Sermon: Winning Your Family


Do you have any family members who need to know the Lord? Maybe it’s granny, Uncle Bob, mom or that brother who only shows up at Christmas. If so, then you need to listen to this message I preached a few weeks back about how to win your family inspired by the Way of the Master television show. If you’d like to see it online or hear it on MP3 or Quicktime then click here and scroll down to July 10, 2010.

Want the text only? Feel free to borrow any part. No attribution necessary.

(Acts 16:31)

I wear a T-shirt on occasion that my wife thinks is kind of weird. I got it at a memorial service several years ago as a keepsake to remember a man who died.

It has his picture on the front with the dates of his birth and death. He was in his forties, a young man.

I didn’t know him; I was just called in to give the service. I do remember how he died: He checked into the hospital with a relatively minor ailment, there was some kind of mysterious error, complications arose, then he was gone.

I wear that shirt with the man’s face on it, to remind me of the brevity of life. No one is promised tomorrow.

I wear that shirt with the man’s face on it to remind me that when people die, there is a real Heaven and a real Hell.

I wear that shirt with the man’s face on it to remind me that people need to hear the Gospel, they need to repent, before it’s too late. If they don’t have saving faith in the Savior Jesus, they will end up in eternal torment for eternity because of their rebellion toward God.

I don’t know where that man on my shirt is right now; but if he could return from the dead and speak to all of you, he would indeed say that Jesus is Lord. “It’s all true; Jesus Christ is Lord.”

That man left behind family and friends who thought he had another day to live.

I’m sure that all his loved ones are hoping that they will see him again someday in Heaven. Will they?

Where will your loved ones go when they die? Do you know? I’m sure you care. Have you yet had an opportunity to share your faith with your family? Just the thought of doing that probably sends shivers down your spine, right?

“My Dad? He’ll never listen.” “You don’t know Mom….” “My kids are soooo lost!” “Grampy’s an atheist! Grandma is a Buddhist!”

The most terrifying people in the world to witness to about our faith are family members. If you witness to a stranger and blow it, and he gets upset, you haven’t really lost anything; you’ll probably never see him again.

But if it’s a family member, the whole clan can get angry with you.

***When I was a new Christian, I wrote a hellfire letter to my mom. I wrote an apology a few weeks later.

***My wife did the same thing to her sister using passages from Jude. Afterward, her sister wouldn’t even let her kids come out to visit.

Another thing we’re afraid of when talking to family members about eternity is that the people closest to us know our shortcomings, and they can bring them up to throw in our face—and they will. We’re afraid of being labeled a hypocrite.

And some well-meaning believers mistakenly rely on one verse in the Bible to ensure their family’s salvation.

Acts 16:31—“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’”

This is not a hands-down, iron-clad guarantee that just because you believed, it’s a done deal, your whole household will be saved.

If you look at the context of the passage you’ll see that this was a prophetic word spoken by the disciples Paul and Silas, to one man, a jailer, about his household.

The jailer who tended them “fell trembling before Paul and Silas” after a great God-given earthquake freed them from their chains.

V. 30-31: He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

In verse 32, it tells you how his household was saved: “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.”

If we really care about our family, we actually have to talk to them about eternal things. We can’t be afraid to ask, “What do think happens when you die?”

Are you concerned about where your family will spend eternity? Of course you are. Me, too.

I want to give you six keys on how to reach those you know and love so that, in all good conscience, you know with certainty that you gave them a fighting chance for Heaven.

#1: Be prayerful

1 Thess. 5:17—“Pray continually…”

This almost certainly falls into the “Duh!” category, but do we actually pray continually for our loved ones? Do you have their names written down in a journal of some sort so you can remember to pray?

Do you pray believing?

Mark 11:22-24—Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

We also have an awesome promise of God in 2 Peter 3:9– The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

***My wife prayed for her mom for twenty years. God saw fit to have her move out here 2 years ago, meet her former husband on Facebook, get married, hear the gospel at Hope Chapel, make a profession of faith—then move back to Michigan!

Put your family’s salvation in the hands of God—and don’t forget to tell them that you are praying for them.

Key #2: Be blameless

1 Peter 1:11-12- Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

In a nutshell: Don’t be a hypocrite.

What kind of movies and TV shows do you watch? What types of jokes do you tell and laugh at? When you declare that you are a Christian, everyone’s waiting to pounce on you.

