ur families are important to us; most of us would
make any sacrifice necessary for the safety, well-being and even the comfort of
our family members. When it comes to the most important issue they will ever
face, however, we often find it difficult to broach the subject. Being a
Christian and talking to others about Christ are inseparable issues. Logically
and scripturally, how can one receive the greatest Presence inside and outside
the universe and not tell anyone about Him (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Peter 3:15-16)?
Never-the-less, Christians do not always find it easy to share their faith with
This is often especially true when it comes to sharing with those closest to
us. For most Christians, sharing their faith with family members and close
friends may indeed prove to be harder than any other situation. Why? There are
probably several answers to that question.
Why is sharing with family members so
One problem is that thedesire for success is high. We
believe all people need the Savior, and we long to see all people come to Him.
Yet, with family members there is a different longing. We love these
people in a way we really cannot love "all people."
Our longing for them to know the joy we know in Christ eclipses our desire for
"all people" to experience that joy. At the holiday season our expectation of
being able to share with our family members may escalate. So, the very
intensity of the desire for success breeds a fear of failure and makes sharing
more difficult in intimate relationships. "What if I say something wrong and
push him even further away from the Lord?" We don't want to push anyone away
from the Lord; we especially don't want to push our own family members
Another problem is the importance the relationship has for us. If we offend
someone we have just met casually, and that person never wants to see us again,
we have not lost much. When we share our faith with someone we care about, we
feel anxious about losing a relationship that is important to us.
Ron couldn't help but feel hurt over the cool reception he received from
Scott. Ron and Scott had been very close first cousins. They had enjoyed many
fun times together, but ever since Ron trusted Christ, the relationship had
changed. Ron realized that changes in his behaviors and attitudes had
introduced changes in his relationship with Scott.
Scott was having a hard time understanding those changes. Although Ron had
tried to explain his new life in Christ, Scott seemed to take the changes as
personal rejection. Many times Ron's heart ached as he wondered, "How can I
share my new life in Christ with Scott?"
Sometimes we hesitate because of the transparency factor. Those who
know us well see our imperfections. We may wonder what right we have telling
them how to get their lives right-and we know they may have the same question.
They may be willing to live with us and love us "warts and all," but they may
not think we are in any position to tell them how to live their lives.
The men from Daddy's ship came early that January morning three days before
my 17th birthday. I awoke to hear their voices talking with Mama in the living
room, and I knew Daddy was dead. My first emotion was sorrow at losing the man
who had been my life-long hero. Next came guilt because I knew Daddy was
unsaved, and I hadn't really tried to help him know the Lord. A day or so later
our pastor told us of a conversation he had with Daddy the day before he died
and of Daddy's decision to receive Christ. That helped with the anguish of
eternal separation, but it did little to ease the guilt of not having directly
shared my faith with Daddy. In the years since that day, I have learned I was
not alone in finding it difficult to share Christ with someone close.
After Dave accepted Christ, his parents wouldn't speak to him for two years.
Finally, he made a point of telling them how his life had changed. He assured
them he no longer drank, did drugs, swore, smoked or participated in
extra-marital sex. They were impressed at this experience that had brought
about such changes. Then they went for a drive. Another driver cut off Dave in
traffic, and he instinctively let out a stream of profanity to express his
feelings. His mother simply asked, "Are you still saved?"
Another problem is the nature of the relationship itself. It seems
natural for a Christian parent to tell a child or teen-ager how to receive
salvation, but once that child becomes an adult, there can be resentment if the
parent appears to be trying to exert control. A child sharing with a parent has
the feel of things being turned around the wrong way. God's Word instructs
children to honor their parents. How can a Christian honor parents while
telling them they have blown the most important decision in life?
The same question arises when a wife shares with her husband-how does
submission in marriage relate to telling your husband he needs to turn his life
in a completely different direction?
Siblings may have a more or less equal relationship, but for one to try to
instruct another in such a sensitive area may cause resentment. An older
sibling may hear from a younger one, "You're not my boss." A younger sibling
may well hear, "You're just a kid; what do you know!"
