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Evangelical Salvation: The 4/14 Window

age when evangelicals become christians

My friend Gary recently mentioned a National Association Evangelical (NAE) article about when Americans become born-again (Evangelical) Christians. Here’s what the NAE post had to say:

Thirteen is the average age that members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) became Christians, according to the NAE’s (2015) spring poll. The median age when NAE members became Christians is 11.

Evangelicals believe that salvation is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Each person is invited to accept God’s forgiveness, which is freely offered to all who believe.

The majority of the respondents (63 percent) accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord while they were 4-14 years old, in what is known as the 4/14 Window.

The 4/14 Window describes the opportunity for evangelization within the 4-14 age range, suggesting that most people who become Christians do so during those ages. A 2004 Barna Group study indicated that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43 percent), and that two out of three born again Christians (64 percent) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.

Responses of the NAE Asks You poll ranged from six weeks old to 50 years old. The NAE member with the six-week old conversion noted that his tradition holds to baptismal regeneration, which links salvation to the rite of baptism. The person who came to Christ at 50 was also baptized as an infant, but said that he fell away for many years, became a Christian later in life, and now serves as a pastor.

While the poll revealed a few denominational distinctives regarding salvation, comments provided by NAE members demonstrated the unique ways in which individuals come to saving faith. Some became Christians through the ministry of the Good News Club, InterVarsity, Vacation Bible Schools and revivals. Several people identified the specific place of their conversion from the kitchen table or grandmother’s home to the campfire of a Christian camp or altar of a local church. Many noted the family member, pastor or friend who led them to the Lord. And there are some who can not recall a specific date or place, echoing one respondent: “I can’t remember a time in my life where I did not identify as a Christian.”

Most Evangelicals make salvation decisions between the ages of 4 and 14. Astoundingly, 98% of Evangelicals asked Jesus to save them before the age of 30. In other words, “we must get them while they are young, or we won’t get them at all.” This is why Evangelical churches have Sunday schools, youth programs, children’s churches, vacation Bible schools, and sundry other programs used to “hook” salvation prospects while they are young. The older a person becomes, the more likely it is that they will not get saved; that they will reject in part or out of hand the claims made by Evangelical sects, pastors, and parents. Once children reach their teenage years, it becomes increasingly hard to evangelize them. Why? They can think for themselves. They are developing critical thinking skills. They are more skeptical about the religious claims made by their pastors and parents.

Are you a former Evangelical? Or a current one, for that matter? At what age did you first profess faith in Jesus? Did you have multiple salvation experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I went through the born experience two or three times. Why? Because I worried that I hadn’t done it right the first time. So much for salvation by faith alone! I found Evangelicalism to be an emotional roller coaster. Where other Christians could look to something objective for their salvation (baptism) I had to settle for my subject “decision” to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. This is the main reason I later became a Lutheran.

    I was very happy as a Lutheran, but then I ran into Bruce…

    (I’m very glad I did!)

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    Professor Taboo

    Hi Bruce,

    I am a blog-follower of Gary’s blog and often comment there giving whatever assistance, experiences, and formerly Christian Believer, missionary, and church Deacon and Dir. of Single’s ministry, Christian college grad, and seminary grad… now a proud Freethinking Humanist and Defender of Secular Enlightenment and Anti-False-Church-History Warrior! 😉

    Regarding your question(s) at the bottom of this blog-post…

    I accepted and embraced Jesus Christ as Savior/Redeemer at the age of 23 y/o at college. My parents and primarily my Father raised me as an Agnostic so that I could later decide as an adult whatever I chose to believe and adhere to. My Christian belief/faith was turned upside down and eventually collapsed, NEVER to be resurrected again, to borrow a popular concept 😉 , when none of my seminary professors or several highly acclaimed Reformed Theological Seminary professors could not and would not equitably explain to me WHY such a prolific Jewish boy at the age of 12, who had a most Earth-shattering foretold birth in Bethlehem, marked by a super bright Star (Super Nova?), and caused a King to slaughter “5,000” infant and young boys… suddenly disappear COMPLETELY off the face of the Earth, with nothing but a piss-poor mention in of all places God’s Infallible Scriptures in the New Testament!!!!??? 😮 How is that even possible for 17-years and not even a peep or hint of one of Rome’s threatening Jewish Messianic usurpers to ANY of Rome’s spies, or Herodian Gentile Jews ratting him out—according to the Gospels the newborn, infant, and young boy showed DIVINE abilities, remarkable wisdom, and always drew a big crowd wherever he spoke!!! How does he totally disappear without a trace for 17-yrs right under Rome’s noses?

