The Spiritual Perception of a Child

D.L. Moody was one of the great evangelists in American history. Over a million recorded conversions are listed in his biography. After returning from an evening of witnessing, a friend asked him about that evening’s occurrences. D.L. Moody replied, “Praise God. There were three and a half conversions tonight.” “Three and a half?” his friend inquired. “You must mean three adults and one child,” his friend concluded. Mr. Moody replied, “No. Three children and one adult. The one adult only has half his life left to give, but the children have their whole lives ahead of them.”

D.L. Moody understood that reaching children with the gospel was as important a priority as reaching adults. Moody understood the significance of each soul, no matter what the age of the outer body may be.

Matthew 11:25 (NIV) records, “Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.’”

I’ll never forget a question brought to me while I was still in college. I was working as a part-time children’s pastor at a church in the Minneapolis area while I was completing my schooling. A mother came to me after a service and told me that her three-year-old daughter had a question that she didn’t quite know how to answer. The mom informed me that she had only been a Christian for a short time, so she didn’t really know what to say in response to her preschooler. I smiled confidently. I thought this would be an easy one. The three-year-old approached me and her mother encouraged her to ask her preschool question. I knelt down smiling my all-knowing, educated grin. She proceeded: “Pastor Randy, I don’t understand. If Jesus was God, and Jesus died on the cross, does that mean that God died?” 

My naive smile vanished. I stammered for a bit and finally shook my head and said, “Well, kind of…. you see there are just some things that we really don’t understand about God.”

I came to realize that children perceive more in the spiritual than we think they do. To perceive spiritual things, one is not mandated to be “wise and learned.” Fact is, often times one’s own wisdom gets in the way of childlike faith.

Who is most likely to have childlike faith? The answer is, “Probably a child.” Jesus said in Matthew 18:3 (NIV) “To enter the kingdom of God you must become as a child.” If this is true—and it is—then Jesus is encouraging adults to become more like children so that they may enter into His kingdom. We usually fight to have it the other way around. We mandate that children act like little adults. We want them to become more like us, but Jesus is saying that we probably need to be more like them in some ways.

According to Christ’s statement here, isn’t it fair to say that children are somehow closer to the kingdom of God than adults? God somehow is able to reveal Himself easier to the simple small child than He is to the baggaged adult. “To enter the kingdom of God you must become as a child.”

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t grow in “wisdom and stature and favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NIV). We are encouraged to study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). Mark 12:30 states each should love the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. Our minds are to be involved in our worship of Him. God’s plan is for growth in understanding.

But, somehow we’ve lost sight of the fact that children are called and innately equipped to worship the Almighty! Psalm 8:2 (NIV) states, “From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” The International Children’s Bible says it like this: “You have taught children and babies to sing praises to You.” From the youngest, God calls forth praise. Before we can even understand our common language coming from the mouths of our youngest, these children are involved in worshiping God. Out of the mouths of babes and newborns God ordains praise. Something truly spiritually awesome is happening. 

Realize that an intellectual perceiving is not the same as a spiritual receiving. I don’t intellectually understand all that Christ went through on the cross for me, yet I may still spiritually receive His regeneration! My mind doesn’t perceive how His sacrifice thousands of years ago still atones for our sins today. Yet, I still believe and receive, despite my intellectual weakness.

In John 4:24 (NKJV), Jesus declared, “Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Even the youngest child is an eternal spirit. With that spirit he communes with God in worship. As the child matures, he grows in understanding. Truth is recognized and added.

Often the treasures and truths of the kingdom are hidden from the wise and learned and revealed to the little ones (Matthew 11:25). We must not fall into the trap of carnal thinking that being of mature mind makes one more mature spiritually. What is often counted as wise with man is foolishness with God. (See 1 Corinthians 1:20-31.) At times children, in their foolishness, may perceive the wisdom of God more rightly than adults!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” stated,

“I do hold that there is no doctrine of the Word of God which a child, if he be capable of salvation, is not capable of receiving.”


“If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conception of it than of the child’s power to receive it.”

With this scriptural understanding as a base, we should move confidently to bring children fully into a heartfelt relationship with the Father. They can receive, if we will only believe and act upon that belief. We can know that God’s desire is to reveal Himself, even to the youngest in our midst.  

Excerpt from the chapter “Spiritual Receptivity and Children” in Randy’s book, Crucial Concepts In Children’s Ministry.

Originally posted in the Children’s Ministry Inspiration Vault. Used by permission.

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Randy Christensen has taught clowning and creative communication methods at various local, regional and national workshops, and performed in 25 states and 4 foreign countries. Randy has authored over 20 books on clowning, variety arts methods, and children's ministry. He has over a hundred published articles in various children's ministry and entertainer publications. He is a past columnist for the notable "Laugh Makers" periodical; the official journal of the International Association of Family Entertainment Professionals. Randy currently works full-time overseeing children's programming at a local church in Willmar, Minnesota.