After the baptism of his baby brother in church, little Johnny sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the family car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, “The minister said he wanted all of us brought up in a Christian home, but I want to stay with you guys.” Well, Jesse Overholtzer was brought up in a Christian home, with both of his parents being strong born-again believers. Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Overholtzer attended a church where it was taught that salvation was not something for children but for adults. And so when their boy, under deep conviction of sin, came to them as a twelve-year-old for spiritual counsel, he was told by Mom and Dad, “Son, you’re too young.” So Jesse figured, since he was not old enough to be saved, he might as well go out and sin as much as he wanted to. And for the next eight years, his life was filled with rebellion against God until at age twenty he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour through the ministry of evangelist D. L. Moody. Jesse would go on to become a pastor, however, because the only teaching he knew about salvation was that it was for adults only, he taught the same for forty years. Then at age sixty, he read a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Matthew 19:13, But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. The great Baptist preacher wrote, “A child of five, if properly instructed, can truly believe and be as completely regenerated as any adult can.”
Pastor Jesse thought about his own upbringing and how he wished someone had taught that when he was a child. And so he decided to start a gospel outreach ministry geared specifically towards boys and girls. He called the new work, Child Evangelism Fellowship. That was 77 years ago in the summer of 1937. Today, CEF, still headquartered in Jesse’s hometown of Warrenton, Missouri, is a world-wide ministry now found in 187 countries. There are 700 full-time home missionaries in North America and 2,700 full-time foreign missionaries serving around the world, of which 2,000 are nationals. And this does not include the thousands upon thousands who volunteer in after-school Good News Clubs and five-day Summer Clubs. According to CEF, last year, over 12,000,000 club kids were given the gospel. But now Child Evangelism Fellowship is being challenged. It all began with, The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault On America’s Children. Written by journalist Katherine Jenkins, a left-wing liberal Jew, it is a warning to parents that CEF is “psychologically harmful to your boys and girls.” Ms. Jenkins tells of going undercover, posing as a Christian at various CEF conferences across the country, to gather information for her expose (she never officially interviewed anyone at Child Evangelism Fellowship headquarters). And her charges? CEF uses bribes (treats and prizes) to attract children to indoctrinate them with fundamentalist ideas such as: everyone is a sinner, there is only one way to heaven, all other ways are going to hell, and those of different ways must give up their way to be saved. And if such teaching is not combated, these boys and girls will grow into adults believing – evolution is not science, life begins at conception, and same-sex marriage is wrong. And now local chapters are beginning to spring up to counter CEF flyers with anti-CEF flyers. What did Isaiah prophecy? Woe unto them that call good bad.