Because they read about the latest born-again adulterer in Congress, because they see so many compromised pastors, because they meet so few authentic believers, they’re watching you. Their waiting to level the charge of “hypocrite” in your direction. Don’t let ‘em.

1 Peter 2: 15– For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Do you still go out drinking with the boys? How fast do you hit the “delete” button on your computer when your wife walks into the room? While shopping in the mall with your family, does your head swivel like a bobble-head Chihuahua in the back window of Audi without shocks?

Ladies, are you contentious and grumpy and complaining and naggy with your husband and kids, the husband and kids He gave you after your years of earnest prayer when you were single?

Children, are you really a Christian and still so argumentative and rebellious to your parents, always grumbling, sullen and unthankful?

If you are an older brother, then you owe everyone an apology.

Your family is watching you. They know about you. They know alllll about you. You want to save them from Hell? Be an example.

Charles Spurgeon again: “It is of no use for any of you to try to be soul-winners if you are not bearing fruit in your own lives. How can you serve the Lord with your lips if you do not serve Him with your lives?

“How can you preach His gospel with your tongues, when with hands, feet, and heart you are preaching the devil’s gospel, and setting up an Antichrist by your practical unholiness?”

It isn’t just a matter of not doing certain things, it’s also about doing certain things. Good things. Being generous and helpful, courteous and respectful.

Mat 5:14-15– “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Your family is not interested in sermons. I know. I’m a pastor. It’s easy for me to preach. I fall short many times. I know that I must continually put my faith in action. I want them to see the difference Christ makes.

If we want to reach our loved ones for God, we must live authentically.

Key #3 Confront

This is difficult, yet necessary. If we care about our loved ones, we must talk to them about their salvation at least once.

“I can’t do it!” you may protest. But you can.

Paul writes in 2 Cor. 3:6—“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…”

Philippians 4:13—I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

And if not you, who then? Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ has said that 2% of Christians actually share their faith.

So don’t count on your family being witnessed to by a real born again believer, because they’re all staying at home thinking it’s someone else’s job as well.

Make this verse personal for you in regard to your unbelieving family members. Replace the word “someone” with your name.

Romans 10:14–How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

So what do you do? Go up to granny while she’s sitting in her rocker and say, “Grandma, you ever lusted? You ever lied or stolen anything?” That might be a bit direct. You do have to live with them, remember?

Try a first person testimonial using the Law, the 10 Commandments.

Example: You know, Grandma, I realized that when I die I will have to face God on Judgment Day. And he’s going to judge me by the 10 Commandments. I always thought that I was a good person and God would let me in. But if I broke just one Commandment, that’s called sin, and if I sinned one time, I’d deserve Hell. If I have ever lied, or stolen or even misused God’s name, I’d be found guilty. Jesus says that lust is adultery, hatred murder. How about you , Grandma? Have you ever done any of those things Grandma?

Don’t forget to magnify the mercy of God. Explain how God became a man in the person of Jesus, how he suffered and died on a cross, was buried for three days and rose again. And urge her to repent and put her trust in Him.

Look for an opportunity when you can be alone.

VIDEO clip from Way of the Master: Episode 26: “Witnessing to Family Members”

***Mom story.

***Braddock story

There are no guarantees. But the reality is, sharing at least once about your faith is a whole lot easier than living it out.

If this is too scary for you, make an agreement with a friend that you will witness to their loved ones if they will witness to your loved ones.

If you having a nice steak and lobster dinner, feel free to invite any of the graduates who earned an “A” in my evangelism class. They’d be happy to assist.

Sure there will be a short uncomfortable silence right before dessert, but at least your relatives will hear the Gospel.

Don’t push for a decision, don’t pressure them. Send an email, write a letter.

And remember, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9)

Key #4: Be faithful

Matt. 6:33– But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Read your Bible everyday. Make God a priority in your life. Get up a half hour earlier. I suggest to people that they live by this discipline: No read, no feed. No Bible, no breakfast.

Do you live your life with the same attitude as Job?

Job 23:12– I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

Do you have the same commitment as the Psalmist?

Psalm 119: 14-16

I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

Folks, we have so many excuses not to be faithful, so many distractions. Faithfulness must start in the home.

Now what about your kids? Do you want them to follow the Lord, and stay in the Lord? Please consider these two keys.

Key #5 (for keeping your kid in Christ): Family devotions

Proverbs 22:6—Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it.

So many parents are preparing their kids for Harvard instead of Heaven. Soccer before salvation. Our priorities as parents should be the things of God if we want our children to have those priorities.

