How to Share Christ with Your Unbelieving Family at Christmas
- Rhonda Stoppe Speaker and Author
- 2020 17 Dec
As the time for their family Christmas gathering approached, Lori got a knot in her stomach. She pondered, Why am I always so anxious before we celebrate holidays with Bob’s family?
But truth be known, she knew the reason why.
After so many years of conflict from sharing her faith with Bob’s unbelieving family, she’d given up trying. It’s better to keep my mouth shut, she resolved.
But with that resolve, Lori also recognized the nudge of the Holy Spirit. She knew God wanted her to be a light to her family, but she also knew that with that light came the dark cloud of family ridicule, judgment, and rejection.
Does Lori’s story sound familiar? You’re not alone my friend. For many, holidays with unbelievers can bring angst and consequence. I recall a story my mother-in-law shared with me. As a newlywed, she’d voiced to her in-laws that she would not enter into their card game “because she was a Christian.”
Now, mind you. It was just a card game. No gambling involved whatsoever. But my mother-in-law was raised in a strict home where card play was considered wrong.
Her in-laws didn’t hold the same view. Although her comment was intended to uphold her Christian testimony, what it actually did was trigger the beginning of a life-long rift between her and her mother-in-law.
You may be thinking, Wow. Card playing? Not a hill I’m willing to die on. And I totally get it. Neither am I. But what about the inappropriate movies that your family might play in front of your children. Or the alcohol consumption or profane language––what about that?
While all of those actions are difficult to endure, getting your family to change their behavior because it offends you and your family is not necessarily the best way to share Christ this Christmas.
Expecting your unbelieving family to view life through your biblical perspective is an unfair expectation. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, giving you God’s discernment and the mind of Christ (see: Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 2:16).
So, your goal is not to help your ungodly family change their behavior. Your purpose is to be God’s vessel, to deliver the message of true hope and love displayed in the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.
So, how do you do this without appearing preachy or judgmental? Very carefully my friend… verrrrrry carefully.
But with God’s help and strength you can evangelize without coming off weird or pushy. Let’s unpack this shall we?
Photo Credit: ©Deagreez
1. Know Your Own Story
If you come from a family of unbelievers, rather than becoming prideful that you somehow found your way to Christ, be humble. Remember, it is only through the Spirit’s work that you came to realize your need for a Savior. And it is His work that brought you to repentance and surrender to Christ.
I recall years ago at family event something truly painful had occurred. I remember thinking, I hate that person. Immediately, the Spirit impressed upon my heart: You would be just like that person if not for Christ.
Can I get a witness? It’s easy to forget from whence we came. And it’s even easier to not consider the type of person we would be had we continued without Jesus. The apostle Paul reminds us, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
2. Be Ready
Before you take your kids to the family gathering, discuss with them how the actions they will observe are not Christ-honoring. Explain to them how, because of Christ, you no longer behave in such a manner.
Also, help your children understand how God doesn’t want us to partake in their ungodly lifestyle, nor does He want us to arrogantly judge them. Rather, God wants to shine the hope of the gospel through you, while you are there.
First Peter 3:15 says that in gentleness and respect, we should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks the reason for our hope. So, know your testimony. And resolve to sweetly tell your story––if God opens the door.
Humbly recalling who you would be without Christ can stir your faith to believe He can transform even the most resistant heart. When my resistant uncle was 81 years old God finally broke through his hardened heart and allowed me the honor of leading him to Christ. Never give up on telling your story!
3. Be a Good Listener
This year, rather than preparing your arguments ahead of time, ask God to help you be a good listener so you can discern where He’s at work.
When God’s is drawing a person to Christ He may put wonder in their heart. Maybe their year has been especially difficult and they’re trying to make sense of it. Or possibly they’ve been more successful than ever but they’re realizing it’s not enough, like Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Finally, if a person has involved themself in a shameful activity, their regret may be what drives them to Christ.
As you listen, hear their heart. Discern to their longings. Seek God’s wisdom in how to respond. It’s tempting to offer worldly advice to help them fix their difficult circumstance. But remember that difficult marriage, wayward teen, or bankrupt business may be what God is using to show them their need for a Savior.
4. Pray, Pray and Pray Some More
Pray before you go. Ask God to give you His heart of compassion and love for their lost souls. Remember how Jesus who wept over Israel’s rejection of their Messiah? (See Matthew 23:37). If your spouse and children are Christians ask them to join with you in praying for your unbelieving family.
Pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the hearts of those who will attend, causing them to question their reason for existence, to realize their sinful state and to long for peace with God.
Pray while you’re there. Praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) especially when you’re surrounded by family who rejects Christ. Ask God to let His light shine through you to reflect His love––even more so if your feelings get hurt or offended (see Matthew 5:16).
5. Don’t Pick up Offense
Psalm 119:165 says,“Great peace have they that love Thy law and nothing shall offend them.” So, when you and I are easily offend-able, we can know that we’re not spending enough time being washed with God’s word (Ephesians 5:26).
At your gathering, Satan would like nothing better than to use one of your unbelieving family members to hurt your feelings, trigger your anger, or drive you away from them so you cannot make Christ known.
For example, I recall one occasion when I was at a family gathering where I had been asked to bring the soda’s to the event. Back then we were on a tight budget so I bought off-brand sodas. At the gathering, a wealthy family member mocked me for being so “tight with our money” that I wouldn’t even spring for expensive sodas.
My husband was in youth ministry at the time. And some of the family already questioned the wisdom of his decision to leave a high paying construction career “to play with teens”. So, this generic soda debacle represented so much more than just buying the wrong brand of drinks. They knew it, and I knew it.
The jeering taunts sent me to the restroom to cry some painful tears. But rather than staying in the bathroom for the rest of the gathering, or rushing my family out the door in an offended rage, I asked God to help me cover with love their hurtful comments. I prayed for His strength to go back and enjoy the rest of the party, without carrying a grudge.
Was it easy? Nope. But was it worth it? Yes! Even though I didn’t get a chance to preach the gospel to them at that time, my response––which was different than who they knew me to be without Christ––shined His light on their darkness.
And guess who else was watching? My kids. Yep. Sometimes our trials are not at all about us, but they are what God uses to show our children how what we say we believe about Christ is real and true.
So, as you prepare for holidays with unbelieving family, don’t naively think, This year will be different. Rather, prayerfully prepare your testimony for this ministry opportunity. Don’t be surprised when you’re tempted to be hurt or offended. Be ready to respond with forgiveness––even if they don’t ask for it.
Humbly cover with Christ’s love their inability to view life from a biblical world view. And pray-pray-and-pray some more for God’s Spirit to help you see opportunities to share the gospel while reflecting Christ’s love to your unbelieving family––at Christmas and throughout the year. I promise you won’t regret it!
Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years experience of helping women build no-regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist.
She’s committed to fulfilling the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines.
Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching and to book Rhonda for your next event visit: NoRegretsWoman.com