Paul was searching for spiritual significance in life. Seven years older
than his brother, Tim, he wondered if there was anything to this Christianity
thing Tim talked about. But when a meaningful discussion about spiritual things
ensued, the brothers' older sister, Ellen, told Tim he had it all wrong. A
debate about Church ordinances left Paul confused. He said, "If this is what
Christianity is about, you can keep it." Fortunately a neighbor took a more
loving approach to presenting the gospel without the intrusion of combative
sibling rivalry. It allowed Paul to see the truth of the gospel, accept Christ
as his personal Savior and eventually enter the ministry as a Baptist pastor.
Sometimes the intimacy of family can contribute to the interference of a clear
Maybe one of the most insidious problems is the someday factor. In
casual relationships there may be a sense of urgency to share our faith,
because we don't know how long the opportunity may be present. In family
relationships, we may think, "I want to wait until the time is just right."
Sadly, that "just right" time seldom comes-there's always some reason to
delay-and we may find ourselves at the end of the other person's life, still
waiting for "just the right time" to share Christ.
Douglas struggled for years with his father's attitude toward spiritual
things. As a young man his dad often told Douglas that he would outgrow his
need for religion. Douglas wanted to share with his dad how he came to faith in
Christ, but the time just never seemed right. The years passed without an
explanation of what it meant to be a Christian.
With his dad near death, Douglas finally mustered the courage to share with
his dad. The first thing his dad asked him when he finished praying to receive
Christ as Savior was, "Son, why did you wait so long?"
How can we overcome the problems?
One of God's great gifts is His sufficiency. His promise to
Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in
weakness(2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV), is available to believers
today. What we cannot do by ourselves we can do by God's grace. What does God's
sufficient grace mean in the everyday life of a believer, and particularly what
does it mean in sharing our faith with family members?
We know we were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Sometimes we
think that though we were saved by grace, we have to live the Christian life
through our own efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Colossians
2:6 says: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to
live in him (NIV). It was God's grace that allowed us to receive Christ
Jesus as Lord, and it is through God's grace that we live the Christian
That includes sharing our faith. Not one of us can effectively share the
gospel without the enabling grace of God. Paul recognized this when he said:
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace ... this grace
was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ...
(Ephesians 3:7-8, NIV).
How, then, does God's grace enable us to overcome each of the difficulties
we mentioned? It frees us to be who we are in Christ-even with family members.
God's grace is sufficient to cover anyone who wants to share. Once we
internalize this truth, we can view our relationship with an unsaved family
member as an asset to sharing Christ. It is a door to open and honest dialogue,
a vehicle for promoting reconciliation, and a platform for demonstrating the
reality of Christ to unsaved loved ones through personal ministry. Our
relationship with a unsaved loved one is an opportunity to trust the Holy
Spirit to use our character and speech to draw that person to Christ.
If we hesitate because of our intense desire for success, God's grace
reminds us that it is He Who convicts and draws. Our job is simply to share out
of the overflow of what He has done in and for us. If we fear because of the
importance of the relationship, God's grace shows us how to approach the person
in love so offense is minimized. The gospel itself may be an offense to an
unbeliever (1 Corinthians 1:23-24), but by God's grace our approach to sharing
that gospel does not have to be offensive (2 Corinthians 6:3).
When the transparency factor causes us to hesitate, we look to
God's grace to give us the stability in Christian living that allows us to be
transparent. As God's grace stabilizes us, those looking at our lives will see,
not perfection, but consistent growth in Christlikeness. We will be rooted
and built up in him, strengthened in the faith..., and overflowing with
thankfulness (Colossians 2:7, NIV).
When sharing is difficult because of the nature of the
relationship, God's grace shows us that we are approaching a person whom
God loves and who needs to experience His grace just as we have. The human relationship of
parent-child, spouse or sibling remains, but it becomes secondary to the
spiritual relationship of one who has experienced God's grace sharing with one
who needs to experience it. Jesus expressed the concept of the family of faith
when He said: Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother
and sister and mother (Matthew 12:50, NIV).
God's grace overcomes the someday factor by reminding us that
now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians
Rather than waiting for that "perfect" opportunity, we will seek to make the
most of every opportunity for communicating our faith to those we love.
