Evangelise Your Family Without Fighting Them.
August 2, 2021
By Eddie Ssemakula
Soon after I was saved at university, almost everybody knew. My backpack always featured a gospel resource. If it wasn’t a pocket Bible, it was an invitation to a church event. I thank God for those post-conversion years. Seriously. Nobody needed to convince me about evangelism. I was “on fire for Jesus”! Those in my circles then, especially my family, noticed I was a new man. Praise be to God for such seasons.
But, from another perspective, looking back I can see how I was often radical and unwise. In my evangelistic zeal I mishandled my own family. The new ways I treated my family were not in accord with the new man God called me to be. I learned these lessons the hard way. I hope that my experience will help you know how to best evangelise your family.
Don’t Fight With Your Family
Despite my new Christian family, I should have acknowledged my blood family more. I should have witnessed to them by truth imbued with love. Too often I was all fiery truth. Reflecting on those early months I can see that I sided with my new family in Christ. But there was no need for such a dichotomy. My family relationships needed patience and personal investment, not hasty separation. Sadly, feeling like I had much to say, I forgot to let others talk. I failed to listen.
It was a season of insensitive and overbearing witness, while my family was probably just coming to terms with my new faith and community. I recall clan and family meetings where I took stances instead of chances. Thus, in my bravado I missed opportunities for the gospel. I remember conversations that only required honesty and empathy to supplement gospel courage. Instead I came across morally superior.
Evangelise Your Family, With Love
I highly doubt I had the affection that Paul had for his kinsmen. When he reflected on his Jewish kinsmen being cut off from Christ, Paul felt “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” (Romans 9:2). I am not sure I genuinely desired my extended family members to know Jesus more than I wanted to showcase my new knowledge.
I now understand why Paul took Timothy with him (Acts 16:1-2). In addition to being a travelling companion and gospel partner, Paul longed to witness to his kinsmen. But he did not merely take Timothy with him; he had him circumcised. Why? Because the Jews in the places they intended to travel all knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16:3). Paul was willing to do almost anything for the salvation of his kinsmen. But I almost discarded mine. As you evangelise your family, seek to be driven by the love that longs for conversion.
Work Hard At Relationships
I became suspicious of traditional family events, like last funeral rites. Maybe I had my reasons, but I shouldn’t have been so suspicious of my dear family members. Even if they were involved in activities that I was increasingly uncertain about, I nevertheless still shared family blood as well as the image of God with them. Navigating these situations with my newfound and therefore overly self-assured faith I almost severed myself from those precious relationships. I almost switched off the gospel light to the very people trapped in darkness, choosing to fight over beliefs rather than for relationships.
Looking back, I should have gone slower and softer on doctrine. Much is won or lost at a relational level. For my family was already watching to see ‘what would become of me’. In fact, and in hindsight, I can see that the gospel I was using as a shield from my family actually exhorts us to take care of our families (1 Timothy 5:8). Neither did I realise that the only time a believer is commended to “leave his father and mother” is when they marry (Genesis 2:24). Do not divorce the call to evangelise your family with the biblical expectation that you honour them.
Now, whereas witchcraft rituals and other divination practises must be definitively abandoned upon embracing the gospel, exercising wisdom among our blood relatives that remain trapped in them is a great witness to Christ. If we remain close rather than becoming relationally cut off, our families will notice Christian joy, transformed family life, and unshakable hope. They will see God, and see Christ, in us. Ultimately, they will see our light shining and glorify our Father in heaven (Mathew 5:15-16).
Manage Your Evangelistic Zeal
I thank God for his grace. Because of it many of my extended family relationships were not damaged beyond repair. Yet I empathise and understand every new believer’s post-conversion bridge-burning zeal. Therefore I hope my story instructs you. Don’t be too quick to cut yourself off from family relations. God places us in “boundaries” (Acts 17:26) and—consequently—families, for a reason. The gospel advances where relationships thrive. I had to learn that the hard way. I hope others won’t have to.
We ought not cut ourselves off because we want to introduce those we love to the God who loves them. For our God adopts the undeserving into his eternal family. We should long for our family to know and experience that. But we should not forget that we may have a vital part to play in the process. Therefore, you must evangelise your family. But beware of doing so in such a way that pushes them away from yourself, and the God that you long for them to know.
This post was originally published at the Gospel Coalition Africa
Eddie Ssemakula is an impassioned Ugandan blogger and digital journalist working and living in Kampala, Uganda. He is curious about Apologetics and the intersection of Christian discipleship with post-modern African culture. Eddie serves as a deacon at Sojourn Church Uganda and blogs on faith and worldview at muleefu. He is married to Rhionah and they have two daughters: Mercedes and Kara.