Sharing Your Faith With Family and Friends
May 11, 2010 - I’m sure you’ll agree that home is the hardest place to share the Good News of Jesus. The people we live with know us too well! It has always been like that.
If you have built the bridges of friendship strongly enough, people will come.
By Michael Green
Do you recall how Jesus, when He had healed the man who was torn to pieces by dark spiritual forces, refused the man’s request to join Jesus’ disciples? It would have been easier for him to stay with Jesus and get away from his background by going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Instead, Jesus told him, “Off you go to your home and family, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you” (Cf. Mark 5:19-20).
And we read that the man went away and started announcing his cure all over Decapolis, the “Ten City” region. Everyone was amazed. But we are not told that he actually went back to his family to tell them. That would have been a much tougher proposition!
Why is it so difficult? Partly because we are like a chaotic building site. We have been taken over by Jesus Christ, but He has not had the chance yet to erect the building He plans. We are still very much under construction. And, irritatingly, people expect that if we are now professing to be Christians we should be perfect. How can we reach them?
Here are some suggestions:
This is critical. Not that we will be perfect after coming to Christ. But there needs to be substantial change, and this will arouse the curiosity of those who know us well. I remember helping a man to Christ back in my student days. He was a Canadian ice hockey player, and very good at it. He used to stay up half the night and surface only shortly before lunch. His room was always a mess, with clothes thrown everywhere. But once he came to Christ, he got up for prayer and breakfast every day, and he also kept his room tidy.
Back in those days at Oxford we had “scouts,” college servants who came in to sort out the rooms. My friend’s scout was astonished at the change that had happened to him, and it led to very useful conversations about the Lord.
Once, when I was a pastor in Oxford, we had a confirmation service and lots of parents came. It was a superb evangelistic opportunity. One undergraduate’s father, a high-powered business executive, never went to church but came to this event because his son was taking his stand as a new Christian. Afterward, he exclaimed to me: “What has happened to my son? He is different, and it is a great improvement!”
I told him that Jesus Christ was responsible, and I gave him a book to read about the Good News. Not long afterward he, too, came to Christ. People do notice us more than we imagine. And a radical change in our behavior does get through to family and friends.
In writing to the Philippians, Paul advised them to “shine like stars” amid a “crooked and perverse generation” as they “hold out the word of life” (Cf. Philippians 2:15-16). People are cynical about talk these days, particularly from preachers and politicians. But when they see the light of the Gospel making a real difference in us, they may well sit up and listen to the Word of life.
If you and your spouse are living a Christian life at home having short but significant times of prayer with the children, intriguing them with stories from the Bible, showing them that following Christ is not drudgery, worshiping with them in a way suitable for their age, bringing Jesus naturally into the conversation when appropriate, then there is every reason to expect that they will grow up as followers of Jesus.
They may not even recall any particular day of conversion, but they will know that they belong to Christ. That has happened with our four children and is now happening among our grandchildren. Such a result is not automatic, of course, because everyone has free will and may exercise it against God as well as for Him. But there is every reason to hope that if we live a Christian life at home, if the kids see us on our knees, if prayer time and church are integrated into daily life, it will be natural for them to blossom into Christian commitment.
Most people reckon that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that if someone does an act of kindness, they must hope to get something in return. When they find themselves on the receiving end of sheer, unselfish kindness, it makes them wonder, “Why does she do this for me? I have never done anything for her.”
When I was leading a church that had lots of university students, one of the women’s colleges had in it a girl who had acute anorexia. The hospital had failed to cure her, and it looked as though she would die. But the Christian girls in the college had different ideas.
They determined to look after her day and night. One or more of them was always in her room, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, feeding her when she would accept it. She recovered. They introduced me to her. She became a Christian with joy and gratitude. It was the unexpected, the “over-the-top” kindness of her friends that attracted her to the Savior.
I have seen statistics that suggest a large number of non-churchgoers would accept an invitation to church if it came from a friend. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that if you have built the bridges of friendship strongly enough, and you issue an invitation for a carefully chosen event, people will come.
Today as I write, there is an outreach at Oxford University, where I work. One hundred fifty people have accepted an invitation to a luncheon where the Gospel will be proclaimed. Why have they accepted? Not because they want to go; they probably don’t!
But they like their friends, who are so keen for them to come, and they do not want to hurt them by turning down their invitation. Time and again, a gracious invitation from a friend to a carefully chosen event, ideally off church premises, leads to conversion. Try it!
This is particularly effective among our friends. You know how it is, far into the night, when discussion between friends has ranged over sports, politics and the opposite gender, unbelievers may then begin to “trash religion.” At that point you may respond, “I, for one, will not trash Christianity. Jesus Christ is alive and has made a lot of difference to me.” You probably won’t need to say a lot before their true motives and thoughts become clear. They will follow it up with a sincere response if they are ready.
When my son was working in a factory before going overseas as a missionary, his lifestyle amazed his co-workers: his relationship with men at work, his entertaining of them in his home, his visiting them when they were sick. He particularly befriended one man and told him about Jesus and the difference He makes.
He invited the man to his wedding, and I had the joy of leading him to Christ at the reception. It was easy in that instance. My son’s lifestyle and testimony had shown the man that Jesus Christ is real, and all he needed was a bit of help in getting connected with Jesus!
I believe one of the greatest ways the Christian church is failing is in this matter of witness. Many of us never mention Jesus to anyone from one Sunday (in church) to the next. I’ve found that through practice and experience, witnessing becomes more natural. It’s surprising how easy it really is to bring Him into the conversation at the gas station, in the supermarket or even with customs officials! We just need to be willing to try.
But quite apart from these casual chances, we all have friends. We have co-workers. We have people with whom we share leisure interests. These are the everyday situations in which we can mention Jesus naturally and with a smile. If we all were to do that faithfully as God leads us, the Gospel would spread like wildfire.
It is sad that many people who have been sitting in church for 50 years haven’t the vaguest clue how to introduce someone to Christ. They think it is too difficult. They think it is the minister’s job. They think, above all, that it is unnecessary. But it is necessary. The New Testament makes it very plain that the Good News is intended for all and that people are perishing for lack of it. The heart of it is not very difficult. You might say there are three basic things we all need to know if we are going to help a friend to Christ.
The bad news.
We are not in good shape. Our actions, thoughts and language all give the game away. There is something wrong with us. It’s like a disease, and these things are the symptoms of it. The Bible calls the disease sin. It spoils our lives. It separates us from friends and loved ones… and, of course, from God. If it is not dealt with, it is fatal.
The Good News.
God cares about our situation so much that He came to show us how to live, and to take personal responsibility for the disease that is spoiling our lives. He dealt with it once and for all on the cross. Best of all, He is alive again. He is the Easter Jesus, the risen Lord, and we can meet Him.
The “today” news.
Today is the day of salvation, the Bible says. We need to respond to His love today. We need to welcome Him into our life today. Sure, it will be costly, but it will prove to be the best decision we have ever made. I remember helping my dear mother to take that step. It was such a privilege. We can all share the Gospel among our friends and family, if we launch out!