    Well, 12-years later Bruce and a whole hell of a lot of study, research, and teaching by expert Jewish scholars of the Late Second Temple Period, and a Library of Congress-like literature of the Tannaim-Amoriam Period as well as the invaluable Dead Sea Scrolls, I began seeing the bigger, fuller, highly contextual period of Christianity’s real soil, seeds, and roots! Because of those 12-years of extensive study, i.e. considering ALL extant sources including non-Christian or non-Patristic Church Fathers, the boy/man of the Nazarites or Nasari was NOT who the Gospels portray him to be, or Paul portrays him for that matter. The Gospels are retro-graded political counter-measures by Greco-Roman hijackers (called Christians) to combat constant Jewish denials and debunking of their correct Second Temple Judaism-Messianism. Period. Simple. Sadly, the most reliable source of what ACTUALLY happened to Yeshua bar Yosef (or Jesus) was James the Brother, the Just of the Jerusalem Council. But history knows full well what happened to him/them by 70 CE and 73 CE and the fall of Masada.

    Today, I am a much happier, empowered, free man pulling for all of humanity’s brilliance and beauty… and Bruce, I LOVE IT this way!!!

    Best wishes for you Sir.

      • Avatar
        Professor Taboo

        I think you remember the “why” Ark since we’ve talked about it before. This 4/14 technique used by Evangelical parents and churches needs to be unveiled, repeatedly unveiled for what it is: brainwashing children like other Cults have done! Though I fortunately did not fall into this 4/14 demographic, I believe you’d like me to share that answer here for obvious reasons, for very GOOD reasons. 😉 I’ll try to be very brief.

        My “acceptance” of a Greco-Roman Christos happened in Oct. 1982 as a sophomore. Because I was at a Xian Liberal Arts college, my previous 2.5 semesters I was being bombarded daily/weekly by fellow evangelical students, soccer/football teammates, philosophy classmates, and one Professor—Director of Philosophy-Humanities Dept.—asking me Why I had doubts and so many questions about their very real Jesus Christ, Son of God Savior and Redeemer. I actually had stumped all of them with many of my forensic questions of Jesus’ validity and their proclamations where their ONLY final response was typically “have faith.” IOW, if I genuinely knock, God/Jesus will answer and open the door for me proving He is real and alive.

        Because of how my Dad raised me, of trying hard to be fair to others and not quick to judge… I gave in. I literally asked their God If you are indeed real as these people claim and your Scriptures tell, show me. Show me in very unambiguous ways you are real!

        Well, for the first 3-5 years of my 11-year walk with Christ, it DID seem good/great things were happening and God/Christ was answering most all of my questions/prayers! As many might know—who are very well versed in Scriptures and Scriptural support/Apologetics—the Reformed Theological denomination of schools, churches, and seminaries, along with the Westminster Assembly’s Catechisms and Shorter Catechisms, can and will address thoroughly MOST theological questions of the nature of God the Father, Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the use/purpose of Holy Scriptures… so much so that pagan laypersons cannot imagine ANY rebuttals. The corpus of Q&A that went into this body of Catechisms and theology is mind-boggling! Very convincing and overwhelming if I’m honest. BUT…

        …it still have all kinds of holes and problems like a 10 lbs. block of Swiss Cheese when one really takes the time to examine and scrutinize all Christian origins and sources. But much more importantly is that if one steps OUTSIDE OF well-known Early and Later Greco-Roman Church Fathers political agendas, or get outside of strictly Christian secondary sources/bias… then the entire extant, body of Secular sources can and will paint you an entirely DIFFERENT compelling picture of the 4 BCE to 325 CE Lower Levant inside the Imperial Roman Empire! That widely unknown picture quite frankly condemns all of Christendom and makes the soil, seeds, and roots of today’s Cult of Christology a dangerous Placebo-effect on children… usually for the rest of their lives!!! ?

