What advice do you have in terms of sharing our faith with family members?

Hi @mittelm,

What advice do you have for us in terms of sharing our faith with family members?

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Carson – concerning the question about reaching out to family members, here are some thoughts:

  • be prepared to talk about it … but don’t talk about it all the time. Pray and look for key moments, and even then be ready to get on and off of the subject. If you force feed your spiritual thoughts and concerns to family members, they’ll either shut you down or avoid future conversations. We want to keep them open and interested (Jesus said we’re the salt of the earth – but salt is only good when used sparingly)

  • look for strategic moments to bring up matters of faith. Usually that will be in private or semi-private settings. Idea: if you’ll be seeing relatives during the holidays, plan and reach out ahead of time to set up some special breakfast, lunch, or coffee appointments together. These can be at home, but often are better in nearby restaurants or cafes. Take them back to places you used to go together, but then in that setting gently bring up the topic of faith. Ask questions. Listen. Then, as you’ve earned the right to speak, share what you’ve learned in your spiritual journey – or what you think they need to know.

  • if you sense resistance, don’t keep pushing. Rather, ask them why they’re resistant or negative when the subject comes up. Ask, and then listen to their story. You want to know what they’ve gone through spiritual, and how it has shaped their opinions and attitudes toward the Christian faith.

  • when you hear their story, look for areas you can affirm and agree with. Find common ground. If they’ve been mistreated by a Christian, a ministry, or a church, empathize with their concerns where appropriate. Acknowledge that often those who claim to represent Christ do so poorly. And assure them wherever there was blatant hypocrisy that Jesus is on their side – at least on that point. When religious people do unChristlike things, they’re no longer representing Jesus. Jesus is much better than that. So encourage them to reject the bad examples, and turn to the Perfect Example instead.

  • if it turns out that part of their problems with Christianity stem back to something you said or did, listen carefully, and let down your guard. Admit where you were wrong, or overbearing, or judgmental, or whatever. Often a sincere apology is the most important thing we can offer – and it can reopen the doors to further conversation and spiritual influence.

  • be aware that for some family members – especially senior ones – it can be hard to hear a strong spiritual challenge from you. They’ve seen you through your ups and downs, and are tempted to think this is just another phase you’re going through … so be patient. Outlast them. Show them through your steadfast faith and actions (over the years) that Christ is real in your life, that he has really changed you and continues to grow you into spiritual maturity, and demonstrate that life in him is better. Make Christ attractive through how you live and speak. Over time, the Holy Spirit might just use your example to open their eyes.

  • don’t carry the whole load yourself. Look for like-believing relatives to collaborate with and actively involve them in your efforts. Team up to reach the family.

  • bring them to church services or events (especially during this time of the year make the most of Christmas Eve services), where they’ll hear biblical truth presented in clear and relevant ways, and see it lived out in the worship and the attitudes and examples of the congregation. Also, don’t forget about the potential of Christian movies and concerts.

  • if they won’t go to these services or events, consider bringing those to them. For example, watch a great Christmas service together online or on TV. Bring a DVD of The Case for Christ movie (it’s also on Netflix), and watch it together as a family. A number of people have come to faith just through watching it! Or what about I Can Only Imagine or others? Pick whatever you think will best speak to your family members at this point in their life.

  • Again, since it’s Christmas, it’s a great time to give gifts that can have an impact. My advice is not to only give them a Christian book or DVD – rather, give them a great sweater or other natural gift, but add to it what I call a “Spiritual Stocking Stuffer.” That might be a Christian music CD in a style they’ll like, or it could be a Christian book that addresses their areas of interest. Don’t forget great testimony books like The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel), or Cold-Case Christianity (J. Warner Wallace), or I wrote a little introduction to Christianity called The Reason Why Faith Makes Sense. I’d also write them a note in their card or in the front of the book telling them why you picked it, and urge them to read it soon and let you know what they think. Always try to give them next steps so they’ll keep moving forward on their spiritual journey!

  • one more thought: Don’t give up. Don’t assume they’ll never come around. Don’t stop praying for them. God delights in reaching unlikely candidates – especially when one of his favored children is fervently praying for them and seeking to reach them with the gospel.

P.S. My friend Nancy Grisham also wrote a helpful article on this subject for Christianity Today, called “High Stakes Sharing: Reaching Out to Family” – check it out here: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/december/high-stakes-sharing-reaching-out-to-family-guest-post-by-na.html