International (MNN) – Christmastime is often marked by gatherings of family and loved ones to celebrate the Advent season. But what if some of your family members aren’t followers of Jesus? What if you are the only believer? You want those family members to share with you in the joy of our Savior’s birth. But how do you witness to them?
Ron Hutchcraft of Ron Hutchcraft Ministries understands the struggle. “You know the people we love the most are the hardest people to talk to about Jesus, aren’t they? Our own family, our closest people. And who do we want in heaven with us more than we want them there?”
Over at the ministry’s website, there is a free downloadable e-book called “A Lifetime’s Not Enough” talking about how you can be forever with the people you love the most. It provides real-life stories and Scripture paired with seven ways to help open the heart of a loved one to the Gospel this Christmas.
So how do you share with family members – people who may even be very familiar with the Bible and the Christmas story — and their hearts are hardened?
“We know that it is hard to share it with the people who are most familiar with us. And a lot depends on how much they do know and I think chances are that these days they know less about Jesus than we even realize. But we shouldn’t assume what they know about him.”
Hutchcraft has four tips on how you can effectively be a witness for the Gospel to a loved one this Christmas.
Write your hope story
His first tip is to know and write out your hope story. “Your hope story is about the difference he makes in your life. So what you want to do when you write out your hope story is talk about what’s different about your lonely times because you have Jesus. What’s different about your stressful times, about your ‘when the world is spinning out of control’ times, about when you get bad news from the doctor? What difference does Jesus make at the funeral? What difference does Jesus make for a husband or for a wife?
“You are living proof that Jesus can change what no one else could change. Think about it. Maybe you are living proof that a temper can change because of Jesus. Maybe you are living proof that a mom or a dad or a husband or wife or son or daughter can change because of Jesus. Maybe you are living proof that when the news from the doctor is deadly or frightening and it sounds like a death sentence almost, and maybe it is, that Jesus makes a difference. Maybe you are living proof that somebody who is worried and been consumed with anxiety and stress their whole life can change. Maybe you are living proof of someone who has been addicted to something that they could never change — maybe you’re living proof that that can change.”
As you write your hope story, it’s all about sharing how God’s story and the story of Christ impacts your story.
And, as Hutchcraft points out, writing out your hope story is important for two reasons. “Number one, it helps you think it through so you know what story you have to tell. And you ought to be able to do it in two or three minutes.”
Share your hope story
The second reason why writing out your hope story is useful takes us to Hutchcraft’s next point: “It’s something you can hand to people that you love and to say, ‘Have I ever really told you my story?’ And most people are interested in the story of a family member to go, ‘I don’t think you know my whole story. And if you’d be interested, I would love to give it to you and let you read it over and I’d love to have your comments on it.’ So your hope story always is your most important door opener.”
This part can be easier said than done. Often, it means waiting for a conversational opening. Hutchcraft advises praying for that sharing opportunity.
“Jesus is very skillful at opening for you a natural opportunity. They will say something that will give you an opportunity to tell about how your life has been changed by Jesus Christ. It may be something that they say is going on in their life. It might be something going on in your life. Or it could be something going on in a very scary world that we live in these days.”
But ultimately, he says, when you share, remember it’s not up to you to open the heart of your loved one to Jesus. It’s in God’s hands.
“Let go of the pressure. Realize that it is not up to you to convince somebody to come to Jesus. If you think it is, you’ll push too hard. And when you push on someone, they’ll move farther away from you. I hope you can relax in the fact that Jesus said the Holy Spirit is the persuader of people to come to Jesus. You just have to be available to share his story and your story.”
Watch your approach
In 1 Peter 3:15 it says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect….”
That aspect of gentleness and respect is key in having complex conversations related to faith. “Realize that you need to see things through their eyes,” advises Hutchcraft. “Try to find whatever common ground you have with their starting point.”
Keep the conversation on Jesus
Then, he encourages, “Keep it all about Jesus. Don’t get into religion. So often they’re going to want to talk about religion. When Jesus talks to the woman at the well, when he started to get close to her soul, she wanted to talk about the difference between her religion and his religion and he wouldn’t go there.
“The issue is always going to be about our personal spirit and truth relationship with God. They need to know this is not about religion. You have no religion to offer them. You’re not interested in discussing religion because Jesus didn’t come to start a religion. This is a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ, and if you can focus it on what he did on the cross and that he walked out of his grave under his own power and make it all about Jesus, you have a lot better chance of breaking through.”
Ultimately, the salvation of your family member or loved one doesn’t come down to the eloquence of your hope story or the clarity of your rhetoric. It comes down to them falling in love with Jesus.
“Jesus said, ‘Follow me.’ When people say, ‘Yes, but what about the hypocrites and what about those Christians and the way Christians do–’ Well, hold on. Jesus didn’t say follow my followers. He didn’t say follow my religion. He didn’t say follow my leaders. He didn’t say follow my rules. He said, ‘Follow me.’”