How can we energize our families to engage in the mission of making disciples?
I’ll begin with a confession: I’m not very good at this. Personal evangelism isn’t my strong suit. I can preach the gospel with boldness at weddings, funerals, and church services. I can call people to repent and believe in Christ from the pulpit without apology or hesitation. But taking the time to reach my unbelieving neighbours and friends always seems low on my priority list.
Despite this being a weakness, God has given me opportunities throughout the years to share the gospel with my neighbours in every day situations.
A couple years ago, I was at the playground with four of my kids when I noticed a little girl shyly trying to get my daughter Lily’s attention. I called out to Lily and said, “Hey sweetie, why don’t you play a game together?” Lily smiled and nodded before turning to the littler girl and asking, “Would you like to play tag?” It wasn’t long before they were chasing one another around and laughing.
The little girl’s father was standing close by, so I struck up a conversation with him. “How old is your daughter?” I asked. “She’s seven”, he said. “Oh, she’s just a couple years younger than my oldest”, I replied. He turned and surveyed the small brood of mini humans who resembled me and said, “Wow, you have four?” “Not quite”, I replied with a chuckle. “I have two more at home!”
That began a long and lively conversation about family and kids that eventually turned into a conversation about Jesus. I ended up getting his number, and we got together a couple more times for bike rides and more talks that led to spiritual things before the summer ended.
The Natural Context of Friendship
This is a fairly typical example of how family evangelism works in my household. It’s not planned. It’s not strategic. But it is natural.
I have a neighbour who is a chemistry professor. My boys love playing with his son. While they’re running around together, he and I often talk about his interest in Christianity’s influence in his home country of China.
There’s another neighbour who lives down the street. We also met because our children enjoy playing together. Once, I saw her pushing her son in a stroller through several feet of snow in the winter because she didn’t have her driver’s license yet. The next time we had a big snowstorm, I knocked on her door and offered to drive her and her son on my way to taking my kids to school. That gave me a chance to talk to her about our church and to encourage her to attend.
How about my friend across the street? We met shortly after we moved into the neighbourhood. She approached us and commented on how well our children play with one another (which may or may not be true). Over the years, we’ve developed so much trust with her that she has given our older kids chores to do at her home while she’s out of the province. Once, we even asked her to babysit for us in an emergency situation. That gave our kids the opportunity to show her some of the work they’ve done at the Christian school they attend.
I may not be very good at directly sharing the gospel with random strangers, but I’ve found that if I’m present in my community, and I’m working at raising my children in the Lord, then God has a way of giving me opportunities that I can’t avoid.
Taking the Next Step
Where do you start if you want to grow in this area? Remember, much of it begins with how you function as a family. It begins with training your kids to reach out to and welcome other children, with teaching them how to love one another and respect authority. It begins with raising them up in the teaching and admonition of the Lord so that they’re engaged in the mission as well.
These are the first principles of family evangelism. If you apply these principles, the opportunities will follow. But if you don’t, it doesn’t matter if you have the best evangelism strategy ever invented. No one’s going to be attracted to a message that leaves families dysfunctional, selfish, and/or rude.
If you are building your family on the solid rock of Christ, here are some practical things you can do to witness as a family:
- Be visibly present on your street. Don’t just play in your private backyard. Play in the front where other families can join you.
- Pray regularly for your neighbours as a family. Our family sets aside one night a week to pray for unbelievers in our lives.
- Find opportunities to serve others as a family. You could walk an elderly neighbour’s dog, or shovel a few driveways together after a snowstorm, or do a neighbourhood cleanup.
These may seem like little things, but they add up to create big opportunities. Raise your kids faithfully. Be present in your neighbourhood consistently. And watch God work powerfully.