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Family members can be some of the hardest people to lead to the Lord. And religious family members are often the hardest family members to reach. Jesus’ brethren did not initially believe in him in Jn 7:5. However, you see them in the upper room among the 120 in Acts 1:13-15. I don’t have “the” answer that works in these situations every time. But I can tell you what’s worked over the years when dealing with good church members and family members who weren’t saved. Leading family members to Jesus requires:
Persistence – Acts 17:2 – Paul preached to the Thessalonians several times before “some of them believed,” Acts 17:4. Some people need to hear the gospel over and over again.
My father was very religious. Every month, for many months (probably two years or more), I would drive home to visit him and we’d talk about the gospel in the conversation. We had many discussions. In time, he was saved.
My Methodist neighbor was like a Dad to me. Almost every afternoon after work I would sit with him on his back porch and on many occasions we talked about the gospel. It took him about four years to get saved.
A Lutheran fellow used to listen to our radio broadcasts and when I stopped by his restaurant for a meal we’d talk. There were some days that he was mad at me for preaching the gospel the way I did. We visited often. One night my wife and I went by to see him and his wife after the restaurant closed. It was that night that he and his wife finally got saved. Persistent, Spirit-led conversations are necessary.
Prayer – Rom 10:1 – Paul prayed for Israel “that they might be saved.” When dealing with neighbors, friends, family members, coworkers, and the like, we need to pray for them earnestly and regularly. We need to be sensitive and responsive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in dealing with people close to us.
We had a neighbor who had been a Korean War naval pilot. He was Presbyterian, but he attended the Naval chapel on base and served as an usher. He came to church for a dozen special meetings over the years. One day, after we had moved to our new residence, he was on my mind so clearly that I knew the Lord wanted me to go visit him. It turns out that he had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. On that day, he was troubled about where he was going to spend eternity. That day, he responded to the gospel and got saved. Years of praying for him softened his heart and allowed me to be led by the Spirit to witness to him on that special day.
Perception – what religious people are trusting has not given them eternal life and is not going to get them to heaven. Often, you have to find the “key to unlock the door to their soul.” I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. Kim Phuc said of witnessing to her mother, “I am not sure that my approach was correct; perhaps every young believer charges ahead through a locked door instead of quietly searching for the key.”
When you’re engaged in conversations about the gospel, folks will say something that will give you just the right opportunity to respond. Prov 16:1, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” When you listen to them carefully, they will reveal their heart. The Lord will lead you to quote a verse of scripture or give an illustration that directly responds to their heart.
An old friend of mine (he was 40 years older than me) was an Episcopalian. Despite the difference in our ages, we were buddies. We hunted, fished, traveled, and played tennis together. I witnessed to him many times over the years and he came to hear me preach a few times. One day he asked me to come to his office to help him write a letter. Before we started the letter, he told me about a television program he had seen the night before. The storyline was the perfect setup for an illustration of salvation that I gave him when he was through telling me about it. He was visibly moved. Then, I asked him, “Can you think of one reason why you couldn’t receive Jesus Christ as your Savior right now?” He sat back in his chair and thought about it. He replied, “Old Pal, I can’t think of one reason.” I said, “Then, why don’t you take my hand and receive Jesus Christ?” And he reached across the desk, took my hand, and prayed right there to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. He was 86 years old.
Patience – Jn 4:7-26 – Jesus took his time with the woman at the well. Sometimes, when we are talking about the Lord Jesus Christ, we are so urgent to get to the decision that we rush to the conclusion and lose the opportunity.
Think about fishing, for example. When you get a big fish on, you loosen the drag just a bit to keep from breaking the fish off. This gives you time to “play” the fish until you can land it. When you do get to talk with folks about the Lord, converse with them. Let the conversation develop naturally.
I went to see an old fellow (83 years old) who was baptized in a Baptist church when he was five years old. I cooked him some quail and took it to him for lunch. We chatted a good while before the conversation turned to the Lord. Then we chatted a long while about the Lord and salvation. After about three hours, this fellow realized that he had been trusting his baptism rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. He was saved that day. And not only did he get saved, but when he went to the nursing home, he became an avid witness for the Lord.
Preaching – Acts 8:35 – ultimately, we must preach the gospel. Through the conversations that we have about the Lord, we don’t really need to discuss the differences in religion and so forth. We just need to preach Jesus. It’s through the preaching of Jesus Christ that people come to a saving knowledge of him.
Peter preached Jesus and Cornelius and his household were saved, Acts 10. Philip preached Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch was saved, Acts 8. It’s through the “foolishness of preaching” that people get saved, 1 Cor 1. The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” Rom 1:16. You can’t make people believe, but you can preach the gospel.
Conclusion: I believe that these five things can be helpful to you if you will follow them and trust the Lord to help you reach your family. Ultimately, they must believe the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s not something that you can make them do. But you can do these things you’ve heard tonight.