There's a world of difference between presenting the gospel to a stranger and sharing it with a friend. Each situation has unique challenges that require a lot of courage to overcome. With a stranger, you have to work up the nerve to broach the subject. And while it might be easier to talk about Jesus to an unbelieving friend, it can be an awkward conversation to navigate—especially if you’re worried about putting a strain on the relationship.
Here are five suggestions to keep in mind when you’re sharing the gospel with loved ones.
1. Make prayer your priority
You probably know a lot about your friend. You're likely familiar with their upbringing and know a little about previous exposure to Christianity. In fact, you're probably well versed in their objections to the gospel. So it's easy to fall into the trap thinking it's on you to craft strong enough arguments to change their mind.
Being able to share the gospel compellingly helps, but if you really want to have an impact, commit to consistent prayer for your friend. Ask the Spirit to soften their heart and overcome their defenses. Pray that God will make you aware of when the time is right.
If you're serious about introducing your friend to Jesus, commit to praying for them.
2. Be brave, but be smart
Sharing the gospel with a close friend can make you feel extremely vulnerable. It's hard not to take it personally when they call religion a crutch or suggest that faith is silly. It's not easy to ratchet up the nerve required to share the gospel, which often means that when you feel courageous enough to start the discussion, you go in with guns blazing.
It's important to be brave, but it's critical to be wise. Don't assume that you have forever to tell them about Jesus, but don't approach the conversation in a way that guarantees you only get one shot. You want your friend to be comfortable talking about this with you, and if you push too hard, you can make the topic off limits.
3. Pay attention to their objections
When it comes to opening people's hearts, there isn't a skeleton key. Each one of us comes to the gospel with our own questions and objections. Don't assume that the argument that you find most compelling is going to be meaningful to them. Your friend needs you to be a good listener and pay attention to their unique questions.
It's also vital that as you listen, you hear the unspoken questions. Your friend might ask you about why God allows terrible things to happen, but they're not necessarily asking for a theological lecture about God's sovereignty. They might be looking for hope in their own difficulties. So be aware that they might not be asking their real question.
4. Lead them—don't push them
Relationships become strained when people approach evangelism like salespeople. If your friend feels like you’re going to force them to make a decision every time the topic of faith comes up, they'll do everything they can to avoid it. So be careful that you don't give the impression you're trying to close the sale.
Don't overlook the value of influence. Your relationship allows you to demonstrate the difference the gospel makes. Why push them toward Jesus if you can guide them?
5. Be mindful of your behavior
Your friend is probably intimately acquainted with your mistakes, but that doesn't mean that you've lost all credibility. The truth is that sometimes it's essential to communicate that redemption was a gift and Jesus continues to forgive you despite your imperfections.
That said, we still need to be mindful of what our behavior communicates. Sometimes in an attempt to demonstrate that Christians aren't self-righteous or better than others, we allow ourselves to be dragged into situations that muddy up the water. It's not wrong for people to see a difference in the lives of those who follow Jesus—in fact, it's critical.
Loving your friends into the kingdom
Friendships are precious, and sharing the gospel doesn't have to put them at risk. If we're careful to be gracious and earn the right to be heard, there's no reason our faith needs to be off limits. You want your loved ones to listen, understand, and respond to Jesus. And when you're thoughtful and intentional about how you talk to them, there will be plenty of opportunities.