How to Talk to Your Family about Christ

Spiritual conversations with loved ones do not have to be intimidating.

By Jennifer Abegg Grant
family-playing-cards-tm-465x280.jpg Photo by Tom Mills

Stephanie's dad was a practicing agnostic and proud of it.

He believed that any ultimate reality -- such as God -- is unknown and probably unknowable, feeding that belief with books. He also read books that sought to disprove Christianity, like Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian.

Stephanie, who had accepted Christ in high school 4 years prior, prayed that God would provide opportunities to tell her dad about Jesus and that he would become a Christian someday.

Not Very Likely

It seemed as likely as Harvard accepting a high-school dropout.

However, Stephanie was undaunted by her dad's distaste for Christianity. She believed God could do anything.

The only child phoned her father and invited him to meet her for a weekly coffee date. They'd meet and talk about life, and they'd discuss their differing views.

Families Can Be a Built-in Mission

Though most of our family members may not seem as antagonistic toward Christ as Stephanie's dad, sometimes we shrink back from telling them about Him. But families are a built-in place for us to represent the truth of Christ and invite someone to become a Christian.

"The Lord has sovereignly placed us in the families we are in," says Vince Johnson, a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member. "Somebody needs to tell them about Jesus, and I believe we have a stewardship because we are in that family as a believer. We have a responsibility to tell them."

I'm Praying for Someone Else to Tell Them

Pastor Rocky Fong, of Evangelical Community Church in Hong Kong, writes, "People tend to ask the pastor to do it for them, especially when their [family members] are sick in the hospital facing critical illnesses. Based on my own observations, parents are first 'converted' by their children before they formally accept the invitation of an evangelist or teacher."

Yet sometimes it's intimidating.

Our families often know us best. They usually have known us before we accepted Christ, and they've seen us afterward. They know "what we're really like."

But there are ways to talk about Christ with those we love that are possible and practical.

Where to Begin

Prayer is the start. We need to pray and ask God to soften their hearts and provide opportunities.

When John Lamb returned home after serving in the military, where he was introduced to Christ, he told his brother and sister-in-law about his newfound love for Jesus.

"John," said his brother over dinner, "you look the same and your voice is the same, but I don't know who you are."

"That's because the man you knew before no longer exists," John replied, "I have been made new."

John explained the change. But his brother wasn't ready to accept Christ.

Actually, John prayed for him for 20 years before his brother understood the gospel and became a Christian.

Don't Save It All for One Conversation

Another important element in sharing Christ with family members is to incorporate Him into day-to-day life.

"Evangelism isn't just something you 'do' -- out there -- and then get back to normal living," writes Rebecca Manley Pippert in Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World.

"Evangelism involves taking people seriously, getting across to their island of concerns and needs, and then sharing Christ as Lord in the context of our natural living situations."

We usually know our family members' needs and concerns better than anyone else's because of our unique position in the family.

When we talk with our siblings, parents, children and aunts about deep things and what's important to us, we can talk about Jesus the way we would if we were talking to our Christian friends.

We talk about everything else that's important to us; why not talk about Christ the same way?

Easy for You to Say

It can be difficult putting that advice into practice.

Rather than just being natural in our conversations, we might only initiate conversations around spiritual things -- never about school, friends or anything else we care about.

I can think of times in my Christian life when I brought up those natural subjects, only to steer the conversation quickly to Christ.

This relentless agenda can leave our relatives feeling less like a loved one and more like a project.

OnMission magazine reminds adult Christians with unbelieving relatives:

"Treat them as courteously as you do your friends. Dialogue with them. Get to know some of their friends. Share their enthusiasm for hobbies. Learn to be their friend" (November/December 2001, Tips for Sharing Your Faith During the Holiday Season).

Books can also help when used appropriately.

Stephanie offered to read her dad's copy of Why I Am Not a Christian if her dad would read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

She later gave him Letters From a Skeptic, a book that includes real letters between an unbelieving dad to his son, by Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd.

Years later, Stephanie's dad called her on the phone. Maybe, he wondered, God was knowable after all.

He had searched God out with the help of his daughter, and now he was seriously thinking about giving his life to Christ.

A week later he did.

Currently, he's planning to become a full-time missionary. Stephanie knows God can do anything.

It's All Relative