Some principles for sharing your faith with those closest to
Having learned to view relationships with family members as assets to
sharing faith in Christ, observing a few general principles can help make the
experience easier and of potentially longer lasting value.
Nourish the relationship you have with your loved
one. Studies show most people come to Christ because of a sharing
relationship. For that reason it is important to invest your-self in building
and sustaining a close, mutually satisfying relationship.
Focus on your task. It is not your job to convict
your family member of sin or to draw him or her to Jesus. That's the job of the
Holy Spirit. It is not your job to make a decision for your family member. He
or she must take that responsibility. Your job is to present the truth of the
gospel clearly so your family member will have a good basis for making a
decision. Part of this focus on the task is preparing to communicate the gospel
clearly. Knowing how to lead someone to Christ through scripture frees you to
As I was growing up, I loved to be around Pop. He had a way of making
everyone, including us step-grandchildren, feel respected. Pop was easy-going
and a man's man. From the years we knew him I can't remember his saying
anything negative. He didn't mind taking us boys hunting and fishing, either.
For these reasons, I greatly respected him.
When I trusted Christ at age 22 I knew Pop was a good man, but I didn't know
if he had ever trusted Christ with his life. Because of my love for the Lord
and my love and respect for Pop I knew I had to talk to him about Jesus. Pop
became seriously ill, and I visited him at his home. During the visit we talked
about hunting and fishing and the Falcon pickup engine I had helped him
rebuild. I expressed my appreciation and love for him.
It wasn't difficult to share with him what Jesus had been doing in my
I knew He would accept me no matter what. When I asked Pop if he knew Jesus
in a real way I remember feeling so pleased when he answered, "Yes, I do." He
told me about his conversion experience. He described how he was at peace in
God's presence despite his illness. Pop died a short time later. I am grateful
for the encouragement he gave me even as I was trying to share Christ with
Share--don't preach. We expect preaching when we
go to church. We don't expect our family members to preach to us, and our
unbelieving family members don't want anyone to preach to them. Sharing implies
mutuality-listening and speaking, each person respecting the other. Sharing
says, "I have discovered something that means a lot to me, and I want you to
know about it, too." Avoid preaching, as it is one-way communication; one who
has a level of authority presents truth from the perspective of that
Share informally. It's easy just to talk about
what's going on in your life. "Sitting down for a talk" can be more difficult.
Look for informal opportunities to speak of your faith. There's no threat in
your talking about something that is meaningful in your life. Simple times of
just sharing informally can lead to opportunities for more in-depth discussion
of the gospel.
Be yourself. You don't have to have all the
answers, be the perfect Christian or have a flawless presentation of the
gospel. In fact, pretending you are perfect with all the answers probably would
put off your family member. Sharing as an imperfect person who has found
Someone great and just wants to share that discovery communicates your love and
concern for your lost relative.
You can be almost certain that in the course of sharing your faith you
will make mistakes, because you are not perfect- no one is. Yet, one
of the amazing aspects of God's grace is His ability to take our weaknesses,
yes, even our mistakes, and use them for His glory when we yield all that we
are and do to Him. Joseph told his brothers, Youintended to harm
me, but God intended it for good ... (Genesis 50:20, NIV).
If God can turn even evil intentions around for good, certainly He can
transform well-intentioned mistakes for His glory. He has promised, In all
things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called
according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).
Be careful how you identify with your
relative. Yes, Paul did say: I have become all things to all
men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Corinthians 10:24,
NIV). Reading the whole passage shows us Paul did not mean he entered into
the worldly activities of "all people," but that to the extent it was
consistent with Christian principle, he followed cultural expectations. In
Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective, Marvin K. Mayers describes how
to work within cultural expectations while acknowledging the absolute authority
of the scripture.
Describe the cultural norm.
Determine whether the norm is in keeping with biblical principles.
