the gospel for an adult. But in a four year-old's mind, it is the only way. I am so glad I didn't hush him up and instead let him share the gospel in his own way.

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