Best way to share the gospel with someone who has negative history with Christians

(Carol Lou) #1

I am wondering how best to present the truth of Christianity to a family member who has a long history of a negativism toward Christians and their beliefs. She is recently starting to search for the meaning of life and seems a little more receptive towards Christianity than before. In the past she has been very negative about what she sees as the hypocrisy of Christians who are in the national limelight. And she also asked the question, “If Christianity is true, why doesn’t is work better?”
I am open to any and all suggestions on the best way to proceed and dialogue with her. Thanks for considering my questions.

(Duane Enos) #3

My advice would be to keep the focus on Jesus while talking to her, not on Christians who are flawed. Jesus is the way, and we need to follow his plan. We mess up but that just shows our need for a savior, the need for something higher than ourselves. She may want to focus on the idea that ‘Christians aren’t perfect so that means that Christianity can’t be true.’ But you can’t judge Christianity by how someone applies it; especially if that person is already flawed. You need to judge it based on what Christ said and how he applied it. He should be the example for anyone looking if Christianity is true.

(Duane Enos) #4

Also need to just let her talk. Don’t preach at her, but you can ask her questions that get her to think. Like, ‘how did you come to that conclusion?’ and, ‘what do you mean by that?’
The book “Tactics” by Gregory Koukl is great for us to learn how to discuss Christianity with friends.

(David Cieszynski) #5

You could go down the route that human nature is fallen and because of His love he sent His only Son. And that he created us knowing the pain, hurt we cause Him to feel.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #6

Hello @clou. May the Lord give you wisdom in how you will share truth to a family member.

For starters, this is a good way to not be defensive about the hypocrisy of Christians, in case she mentions some of them. Personally, I am in no position to judge if the people she identifies as Christians are really Christians, but regardless, it’s good to listen intently and empathize with her.

I agree with @Duane that you don’t preach at her, but instead feel free to ask questions as much as you can. Your family member asked the question that if Christianity is true, why doesn’t it work better? You could ask her what she means by that, because fact-finding for better understanding of her position can help you think of answers she truly needs. She may think that Christianity should work if it’s true, and this begs the question if pragmatic effects necessitate truthfulness, or maybe by works she mean the change in the lives of those who profess.

Other questions may be about what you noticed that she seems more receptive towards Christianity, like she’s searching for the meaning of life. You could ask her questions about that as well, like her thoughts about it, this could open a door for you to talk about how you found the meaning of life in Christ.

(Brittany Bowman) #7

Hello, @clou, I’ll be praying for both you and your sister. I’m sure it must be challenging for when someone you love so much does not know the source of true love through Jesus. Personally, I’ve found it helpful to put a name to Christian terms in everyday conversations. For example, when a professor gives me an extension on an assignment, I may say “That professor showed me a lot of grace,” instead of “I sure lucked out.” Over time, my friends have started to ask about the Giver and source of gifts like grace and love, and being deliberate can create the rapport for them to be curious when they are ready. Another idea could be to ask your loved one to encourage each other in a personal growth area unrelated to Christianity (exercise, personality, academics, etc.). As they hold you accountable and see both your victories and defeats, it can create a sense of vulnerability that inspires them to ask more questions. It’s also a great analogy to how God loves us unconditionally despite our shortcomings, and you can discuss the fallen nature of man. I agree with @omnarchy that one of the most powerful questions in witnessing is, “What do you mean by that?” This can open a door to challenge her explain and support her positions, and it can give you an opportunity to better understand her perspective. Such a question proves you seek to listen and understand her, rather than simply defending yourself. Hopefully these three tips give you some inspiration on finding a loving way to create an atmosphere of open dialogue. Will be praying for you both!

*I do want to add one more thought I’ve been wrestling with personally for a few years, and I hope it gives you a bit of peace. My post was how YOU could help save your friend, but that makes us almost God-like, as if we ourselves can by our own works save ourselves and others. I want to give a bit of clarification on who does the saving. We’re each vessels to carry God’s love to others, but we’re just vessels, not God. You can’t save your friend, you can only allow God to use you for His work. God doesn’t need you to save your loved one. He loves your loved one too much to place someone’s salvation into the hands of any sinner. Even if the Apostle Paul had fumbled and turned away from God, God would have found another servant to carry the Gospel to all of the ancient churches. Paul would have missed his opportunity to serve God, and it would have been tragic; however, God would have loved the Jews too much to end the story there. (Inspiration from Luke 19:40, “I tell you, if they keep silent, even the stones will cry out.”) In opening our hearts to God’s call to save others, we are being molded into becoming more Christ-like. We humble ourselves by making ourselves vulnerable to the unsaved, we dig into the word, we pray, and we build courage to witness. We do indeed sin if we fail to witness to others, but we also sin if we make the process about ourselves. By coming to God constantly in prayer that he would choose to use us for His divine plan, we can step out of God’s way and into the joy of serving someone who has an all-powerful plan.

(SeanO) #8

@clou Praise God that she is beginning to seek for truth! May His Spirit grant you wisdom in your interactions with her and open her eyes to the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus! I believe @omnarchy and @Brittany_Bowman1 have made excellent points already about getting to the heart of the question and living the Christ life until questions naturally arise.

‘Why doesn’t Christianity work?’ is an age old question. I am reading ‘The Way of All Flesh’ by Samuel Adams right now and the entire book is a critique of the hypocrisy of Victorian England and specifically its clergy. In one place, Adams says that the members of this country Church would be ‘equally offended by those who question Christianity and those practice it’. You see, there are two ways we can run from God and reject Him - and we see both in the story of the Prodigal Son.

  1. We can be the younger brother who lives a licentious life and jumps head first into sin - forsaking righteousness
  2. We can be the older brother who tries to establish their own righteousness apart from God and despises the younger brothers of the world as unworthy of God’s love (these are the religious hypocrites) - we can even do this in the name of Christ and through religion

For that reason, I think it may be a good idea, if God leads, to read Tim Keller’s book ‘The Prodigal God’ which really would give you an opportunity to get to the heart of the Gospel and why Christianity seems not to work on a large scale. The Gospel is a challenge to the sinner and the self-righteous - a call that will always be counter cultural in every day and age until Jesus returns and sets up His Kingdom.

I also think the following Bible verses are helpful for understanding that Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world and our ultimate hope is not in this world. We are sojourners in a foreign land - soldiers in enemy occupied territory, as C. S. Lewis so famously put it. So we should not expect this world to be easy - rather, our hope is in the Lord.

Beginning of Romans 5 - “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for , the evidence of things not seen.

John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world

I John 5:19-20 - We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

What are your guys’ thoughts? What does it mean for Christianity to ‘work’?