How to tell family and friends about Jesus at Christmas
Tips from passionate evangelists
It’s a familiar scenario: you’re hosting Christmas dinner at your house, but while you are Christian, the rest of your family are not. Amid all the fun and laughter, what can you do to remind people of the reason for the season?
The easiest way, according to Rodney Trinidad, senior project manager at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Australia, is to say grace before the meal.
“Don’t force it, but if it’s your home you can say ‘we’re Christians and we love the Lord Jesus and we’re going to pray.’ And in that moment, in your prayer, mention a very soft, loving approach of what Christmas is and leave it at that. Just trust in God.”
If the festive meal is not at your house, there are other ways of getting a Christian message across, says Trinidad.
“Have you ever thought about what Christmas cards you use on your gifts? There are amazing Christmas cards at Koorong. Spend a little bit more money and trust in the word of God. Trust that God will work, whether it’s that day or the next month or the next year – let God do the work,” he says.
You may even want to follow Trinidad’s example and organise a street party on Christmas Eve, where families bring food to share.
“We can’t force it; it’s got to be natural.” – Rodney Trinidad
“I’ve done this now for maybe three years. I don’t preach the gospel, but my neighbours are quite happy for me to take time and share a little bit of why Christmas is so important in our community … Last year I said ‘every kid is going to receive a gift today. They haven’t done anything to earn it, they haven’t paid for it – it’s free because the giver has taken time to think about this gift to give to the child.
“For the receiver it costs him or her nothing – it’s a free gift, take it – but it costs the person who bought the gift something … that’s the spirit of Christmas for me. It might be what God did by sending Jesus to earth as a gift to humanity and it cost us nothing but it cost God the father his son – and he did that because he loves us.
“And then I just pray and the rest of the night opportunities come naturally.”
Evangelist James Daymond, who works with Bush Church Aid Society in Narromine in the central west of NSW, also has some ideas on how to broach the subject of Jesus with family and friends at Christmas.
“If they haven’t gone to church that morning you could say, ‘Look, what does Christmas mean to you?’ And often it’ll be family. After you’ve heard from them you have the right of reply, then you can say what Christmas means to you – so Christmas to me is all about Jesus or it’s about the peace and the joy that he brings. It’s about being friends with God through what he did later on the cross,” he says.
“If you can just get better and better at doing conversation, you’ll find that evangelism becomes easier and easier.” – James Daymond
“But if, say, a family member who doesn’t usually come to church comes to church, I’d just say ‘Well, what did you think about what you heard today? What did you think about the message or what the minister was saying?’ If they say, ‘oh, it was good’ … you could say ‘well, I thought that illustration about this, that or the other was really, really helpful. I wonder, did you catch that?'”
Daymond says there is a misconception among Christians that evangelism is a very difficult thing to do – the skydiving of Christianity. By Daymond disagrees and says it should be seen as a privilege to tell people about the good news of Jesus.
“This is basic stuff. With evangelism, a lot of it is just about relationship and I think the rest is the work of the Holy Spirit. If you can just get better and better at doing conversation, you’ll find that evangelism becomes easier and easier.”
Of course, it’s helpful to be able to articulate the Christian gospel clearly if and when you get an opportunity to speak of the life-giving hope found through Jesus.
Trinidad was surprised to find 77 per cent of the 200 Christians who did an evangelism course recently in Perth could not write out a coherent summary of the gospel.
More than 6300 people did BGEA’s Christian Life and Witness training course in November in Perth, Darwin, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. About 3000 of those participants applied to be prayer volunteers at the Franklin Graham crusade next February. The courses continue in December and January.
“By listening to their story, somewhere you’ll be able to engage them with your story.” – Rodney Trinidad
The course stresses the importance of listening to their story, then following up with yours and God’s.
“Everybody has a story, every person is somewhere in life, and we teach the principle of listening to people’s story and sharing their felt needs. Take time to develop friends,” Trinidad says.
“After that, share your story – your testimony. It’s unique to you. By listening to their story, somewhere you’ll be able to engage them with your story. No one can debunk your story.
“You have to be able to articulate what your life was like before you came to Christ and when you came to Christ and who was instrumental in that and what difference does Jesus make in your life now that you know him as your personal saviour. Ultimately, we want to point people to God’s story.”
Trinidad suggests that, rather than eating lunch alone, try praying to God to give you boldness to have lunch with a friend at work or a family member or neighbour, with the intention of sharing something about God.
“You have to be able to articulate what your life was like before you came to Christ and when you came to Christ.” – Rodney Trinidad
“Write down on a card the name of someone you know who needs Jesus and pray every day for them. Pray for an opportunity to share with them. Spend time with your friend. When we spend time with our friends and people that we care for, you’re going to listen to their story and as you deepen your friendship they’re going to want to hear about what you believe and that’s an opportunity to talk about Christ.
“You may even bring in Bible because … it is by the Spirit and the word that people understand the message of God. So, know your Bible, quote Scripture – we encourage memorisation – know the gospel. Those are the tips we give.”
BGEA’s next step is to “Be an Andrew” – the apostle who, after discovering Jesus, went to find his brother, Simon, and brought him to meet Jesus.
“You found Jesus or Jesus found you and your life has changed – how can you not want to share that with someone?” Trinidad asks.
“We’ve got to love and follow up with all people, regardless of whether they’ve come to faith or not.” – Rodney Trinidad
“Bring them to church or to your Bible study or invite them over to your house for supper. Or bring them to the [Franklin] Graham tour and shout them dinner. ‘You know, I’m a Christian, I’ve been talking to you about Jesus, why don’t you come with me? I’ll shout you dinner and I’ll sit with you in an environment with good music and testimonies of people like myself who know Christ.’
“You don’t even have to mention the name Franklin Graham. ‘Someone’s going to talk about Jesus and I’d love you to come,’” he says.
Finally, don’t lose touch with the people you are sharing your life with. “Some people will not respond to the gospel right away but don’t give up on them. The whole principle of Mark Chapter 4’s parable of the sower is we’ve got to love and follow up with all people, regardless of whether they’ve come to faith or not.”