        Anyway, that’s my story and reasons in a fat nutshell Ark. 😉

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    I attended Southern Baptist church from the age of 3 or 4. I don’t remember a time when we did not go to church every Sunday (plus Sunday night and typically Wednesday night as well). Unless you were sick, away on vacation, or there was too much snow to safely navigate the roads, you had to go to church. Period. The whole point of us kids being in church was to indoctrinate us into being good, obedient Christians for life. We learned the mythology and the rules. Above all, we knew of utmost importance was to make a public profession of faith followed by baptism. One could not become a member without those ceremonial markers. Not to do so would mark one as rebellious, headed for eternity in hell, and of course one couldn’t take communion or vote. One would not be part of the in-club, and worse, one would be influenced by Satan and headed for eternity in hell (one’s own fault, of course).

    I really did not want to go down front and make a profession of faith. I kept putting it off. My family kept bugging me about it. In their minds, my going down front and then getting baptized would put their minds at ease about the state of my immortal soul. Finally at age 12, I bit the bullet and picked a date to go down front and get it over and done. I got baptized. Everyone was happy.

    Except me. I must have prayed the sinner’s prayer dozens of times during my teen years. Not only were we beaten over the head with the salvation message at church but also at Christian school, particularly in chapel on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each time I prayed it to make sure it “took” so I could be assured of salvation as the Bible promised we could be. It caused a lot of anguish.

    I doubt if I would have become a Christian if I weren’t caught young. I have been proselytized to as an adult by some Bahai folks, and frankly, their miracle stories they used in their pitch sound just as unbelievable as Christian miracle stories in their pitch. I don’t know why any rational adult would believe anyone’s religious miracle stories. Maybe that’s mean, but I don’t get it. Faith just doesn’t make sense to me.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    With my (admittedly rudimentary) knowledge of psychology and human development, it makes perfect sense that the average age for becoming an Evangelical Christian is 13. That is right around the height of puberty. (At least it was in my day; I hear kids are entering that stage at earlier ages.). At that time in life, kids are going through all manner of chemical, physiological and psychological changes. Almost anything with a heightened emotional experience —or that is in some way transgressive—will appeal to at least some kids at that age.

    Another time of intense emotional upheaval is when a young person goes to college. For some, it is liberating; for others, it is terrifying. For me, it was both. I had no language or other context for understanding my sexual abuse (by a priest) or gender identity. For the first time, I met an openly gay person. Because I was wholly ignorant of such things: On one hand, I thought, “He could be me!” On another, I wanted to run as far and fast as I could. And run I did: Into the arms of the campus’ Inter-Varsity chapter, for which I would lead Bible study groups, edit the newsletter and write materials for retreats and other events.

