Conversion is often a confusing topic for young people who grow up in the Church. Baptism can seem like an overwhelming commitment, and one that only applies to parents, somehow unnecessary for a person who has been in the Church since infancy. It can even seem like a deterrent to “having fun” and “experiencing life.” Each of these perceptions can hinder a young person from taking these first steps toward the Kingdom of God. But this need not be the case.
Committing Fully to God Can Seem Scary
You may have read in the Bible that true Christians will be persecuted for their faith—some even physically (Matthew 10:22). True Christians might even have to turn their backs on family members to follow Christ (Matthew 10:37). On top of that, young people are approaching some of the biggest decisions of their lives. Career and marriage, college or learning a trade—commitments cannot get much bigger than that! A big commitment like baptism can be scary, and just considering it can frighten a person into doing nothing.
But God does not want young people to be overwhelmed by fear of commitment. He wants to give “power… love… a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), which come through His Spirit (v. 6). Even before they are baptized, children of Christian parents can have access to that power. Upon baptism and conversion, God’s Spirit will be even more powerful in your life, because it will be in you, but even before conversion, God can use it to work with you (John 14:17). God says fear causes torment, but “love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Face your fears—and your decisions. Ask God to help you make those decisions through His Spirit. Think of the conversion process as learning to exercise that Spirit, as you begin to develop a personal relationship with your loving Father in heaven.
God wants you to look to Him as your provider and counselor. He wants you to see Him as your protector, ready to come to your aid when you need Him and call out for Him. Consider how King David described his relationship with God:
In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.... He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind.... He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support (Psalm 18:6.)
God is a powerful and caring ally to have on your side! So, don’t be scared—God wants to “establish, strengthen, and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). Even if your baptism may yet be a few years off, beginning a relationship with Him right now will start to give you the courage to face adult issues and adult decisions. It is exactly what young people need right now—and in the years just ahead.
The Promise Is to You, Too!
Some youth in the Church have the misconception that baptism and conversion is only some sort of future concern. Of course, baptism is not for children, and that is why God’s Church does not teach “infant baptism.” Young people should wait to be baptized until they are mature enough to make this lifetime commitment. Baptism requires deep repentance and a commitment to lifelong obedience—both of which are adult decisions. However, that does not mean a young person cannot be thinking about baptism and preparing for it by developing a relationship with God.
There are examples in the Bible of second- and even third-generation Christians. Timothy was reared in the Church by his mother and grandmother, both of whom were solid, faithful Christians. “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Paul encouraged Timothy to “continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14–15).
Timothy did not consider being raised in the Church a handicap. He considered it an asset. He did not have to “unlearn” all the things that first-generation Christians had to. He just had to recall and retain what he had learned, which made him “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
So do not fall into the trap of thinking that committing your life to God is just something for your parents. It is for you. God inspired Peter to speak directly about believers’ children in his famous Pentecost sermon: “For the promise [of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). I urge you to claim that promise—it is not just for parents, but for you as well. And your future baptism and conversion is something to look forward to.
“Shouldn’t I Expect Something Dramatic?”
We may fall into a “road to Damascus” mindset, thinking that anything less than God striking us down with blindness and a bright light (Acts 9:3–6) is just not a real “beginning” with Him. Are you waiting for that to happen? Your parents may have stories about how, when they were called, a “light turned on” in their mind. Or “suddenly it all made sense,” and they “for the first time understood what they were reading.”
But most young people in the Church have been sitting in services for years, listening, learning, and hearing God’s word expounded—and it probably already makes a great deal of sense. God probably does not need to use a dramatic miracle like lightning from heaven to open your mind. Through your parents’ conversion, God is already working with you in a special way (1 Corinthians 7:14). And through that “sanctification,” you already have access to God and His Spirit, and probably already understand His laws and His truth to a certain extent.
So do not expect a bright light from heaven—that most likely will not happen. Consider these verses describing how God often works: “The Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11–12).
In that instance, God chose to speak to Elijah not through awesome miracles, but with a “still small voice.” Are you listening for that voice? Your youth is a wonderful time to learn to do so.
“I Don’t Want to Miss Out”
Some have the misconception that if they commit to seeking God in their youth, they will miss out on “experiencing life.” This is essentially saying, “All those traumatic experiences that my elders got to experience (and repent of)—why can’t I experience them, too?”
That line of reasoning shows a very dangerous mindset. In most congregations, there are adults—who were reared in the Church—who could tell you stories of why they wish they had listened instead of “going out and having their fun.” Many have had to repent of life-altering mistakes.
Are you really missing out on fun by developing a relationship with God now? God does not look at it that way. Notice what He says:
How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge…. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded… because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil (Proverbs 1:22–33).
Choosing to neglect God’s instruction is not “more fun,” even though it might appear to be in the short run.
When you understand something you hear in a sermon or something you read in your personal Bible studies, respond to it. God’s working with you is real and not just for your parents. The only thing to fear is not having a relationship with God, because a life without God’s help is ultimately a life of pain, suffering, sorrow, and disappointment.
Jesus said, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He also said, “Take My yoke upon you… for My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29–30). Develop a relationship with God. Ask Him to guide your growth and to grant you true repentance. Think about God’s promises and the opportunity He is holding out to you. It’s not just for your parents. That opportunity is yours.