People think that there’s this certain time called the “Age of Accountability” when magically, a kid becomes responsible for his own sins at a specific age. There’s a problem: It’s not in the Bible.

We need to train them up now.

Jonathan Edwards, considered by many to be the greatest American theologian who ever lived, was so concerned about kids getting saved at an early age that his approach to them was basically the same as the approach to their parents.

Edwards believed that children “too were in danger of judgment and must learn to flee from the wrath that is to come upon them as well as older sinners.

“They were ‘young serpents’ who had not yet learned to bite, but were full of poison. They were no different in nature from their parents. They too were ‘children of the devil.’” –From Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell by John Gerstner Pgs. 61-65

Charles Spurgeon, who very much believed in the complete sovereignty of God, wrote, “O Fathers and Mothers, the ruin of your children, or their salvation, will under God, very much depend on you.”

“I pray you so live, that when you stand over your child’s dead body, you may never hear a voice coming up from the clay, ‘Father, your negligence was my destruction. Mother, your prayerlessness was the instrument of my damnation.’”

We have our family time every morning. We sing. The kids go though a few questions of Bible trivia, we each pray, read some Proverbs, then a chapter out of the Bible. We try to keep it about 30 minutes long.

Offer an incentive for your kids to read the Bible. D.D. will get $100 on Jan.1 for reading the entire bible.

And make sure you take them to church with you. You are the parents. They obey what you tell them. Remember the old adage? You live in my house, you live by my rules.

I read of a man who was forced to go to church every week as a child. He hated it. Now he heads up the congressional prayer caucus. Build in your kids right habits. Parents, this means you must go too.

If you want your kids to stay in the faith, teach your to evangelize by taking them out with the evangelism team. Let them see what the world is really like. Let them develop a compassion for the lost. Parents, this means you must go too.

Key #6 (for keeping your kid in Christ): Teach the 10 Commandments.

This is the Law that is written on their hearts. (Romans 2:15)

This is the schoolmaster that leads them to Christ. (Gal. 3:24)

This is what brings to them the knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:20)

Alan Kisaka told me that teaching his kids these Commandments kept them in line. They had the inward conviction of the Holy Spirit.

(Teach everyone the hand signals) See video clip here.

I hope these keys were helpful. Trust God. Maybe you’re thinking that it’s too late, you’ve blown your witness, the kids are grown, the family no longer listens to you. They think you’re a religious fanatic.

Maybe an apology is needed. Have you had a holier-than-thou attitude?  Have you played the part of a hypocrite? Take care of business with your family.

James 4:10—Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Nothing speaks about Christ louder than humility.

If you are willing to work at all these things and trust God for the salvation of your loved ones, then the promise of Acts 16:31 is indeed yours: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’”


  1. The first two times I took your class I missed the last class which was basically this message. When I finished the class on the 3rd try, I heard it. After I heard it the Lord impressed on me to go through the material backward on my own starting with the last message. Then guess what you were preaching a few weeks later? This message! Praise God.

  2. Listened to your message and I added some more things to one of your lines in the sermon and made a poem.

    Common American Motivations(starts with the parents):

    Harvard before Heaven
    Soccer before Salvation
    Pleasure before Prayer
    Wine before Wisdom
    Gifts before the Giver
    Creation before the Creator
    Money before the Maker

    One day we will all stand in
    Judgement before Jesus.
    Are you sure you will be welcomed into His House
    When you won’t even let him in yours?

  3. That’s quite the straw-man you took down there with your poem, Matthew.

    Awesome job! 😉

    For the last time, yes, we understand the rules of your religion. It’s not like we think that if you’re right, it won’t happen to us (that is, that we’ll go to Hell for not believing).

    It’s that we don’t think you’re right.

  4. Funny that you don’t believe in the Age of Reason, it’s a big hit with the folks over at Ray’s Swamp.

    It’s also quite interesting that none of the verses you quote about teaching the 10 Commandments mention the 10 Commandments.

    They say The Law, The Law, The Law.

    I’ve lost count how many dozens of times Ray has been asked to provide biblical justification that The Law is divided up in 3/4/5 categories and that Christians only have to obey 1 category these days.

    Of course he never can provide that justification. And we all know why.

    Pick & Mix.

  5. Stumbled across this site. Thought the message was good. Can’t really figure out what some of the comments at the bottom are about. Are people complaining? So confused.

  6. Are people complaining?

    About certain things, yes.

    But you’re commenting on a thread that’s over 6 months old.

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