Many people feel intimidated, anxious, or uncertain about sharing the gospel with close family members, fearing it might risk the relationship. We asked Dave Sterrett, author of several books including Why Trust Jesus? and writer for the I am Second movement, to give us a few practical ways to witness during the holidays.
Sometimes it is easier for us to share the gospel with someone that we don’t know in a different country, instead of those who know us the best. But how can we share our faith with family members who do not know Christ?
First of all, we must present the gospel. The “gospel” means good news, and it includes several facts. The gospel says that Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, died on the cross and bodily rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If anyone trusts in Jesus’ work on the cross they will receive God’s free gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23).
Christmas is a great time to talk about God’s greatest gift. Sometimes I hear people talk about a lot of spiritual activities or community or social action without ever mentioning Christ, but Jesus is the gospel (Romans 15:19). And at Christmastime, we can take several practical approaches with our loved ones that might open the door to a conversation about God. Here are several considerations:
1. Invite. During the holidays, invite your family members to a church service. Sometimes those who normally do not attend church will attend when invited by a friend or family member, especially during Christmas or Easter. Just ask them. The worst that can happen is that they say no.
2. Serve. Look for ways to serve your family around the holidays. Guys, instead of sitting around watching sports the whole time, look for opportunities to clean up the dishes or shovel the snow. These small acts of service can make a big impression.
3. Pray. Get alone sometime during your Christmas vacation and pray specifically for your family members by name. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom. One Christmas I really wanted to talk to my grandfather about Christ. I got alone on my knees and prayed for him. Later that night we had an in-depth thirty-minute conversation about Christ. He knew the Lord, but we just did not talk about it that much. This was our first really long spiritual conversation about Jesus. So I encourage you to pray.
4. Speak. Invitations to church, acts of service, and prayer are all ways to witness to your family, but there comes a time when the gospel needs to be verbally communicated. Be sensitive to timing and pray for guidance, and then start talking.
A lot of people think, “I don’t want to come across as ‘holier than thou’ to my family members, so I’ll just live the faith. They know me too well. They know my mistakes back in highschool and college. I don’t want to come across to religious to them.” Allow me to share several thoughts in reply. People often construct this battle in their mind between sharing and living the faith. There is no conflict. As Christ followers we need to speak about Jesus and also live out the faith. It is not an either/or dilemma.
I have heard Christians quote Francis of Assisi as excuse not to use words about Jesus. They say, “Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” First of all, St. Francis used words. Second, if you are intimidated to talk about Jesus, do you really think your life is so spiritually strong that people are going to constantly ask you, “What’s so different about you?” That may happen once in a while, but it will rarely happen with your family. Your family knows your flaws. The gospel is about Jesus taking messed up sinful people like us and giving each one the free gift of salvation.
Now, let me also add that with super close family members, like a spouse, you certainly want to be consistent and practice what you preach. Peter said about these unbelieving husbands, “If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1)
So how can you share your faith with family members during the holidays? Invite a family member to a Christmas church service. Pray for them. Serve them. Then, speak to the them clearly about Jesus. It may not be comfortable, but God will use your weakness and fear to powerfully demonstrate his love.
What practical or creative ways do you plan to share your faith with family members this Christmas?