One of my favorite movies when I was a child was the Christmas classic, Home Alone. When I was in elementary school, I got to watch Macaulay Culkin live out every child’s fantasy on the big screen: no parents, no siblings, freedom without end, and making your home into a legitimate war zone. The desire to be a mischievous hero marked every little boy my age.
If you remember the plot line, Culkin’s character, “Kevin,” had a pretty awful family. He had a brother Buzz who wanted to feed him to his tarantula. He had to bunk with his cousin Fuller who was prone to bed-wetting and was downing some serious levels of Pepsi. Worst of all, his cheapskate Uncle Frank was known for spouting off towards Kevin one of the most memorable movie lines of all time: “Look what you did, you little jerk!”
Let’s face it: Kevin did not have the best family in the world, so when they dramatically disappeared one morning before Christmas, Kevin thought he had been raptured into a parent-less bliss. His wish had become true. His annoying family had been whisked away from his home.
While every child has probably wished a family member away at some time in their lives, every person also knows what it is like to be overwhelmed with the state of their family. While we all have those family members that disappoint or upset us, we also know what it is like to be truly concerned with the salvation of a family member.
It’s beyond they get on our nerves, we are truly worried about the state of their souls.
Do you have a family member that you believe is lost? While we can’t read their hearts, there is a good chance that each of us have someone that is separated from God. They need the gospel. But who is going to tell them?
Most likely, if you are concerned about their salvation, you might be the one that God wants to use. And if you are like the majority of Christians that fact scares you to death. It’s one thing to share the gospel with strangers on the other side of the world, but when you start sharing with people in your family, things get tricky real quick.
God will open many doors for you to share the gospel with your family. Here are some things to remember as you share Christ with those closest to you:
1. Live a life of integrity.
Even if your home isn’t as blatantly dysfunctional as Kevin’s, your family has its issues. They probably majored in issues. I realized one day that everyone seems to have the “family crazy” somewhere in their family tree (which made me wonder, if everyone has a “family crazy,” I must be the “family crazy” to someone else). It is unavoidable that you will experience some type of family drama.
While it is easy to point out your family’s issues, can you acknowledge your own? In reality, you will not be able to change your family members. The nature of your relationship with your parents and siblings puts them at an intense defensive level. No matter if you are right, it is simply difficult for your family members to take criticism from you. If you want to change them, you are going to have to attempt it from another angle.
If you want to change your family, you must start with yourself. Your family cannot change if you stay the same. If you anticipate a day when your family puts the fun back in functional, comes to their logical senses, and starts bending to your every desire, you can keep on waiting. If you feel a burden for your family to change, you must start the change within yourself. Before you scrutinize their miniscule faults, you must learn to remove the obvious log from your own eye (Matt. 7:5). Don’t preach them a message you cannot live yourself.
2. Don’t preach at them.
While we are called to share the gospel, your family is not your captive congregation. They will probably also regret it if you treat them as that. You cannot approach this group as you would teaching a Bible study.
For many people, the hardest place to be a Christian is when they are around their family. Since this group has seen you at your worst, they have an uncanny knack at being able to provoke you to anger faster than anyone else. You have an ability to spot their faults from a mile away. Tempers flare, words fly, and an awful lot of regret is unfortunately birthed in someone’s very own home.
So don’t expect a sermon over a family meal to go over with rave reviews. It might happen, but it rarely does. Normally, sharing the gospel with family members work best when you live a life of integrity before them, listen to their struggles, and then show how Jesus is changing your life. Your family can resort to arguments but they can’t argue with results. If your life is being changed, they will see the difference and better accept your gospel encounters when you present them.
- Don’t be an “itinerant evangelist.”
An itinerant evangelist is someone who travels from church to church, event to event and shares the gospel. They don’t have enough time to build relationships with the people in the churches where they preach. They might drive into town, deliver a hellfire and brimstone message, and then they drive out onto the next destination.
If you try to be an itinerant evangelist to your family, you will fail. To pop in and out of your family members’ lives preaching the gospel devoid of relationship rarely works. Your family will listen to your message better if you simply listen to them. If you are cheering at their games, encouraging them through letters or calls, or initiating quality time with them, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Think about what Paul says in 1 Thess. 2:8: “So, being affectionally desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” While Paul spoke this in regards to the Thessalonians, I can’t think of a better verse for you and your family. You want to share the gospel with them, but you also share your very lives with them because they are that precious to you! Don’t only speak to them when you have a sermon prepared, engage them in their lives.
- Trust God to save your family.
As I struggled in college to comprehend the theological tension between evangelism and the sovereignty of God, I searched relentlessly for answers. I thought that my finite mind could understand the infinite mind of God, and I was wrong. I wanted to understand how my efforts in evangelism worked alongside God being the active agent of salvation. One of my mentors told me a line that has stuck with me since then: “Preach like an Arminianist and sleep like a Calvinist.”
To explain, Arminianism is the theological belief in complete free will where man chooses God. So, if that’s the case, we better share Christ with all as often as possible because they will choose possibly on the quality of our presentation. On the other hand, a Calvinist is one who believes that God elects the saints and free will has nothing to do with it.
So this piece of advice encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity that God presented for me to present the gospel but yet trust Him with the results. I cannot save anyone, but I can be faithful to proclaim the excellencies of the gospel and then trust the only One who can save to do what only He can do.