Examine a specific action to determine if it is in keeping with the
Determine whether the action violates either the norm or biblical
If a cultural norm is in keeping with biblical principles, and a specific
action does not violate the cultural norm, the action can be accepted. If the
norm violates biblical principles, the Christian is responsible to obey
Cultural differences exist between Christians and unbelieving family
members, just as surely as they exist between different social and ethnic
groups. Sometimes Christians stretch too far trying to demonstrate that being a
Christian hasn't stopped them from being "real." They think if they participate
with unsaved relatives in their activities they can show that Christians are
"just like everyone else, only saved." Some activities of your unsaved
relatives may meet the test of being in harmony with biblical principles.
Others, however, may violate biblical principles. You need to refuse, kindly
but firmly, to partici-pate in these. If your life is exactly like that of your
unbelieving relative, what reason does he or she have for receiving Christ?
Your relative needs to see that you are genuine, and that you are different in
significant ways from a person who hasn't trusted Christ as Savior.
Be alert for opportunities to share. Before he
became a Christian, Chris and his wife divorced. Since then he has had limited
contact with his grown sons, but they did attend their grandfather's funeral.
After the funeral and the meal, when guests had left and most family members
were napping, Jim (Chris's older son) came into the room where Chris was
reading. It was Jim who opened the conversation: "Dad, throughout Granddad's
illness, and now after his death, I've noticed there's something different
about you. You seem to have a strength and peace that I don't remember from
when we all lived together." This really was one of those rare, almost perfect,
moments, and Chris responded, "Son, I'm so glad you've asked about that. Since
the days when we lived together as a family something important has happened in
my life. Jesus Christ has made me a new person, and it is in His grace that I
have the strength and peace you have noticed." As the conversation continued,
Chris explained to Jim how he could experience that same kind of strength and
peace. Convinced by the change in his father, Jim committed his life to Christ
that day. Later, Chris said, "That day I said goodbye to the earthly
relationship with my father, but I said hello to a spiritual relationship with
Some pointers for the holidays
Don't be afraid to ask for a commitment when the time is
right. When you have found an appropriate time to share the
gospel with family members, take this sharing to its logical conclusion. Ask
your family members, just as you would anyone else with whom you were sharing
Christ, if they are ready to make a commitment to Christ. Gently, and with
respect, explore any of their hindrances to making a commitment, and show them
how they can overcome that hindrance.
Recognize that someone else may be God's instrument for leading
your family member to the point of commitment. The telephone's
ring startled Evelynn as she was having her quiet time. She had never received
a phone call at this time. When she answered the call, Randy, her son, said,
"Hi Mom." Evelynn's heart ached as she was reminded of her only son's life on
the streets. Randy had called her a few times over the years, but it was always
with bad news. Evelynn wondered if Randy was in jail, in the hospital or in
some kind of trouble again. "Hello, Randy," she answered as she became aware of
something different about this call. "Mom, I wanted to call you," he said.
"I've been saved!"
"You've been saved?" Several seconds passed before the meaning of Randy's
message came crashing into Evelynn's mind. "Mom? I know Jesus! He's real!"
Evelynn almost dropped the phone as she heard her son announce the answer to
her prayers for the last 10 years.
Evelynn had raised Randy the best she could as a single mother. She was
especially careful to model Christian principles of living for Randy. Although
she had talked with her son many times about knowing Jesus in a real way, Randy
started to stray into another kind of life as a teen. Randy left home after
high school graduation, lived the street life and was involved in drugs and
crime. He completely rejected his mother's attempts to share Christ with him
through the years. Now he was telling her he was a Christian!
Although Evelynn did not intro-duce Randy to Jesus, she certainly did have a
part in leading him to Christ through her faithfulness to pray for and share
with him through the years.
A final thought
When Andrew met Jesus, the first thing he did was run to get his brother
Simon and introduce him to Jesus (John 1:41). Philip found his friend Nathanael
(John 1:45), and the Philippian jailer brought his whole family together in the
middle of the night to hear about Jesus (Acts 16:33). Sharing Christ with
friends and family members is the most natural action possible for a Christian.
Yes, it can be hard, but there can be no greater joy than having a part in
leading one you love to experience the life that is possible only in
Dr. Joy Neal and Darel Robertson are decision counseling associates for
the North American Mission Board, sharing in the responsibility of coordinating
NAMB's Evangelism Response Center.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC