By Contributing Writer, Marci Ferrell
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
When I first started writing this post I wanted to title it, “How Not to Witness to Family Members.” I believe I have more qualifications in writing about all my failures and missed opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those I love dearly and desire to see in heaven one day.
Some of our family members think we have lost our minds and have chosen to have no communication with us anymore. My hope today is to remind you of the hope in the One who truly saves and as the verse above reminds us, “with God all things are possible.”
Many of us believe it is hard to witness to strangers and casual acquaintances, but when you really think about this, I have found it much easier to witness to someone I just met on an airplane or at a restaurant than someone I have known for years.
First off they know nothing about me ,and I will probably never see them again. My family members have known me for a long time, are familiar with all my failures, and have seen me at my worst. With family I have the concern that this will create tension in our relationship and make future visits uncomfortable. Nothing like your relatives dreading your visit.
Where to Begin
I’m assuming you already have a good and clear understanding of the Gospel and Biblical Evangelism. If not, I recommend you visit Living Waters and listen to Hell’s Best Kept Secret and True and False Conversion.
Sharing the gospel with our family should be a part of our natural conversation with them. These are people we love, and we have true concern over their eternal destiny. Conversation doesn’t need to be scripted but can come about very easily with questions regarding their thoughts about spiritual things.
Remember, we were in their spiritually lost condition until the Lord redeemed us and turned our hearts from darkness to light. Do not water down the gospel or fail to communicate clearly that they are sinners against a Holy God. You need to discuss sin, wrath, judgment and hell. They must understand what repentance is and what it means to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The most important truth to remember is God does the saving; we are just called to be faithful and share Good News of the Gospel. To do this faithfully we must love others more than we love ourselves.
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The Importance of Prayer
How much time have you spent in prayer for your lost relatives? This is an area of deep conviction for me as I don’t pray regularly enough for the salvation of my family.
I have recently set a section aside in my prayer journal to pray for lost family and friends—and do so at regular times during the week. When I pray for them it reminds me to be thankful for the gift of family and for the Lord to increase my love for them. I pray that He would put other believers in their lives that would be faithful to share the gospel. (This is a reminder that your neighbor who doesn’t know the Lord is probably being prayed for by a faithful believing friend or family member—open your mouth and tell them about Jesus.)
As I am praying the Lord reminds me of ways to reach out and show them in tangible ways of my love for them. We live a distance from our family so this usually is in phone calls, cards or gifts sent. When we pray before our visit I find we are very mindful of turning the conversation to spiritual things, and God is always faithful to open evangelistic opportunities.
Sharing with Older Relatives
I remember a video teaching from Way of the Master where Ray Comfort shared some helpful thoughts on sharing the gospel with grandma. It would be a little uncomfortable to ask grandma if she ever lusted or lied. Especially over Thanksgiving dinner with the family.
I have used his approach of telling grandma my testimony of how I am not a good person and how I have lied, lusted, and broken all of God’s commandments. That I am God’s enemy, and if He were to judge me against the ten commandments I would spend eternity in Hell. I share the Good News of the Gospel and how God saved me by His grace when I repented and put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation.
As hard as it may be, you still cannot compromise the gospel even when dealing with older relatives. The reality of eternity should help us to evangelize boldly. My Grandmother is 101 and has still not put her faith in the Lord. We have shared the gospel many times with her over the years, and when we visit we continue to share and pray with her as the Lord gives us opportunity.
We have several family members who desire to have no communication with us because we are Christians. We have tried, as the Bible says, to live at peace if at all possible. (Romans 12:18)
It is always a helpful reminder to remember that Jesus was rejected by his own family (John 7:5, Mark 3:21, & Matthew 13:57). This doesn’t stop me from praying for them and hoping that the Lord will give us reconciliation. I continue to pray that the Lord would bring bold, love-filled Christians into their lives, and that they would have open hearts for the truth.
Fear of losing the relationship should not stop you from sharing the gospel; that is not loving my family member more than myself. The Bible calls that fear of man, and it is a sin (Galatians 1:10). My top concern for them should be the salvation of their souls and their relationship with the Lord—not their relationship with me. This doesn’t mean I am to be rude or arrogant but speaking with love and truth and faithfully sharing the gospel.
Witnessing to “Christian” Family
We all have family and friends who attend religious services, have been baptized, confirmed, taken communion, and base their salvation on their good works and in these religious acts instead of in the righteousness of Christ and in Him alone for their salvation. They have never been born again (John 3:3) and do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord but believe they are going to heaven based on their own righteousness. (If you are reading this and not sure of your salvation please take some time to visit here for a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
There are probably many things you will agree on if they are religious: God’s love, forgiveness, grace, Bible verses, and common terms we use (repentance, sin, faith etc.). You need to be clear about the true gospel when you are sharing with unbelievers who think they have the truth.
Be reminded that only God can open their eyes to the truth of the gospel, but we are called to be faithful and share the good news (Romans 10:17). Share about the exclusiveness of the gospel, talk about why Jesus is the only way to heaven, and share the gospel as you talk about your own testimony.
It is a good exercise to write out your personal testimony and make sure the gospel is laid out in it so you can you share how you came into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and clearly present the gospel at the same time.
I want to leave you with a quick list of helps when witnessing to those closest to us – our moms, dads, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandma’s, grandpa’s, spouses and children – our hope is to see them come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The sovereignty of God in salvation is freeing as we know there is nothing we can do to save anyone. God just calls us to be faithful in telling others what they must do to be saved.
-Be reminded you were in their lost state until the Lord opened your eyes to the truth.
-Spend much time in prayer for your lost family members.
-Make sure your words are backed up by godly actions. Think about ways you can show love to your family members.
-Keep good theologically correct resources on hand to share with family. Bibles, tracts, books, websites, CD’s and DVD’s are great to have on hand to communicate the gospel.
-Get comfortable with a clear gospel presentation. The more you share the gospel with others the more natural it becomes a part of your everyday life.
-Continue to deepen your understanding of the gospel by reading good books. (The Pleasures of God by John Piper is a good recommendation).
-Don’t compromise – always take a stand for truth.
-Pray that the Lord would give you a heart for the lost. The thought of our loved ones spending eternity in hell should be an easy catalyst for us to open our mouths.
-Be reminded, Jesus does the saving, we need to be faithful to share the good news.
-When family members bring up your past, share about the difference Christ has made in your life. Share about the work of sanctification and that we are not perfect as believers but still fall into sin. Another great opportunity to share the gospel
-Obey God rather than men. Care more about obeying God than your relationship with another person.
-We don’t share the gospel every time we visit with family but the Lord’s work in our lives is always talked about.
Witnessing to our family is an expression of our love for them. May the Lord give us more love for our family members than for ourselves. May we present the gospel clearly, lovingly and with much patience and trust the Lord to do His will in and through their lives.
”Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”