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    Gene Stephens

    I was twelve years old in 1968 when I had what I thought was a born-again experience. By my late teens I was so indoctrinated that I clung to evangelical Christianity until I was 52. I deconverted in 2008 when I saw how horribly Christians were treating Barack Obama. It made me finally realize that Christianity does not change people for the better. Seeing how Christians are now deifying the horrible Donald Trump has confirmed to me many times over that I did the right thing by deconverting.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    I was a child, might have been seven; can’t exactly say. I was having nightmares of being in hell and my body burned. Went to my mom and begged her to help me be saved. She said don’t worry, dad will help you. I was saved again several times because of course even a three-pronged hook can fail and it does. Later, made the long walk to the front of the church with a bunch of other kids so my dad-preacher could walk along and shake our hands like we were adults, saved adults. Did the faggot confession thing at summer camp too,
    When my decision to leave belief became words I could speak out loud, I knew I was free. I could feel my body let-go, feel my lungs say yes to breathing deeply once again, completely. And I stared back into the dark belief of three-plus decades given over to evangelical bullshit and I wept once again for children, for my terrified nightmare times, for innocence crushed so brutally, so blindly. The Bible is a tool of oppression. Evangelicalism is a hammer blow to the brain. The American Family Bible belongs in Trump’s greedy grasp, held as a weapon, the ultimate bully bat. Trump always brags in the most blatant, shallow garble about how he has done more than any other president, he has given more than any of them in history and I concur: In one way and one way only, Donald Trump has surpassed any other president in history by displaying to us so clearly, the utter bankruptcy of American evangelicalism. When he brutalizes people, gasses them so he can stand and hold his fucking ugly weapon Bible in front of a church, then he stands alone in complete and utter ignorance as no other president has been able to do. He leads the Bible pack of wolves. In suits.
    Christian, do you really think your belief is about Jesus, the man who padded around so long ago? Well, then own the bankruptcy of Reason that is your faith in God and country. The house of cards is fast tumbling down. Evangelicalism, please please die.
    ‘You fit into me. like a hook into an eye. a fish hook. an open eye.’ -Margaret Atwood

  7. Avatar

    9 years old. The Thursday night campfire service at Royal Ambassador camp (because the whole week builds to a Thursday night campfire crescendo at every camp I went to). Took 40 years to decide it was all wrong.

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    ... Zoe ~

    Summer of ’69, thirteen.

    I had always believed. Not raised in a Christian fundamentalist home. Raised in a highly dysfunctional home.

    A loving Jesus came in handy for a traumatized child.

    Bible Camp and the born-againers threatened hell and told of a Jesus who not only loved but also hated. The same scenario I was nurtured in at home.

    Not only did Jesus love me but He also judged me. Familiar.

    Broken with no sure foundation, I took the bait.

  9. Avatar

    I was in my mid-20’s. In my mind, gullibility to Christian persuasion can come at any age. It all depends on one’s personal circumstances. However, I do totally agree with the brainwashing techniques used during the earlier years, especially as practiced by the Evangelicals.

  10. Avatar

    I was brought up nominal Catholic, which is what you do when you’re Irish. My dad had left by the time I was 7. When my mom got us settled she put us in catechism to get us some religious/moral education. She definitely wasn’t devout herself. I think she just thought it would help. I feel this created a strong default assumption that there was a singular god of the universe.

    However, my real “conversion” and “devotion” came at the age of 18 when a devout evangelical co-worker led me and my then fiancee (now wife of 32 years) to Christ. I was for most of 26 years a serious thumper. My wife, by virtue of some religious studies classes and the fact that she’s a more skeptical/critical thinker than I tend to be, got herself out in the mid-oughts, years before I did. But I persisted until 2011 when I really began to realize through a number of circumstances and events that the world did not function the way my leaders and the bible (by the filter through which we read it, anyway) said it should.

    After escaping the “faith,” I had a lot of anger and bitterness over the impact on my life and the lives of my family. I ended up blogging a lot of it out in a series of around 40 posts and a 12-part testimonial for several years afterward. I don’t keep that up anymore, concentrating on just living now. I’m grateful for the many sites and outspoken atheists who helped me find my way out.

  11. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Anthony, thanks for taking the time to share that wee jot of history. I would be interested in reading more… is your ‘blog’ out there or are you presently staying clear of colloquy (other than here)?

    • Avatar
      ... Zoe ~

      Hi Brian,

      I hope Anthony doesn’t mind me chiming in. If you click on Anthony’s name in his comment it will take you to one of his two blogs and it can direct you to the other.

        • Avatar

          I stand by my comments, once you taste the sweetness of Christ love, you will never go back. Maybe some of you never did in the first place!

          • Avatar
            Bruce Gerencser

            What evidence do you have for your claim, Rick? Actual evidence? I encourage you to comb through my life (and that of other ex-Evangelicals) and find a shred of evidence to back up your claim that I never tasted the “sweetness” of Christ?

            For it is impossible for [Bruce Gerencser] those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If [Bruce Gerencser] they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. Hebrews 6:4-6

            People change their minds about all sorts of things, including Jesus.

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