Bringing Family Members to Christ

Few experiences in our lives as Christians can match the joy of seeing a member of our own family come to faith in Christ. When that happens we are both now members of another family, the family of God. As eternity-bound members of God’s family, we can share a level of spiritual intimacy never known before. Every aspect of life gains a new power and encouragement through this remarkable dual relationship, which is both physical and spiritual.

Yet few duties of the Christian life seem as difficult and weighty as sharing our faith with a family member. Is it because these people know us so well, and know our weaknesses and struggles as well as our strengths? Is it because our lives at home are sometimes poor evidence of the miraculous change we are urging upon them? Or is it that our own position within the family is not one of respect and authority but one that seems inferior and weak? Perhaps we fear that encouraging our family members to faith will bring a strained and discomforting chill to the home environment. And then there is always the thought that we may have only one legitimate opportunity to witness to our family members and we feel ill-prepared at present to tackle such an incredibly significant responsibility.

Whatever the reason, witnessing to our own family members presents us with a peculiar set of circumstances. Once we come to grip with some basic issues, however, we will see that our own family members deserve our best efforts in sharing our faith. We will also discover that nothing strengthens personal faith and energizes prayer quite like bringing a family member to faith in Christ. As you think of sharing your faith with your family, consider the following:

1. In spite of the unique familial relationship you share, apart from faith in Christ, even your most beloved family member will spend an eternity in hell, separated from God and from you. As C. S. Lewis reminds us, there is no such thing as a “mere mortal.” We are all eternity bound and will be alive millions of years from now in one of two places, either with the Lord in heaven, or without him in hell. It is difficult for us to place a family member in the same category as those we consider “heathens”; however, in this sense they are the same when without Christ…lost and separated from God. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). This would include the most cherished member of your family.

2. We are literally commissioned to share our faith with others, including our own family members. The opening chapter of John’s Gospel tells of Andrew who first found his brother, Simon, and “brought him to Jesus” (John 1:42a). The writer of Proverbs captures the sense of urgency that should attend our witnessing: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those that are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back!” (Proverbs 24:11).

3. We must never imagine ourselves excused from the responsibility of sharing our faith with our family members. Sometimes we may know of another whom we feel would be more capable of communicating the gospel with a specific family member. Still, we should be intimately involved, through prayer and personal encouragement, in seeing that such a witness takes place. In other words, the fact that you are a member of the family is no guarantee that a person will come to Christ. It should, however, give your family members a distinct advantage in terms of hearing the gospel and having an opportunity to respond in repentance and faith. Paul writes that in addition to his commission he also had an obligation to share the gospel (Romans 1:14-17). We have the same, a commission and an obligation, and we must not ignore either of these!

4. As believers, each of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for what we have done with the opportunities given us. This, of course, is not the final or “Great White Throne” judgment of all the lost but a judgment at which each heaven-bound believer will stand “so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The issue here will not be whether a person enters heaven. The question asked here is, “What did you do with what you were given?” It is with this in mind that, according to Paul, “we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Certainly, no one is more within the scope of possibility for our witnessing responsibilities than our own family members. Surely we will give an account for how we have discharged this responsibility.

Long ago, I heard of an evangelist who told of a young boy’s coming forward to the altar when the invitation was extended for people to come to Christ. “You are too young!” replied the counselor who met him there, “Go back to your seat and wait until you are older and can understand fully what it means to be saved.” Dejectedly, the young boy went back to his seat, only to return a few minutes later with his older sister. Meeting the same counselor, he asked, “If I can’t be saved tonight, can my older sister?” Before the appeal was concluded that night, he had brought several other members of his family to the altar. When told of this later, the evangelist said, “I don’t believe he was too young to be saved. In fact, I think he was probably saved before he reached the altar the first time. After all, the first desire of a new-born Christian is to bring his family members to Christ!”

Sharing our faith with our family is an assignment we cannot avoid. We cannot decline, delay or dispute this responsibility. We must just do it—for their sake and the kingdom's!

Tom Elliff is senior vice president of the International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention. He is pastor-at-large for over 5,100 missionaries in 186 countries. He and his wife Jeannie have four children and twenty-three grandchildren.