Sharing the Gospel
Larry Osborne, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Jessica Thompson, and Randy Newman talk about sharing the gospel with members of your family.
About the Guest
- Larry Osborne and Russell Moore give biblical and practical insight for engaging with a culture that is in opposition to the Christian community. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/engaging-the-culture/
- Randy Newman and Glenn Lucke tell Dennis Rainey how questions, when properly asked, can help to evangelize others. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/questioning-evangelism/
- Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson know that parents can be nervous about giving kids a wrong answer. So they teamed up to answer some of the most challenging questions for parents like, 'What happens when we die?' 'What is suicide?' and 'Why does God allow natural disasters?' https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/answering-your-kids-toughest-questions/
- Randy Newman, talks about the mistakes he made when trying to witness to his family, especially his parents. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/bringing-the-gospel-home/
Larry Osborne, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Jessica Thompson, and Randy Newman talk about sharing the gospel with members of your family.
Michelle: If you’re a Christian, you probably have people in your life, whom you love, who aren’t Christians. They most likely have questions about how a good God could allow suffering in the world. Have you thought through your answer? Here’s Jessica Thompson.
Jessica: “Okay, so listen, sweetie; when God created the world, He created it perfect,”—I like to use the term, “unnatural disasters”; these actually aren’t the way they were intended to be—“God created the world so it would be perfect. But then you know what happened?—sin. And do you know what?—where sin goes, tears go.”
Michelle: We want to help you create a compelling gospel narrative to benefit the people you love the most on this edition of FamilyLife This Week. Stay tuned!
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, we are living through unprecedented times in our world. There seems to be this unrest, and confusion, fear, and even heaviness. It’s when we need each other the most that we are being told to keep our social distance. It’s in these times that people are wanting hope. They’re wanting that true and lasting hope. For those of us who put our faith in Christ, you have that true and lasting hope.
I’ve heard pastors say—even Bob Lepine, who is a pastor, too—say that now is the time to be bold. Now is the time to share why you have that hope and a future. Let’s learn how to share our faith; let’s learn how to share the gospel narrative in our life. For that, let’s turn to Larry Osborne. Larry’s a senior pastor at a large church in California. He’s been at this church for over 30 years, and has watched it grow from 128 members to 11,000—that’s Southern California—not exactly the Bible Belt, if you know what I mean.
As a senior pastor of a church that is highly successful, he has helped people develop their gospel narrative and avoid something he calls “scaredy cat Christianity.”
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Larry: I call it “scaredy cat Christianity.” Sometimes it comes from those of us who are pastors like myself, or sometimes radio shows, or whatever. We talk about the things that are happening that are negative, and we want to put a stop to that tsunami of changes taking place. At times, frankly, we even overstate what the problem is so that people are, if you will, aware of it. Well, the unintended consequence of that is people begin to live in fear.
If I was to go back to, say the Apostle Paul, and have a sit-down with him, and complain to him about the wickedness of the culture today, I think he would look at me and go, “Uh, what are you talking about? Do you understand Rome? Do you understand I’m in prison right now? It’s not, ‘I’ve lost a tax deduction.’ I’m in prison because of my faith.”
We lose the perspective of being people, who are pilgrims in a strange land. If we can gain that once again—and, again, that’s what I tried with my family and with the congregation I lead—to help them understand: “This is an awesome privilege. God never puts us in any place that we’re not capable of handling.”
Michelle: So the question that you may have—because I do—is how do we share the gospel? How do we share Christ in this culture?
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Larry: Well, I think one of the key things is—we simply think like a missionary. If you go onto the mission field, you go there and you say: “You know what? We are here to have influence. We are also here to infiltrate the culture—to understand the culture/to adapt to the culture—but our goal is to realize that we live differently but we live within this new framework.”
That’s pretty much what I tried to do with my own children as we raised them—is to say: “We’re going to live in this culture. We’re not going to get in our holy huddle and run away. But, at the same time, we’re going to live a different life than what you’re experiencing out there in your day-to-day experiences.”
Michelle: So Larry Osborne is helping us see that it is so important for us to live out the gospel every single day—not only in the culture out there—but also in our homes. Because in our homes are the people we love the most and whom God has put in our lives so that we can live the gospel example to them.
I only shared a little bit of Larry Osborne’s interview with Dennis and Bob. You will want to go back and listen to this entire interview; it’s at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. As Larry mentioned, the gospel message needs to be on the forefront of our minds in every conversation of our homes.
I’ve heard it said many times that our family/our children are our biggest mission field. But a little word of warning here: “A plus B does not always equal C.” In fact, the perfect formula doesn’t always end up the perfect way. It’s not a cookie-cutter solution. It’s something that Elyse Fitzpatrick knows well.
Elyse has written a book with her daughter, Jessica Thompson, about Jessica’s faith journey. Jessica grew up in a home that did things right. They taught her about God; they took her to church; she went to Sunday School; she went to youth group—like: “A plus B equals C.” They did all the right things right! So how did they miss the fact that their daughter wasn’t a Christian? Here’s Jessica describing some of those early warning signs.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Jessica: I had gone to a movie and came home. One thing my mom always did for us—that I really appreciated and hope I do it with my children also—is to press into: “What is the worldview that you are seeing here? What is the world telling you, and what is the biblical worldview of this?”
Bob: Now, wait. You just said you always appreciated that?
Jessica: No, no, no! I appreciate it now.
Jessica: I didn’t then—
Jessica: —at all! [Laughter]
Bob: Because no 15-year-old wants to come home to a mom or a dad, saying, “So, what do you think that worldview was?”
Jessica: No, I should rephrase that; I didn’t appreciate it then at all.
Elyse: She wasn’t ever happy about those conversations. [Laughter]
Jessica: No; so I came home from some movie—I don’t remember what it was—and she was sitting on the stairs. If I didn’t roll my eyes outwardly, I did it in my—
Elyse: Oh, you did. [Laughter]
Jessica: Okay. [Laughter] I was going to say, “I did in my heart.” I was walking up the stairs; and she said: “Now, stop. Let’s talk. What worldview was the movie trying to tell you?” I just sarcastically/angrily said to her, “Not everything has to have a meaning,”—
Elyse: Silly girl. [Laughter]
Jessica: —which I’m sure encouraged a great conversation between the both of us, at the time.
But yes, I mean, talking to our kids—every conversation, every movie, every book—there actually is a good story. There is one good story, and that’s the gospel. You can see it all over; you see it in most movies. Any movie that’s good, you’re going to see the gospel story of someone laying down their life for those that they love.
Bob: Did you know, when you were faking it, that you were faking it?
Jessica: Yes, I did. I mean, I don’t even know if I thought that deeply about it, to be real honest. I think I thought: “This is what everybody else is doing, and that’s fine,” and “I don’t want people bothering me.”
Bob: “I’ll play the game.”
Jessica: “I’ll play the game. I will play the game, and I will get all the awards. Everybody will love me.” Yes, that was more of where I was at.
Bob: And I’m just curious, did you know she was faking it?
Elyse: Oh, no; not at all. When she came home that night from Bible college—and she said to me, “Mom, I got saved today,”—it didn’t even register in my mind what she was saying. It was shocking to me that—all these years: this girl who, when she was in kindergarten, won Miss Christian Character; she went on mission trips; she was in the youth group/one of the leaders of the youth group; in Bible college—all the time, faking it; because she wanted my approval and the approval of the family. Coming from a ministry family—
Elyse: —the approval of the family. I was utterly astounded.
Bob: Is there a way a parent can diagnose whether a child is faking it? I’m just wondering if there is anything we can do, or do we just kind of go with it and keep praying for them?
Jessica: I don’t think there is a way to diagnose that, but I think there is a way for parents to talk to their kids about their goodness not being everything. Being a good kid doesn’t equal being a Christian. Your goodness will never be good enough; you need the goodness of Jesus Christ. You need His righteousness alone to stand before a holy God.
And we’ve talked about this; it’s not that I’m going to surprise her right now. That’s nothing we ever heard, growing up.
Jessica: What we heard was, “Be a good kid, and that will get you through life.” The gospel message is, in fact, so much more and deeper than that. You can never be good enough—so to tell your kids, “Put your own goodness away and trust and rest in the goodness of Jesus Christ on your behalf,”—that’s a message that our kids need to hear so that we’re not raising Pharisees and legalists.
Dennis: What Jessica is illustrating here, I really want parents to hear. We’re losing a generation,—
Dennis: —who are growing up in the church today, who are playing church—sometimes because the parents are playing church; okay? They are simply replicating what they are seeing their parents model; their hearts are far from God.
But I think, as you were growing older, Jessica, we began to really practice confessing our sins—
Elyse: —so it became more of an atmosphere where we could talk about our sin.
Bob: Did you notice things changing as you got older?
Jessica: Well, I think for sure. Probably late high school, or right around in there, things definitely started changing.
I think, even for my family, things have been changing even more dramatically. The more I’m willing to talk to my boys—when they say, “I go to church and it doesn’t mean anything to me,”—instead of like, “Oh, you just need to listen more!”
Elyse: “Take good notes!”
Jessica: “Take better notes!” I’ve been able to say to them: “There are weeks that I go that my heart isn’t alive either. I don’t feel quickened”; but if we can stay centered on Jesus Christ, as the Author and Perfector of our faith, that’s where we can build confidence in our children.
Michelle: Okay, I want to break in here, just for a second. If you’re listening right now, and you feel that your child isn’t a Christian, I just want to encourage you. I know it could be a hard place to be, not knowing if your child will be in heaven for all of eternity with you; but remember that God’s Word does not return void. Don’t stop praying for them; don’t stop living that daily example of laying it all down at the foot of the cross.
Hey, after the break, we’re going to continue on with a conversation with Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick; so stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We’re talking today about the gospel narrative, and how to live that out, and how to share that and be bold with those around us. Being bold with those around us means it needs to happen first and foremost in our home.
We’re in the middle of a conversation with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson about the heartbreak of having a child, who does not walk with Christ the way that you do. You can hear the whole conversation at FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. Let’s continue on with more of this conversation with Elyse and Jessica. Here’s Bob.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: You know, the faith issue is one of those issues that parents can have a tendency to freak out over.
Bob: A child asks a question like: “How can I trust God?” or “I don’t believe there is a God,” or something like that. They make those statements; we can get itchy about that. When you turn on the news—and there’s a question about 250,000 people dying in a natural disaster, and your child says: “Well, why did God allow that?” or “…cause it?”—did God cause that to happen, Elyse?
Elyse: Right; you know, that’s where having built an understanding of what we would call a worldview paradigm; which is: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. We want to say, “When the world was first created, in its beauty and goodness, there would not have been tsunamis that killed 250,000 people.
Elyse: “But, at the fall, not only did mankind fall into this bent state, but Romans 8 tells us that creation itself fell; and the world is now groaning.”
Do I want to say, “Did God set out that day to kill 250,000 people?”—I don’t think I want to say that—but what I do want to say is: “God is sovereign. He is ruling over this creation, and part of what happens with sin is that the creation itself has fallen. We are waiting for the redemption of the creation, with a new heaven and a new earth, where these things will not happen anymore.”
Bob: Okay, I could see having that conversation with my 14-year-old.
Bob: Now Jessica, how do you have that conversation with the six-year-old, who says—talking about creation being under the curse and groaning—can you have that kind of conversation with a six-year-old?
Jessica: Yes; obviously, you would use different terms. I’ll go into that a little bit differently. I do think, though, that talking to them continually about this paradigm: “Okay, so listen, sweetie; when God created the world, He created it perfect,”—I think I like to use the term, “unnatural disasters”; these actually aren’t the way they were intended to be—“God created the world so it would be perfect, but then you know what happened?—sin. Adam and Eve sinned. You know what?—where sin goes, tears go. Where sin goes, death goes, unless Jesus Christ redeems it. One day/one day it’ll be totally redeemed, and we’ll be in a place where there will be no more unnatural disasters.”
Bob: And “In those disasters, there were some people who died, who loved Jesus;—
Bob: —and for them, that was the best day of their life”—
Michelle: That was Elyse Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Jessica Thompson. Did you hear what they agreed on? They agreed that sin was a part of their gospel narrative; is it a part of yours?
I serve on staff with Cru®, also known as Campus Crusade for Christ®. One of the things that we had to do, when we first came on staff, was learn how to evangelize: how to hit the streets and strike up conversations with people, and tell them about Christ. I had to come up with my own gospel narrative. You know, it takes some work; it probably takes a little bit of life experience and really knowing who your Savior is.
Randy Newman has been on staff with Cru for over 35 years. He knows this lifestyle of sharing God’s love with others well. First of all, he’s written a book called Questioning Evangelism; but secondly, he lives it out with his family members. He shares God’s love, actively, with all his family members. For Randy, that’s kind of challenging; because he was born into a Jewish family. Not everyone sees Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Randy: I have tried to talk about spiritual things with one of my relatives, and he’s not interested. He shuts the conversation down before I can get anywhere. If I’m just talking about the existence of God, or the fact that God makes a difference in all of life, walls go up.
What I have found is—I need to find other things to talk to him about and try to show how the gospel pertains to that topic. He doesn’t want to talk about God, and he doesn’t want to talk about religion; but he does talk about family, and he does talk about marriage. A couple of years ago, he was talking to me about some struggles he was having in his marriage; it was really tense and difficult.
I thought: “Okay! He wants to talk about marriage. Alright; he doesn’t want to talk about God, but he wants to talk about marriage.” I started saying that my wife and I—we also have our tensions, and our struggles, and our disagreements. I think he was kind of shocked; because I think, in his mind, you either have a bad marriage or a good one; there’s no—you know, “If you have a good marriage, you never have any problems.” Well, we have plenty of problems!—that’s what happens when two sinful people marry!
I shared with him that one of the most helpful things in our marriage was that my wife and I had learned a whole lot about how to forgive each other, because we’ve got plenty to forgive; and that we’ve learned how to apologize to each other. He was really listening, more deeply than in any other conversation we had had.
I said, “I think the only reason we know how to forgive each other is that we’ve learned something about being forgiven by God.” Again, he kind of shut things down soon after that; but he heard more about a relationship with God that’s based on forgiveness by my coming in the side door, if I can say it that way.
That’s what I mean by “comprehensiveness.” I think we need to talk about the gospel—not just as this message that: “If you believe it, you’ll go to heaven,”—but it’s a message that has ramifications all over the place: about marriage; about money; about job; about children; about how you think about yourself; how you think about life; how you handle disease. I mean, there are a million ramifications of the gospel that I think we need to talk about.
Dennis: Specifically, when you talk about marriage, you’re talking about the culprit between two imperfect people as sin—and self and pride—and our unwillingness to admit fault and ask for forgiveness. You kind of ran past it when you were telling your story, but you talked about how your marriage was made up of two sinners. That implies a standard, and that’s who God is.
I liked the illustration you used, not because it was about marriage and family, but it was that you were sensitive to wanting to break through your uncle’s closed-mindedness or his stiff arm that he had had out in front of you, to be able to talk with him about his relationship with God and with Christ.
Randy: Absolutely! And by the way, that conversation came because I was willing to talk about all sorts of other things, even less pointed than that. I mean, when it became clear that he didn’t want to talk to me about religion or spirituality/whatever, what I did find was, “So what does he want to talk about?”
I found out that he was really interested in history: “Alright! Let’s talk about history!” That gave us the opportunity to have long conversations that opened the way for other conversations. It was a willingness to say: “I don’t always have to talk about Jesus in every single conversation; because let me talk about other conversations and see if they lead to the gospel or some aspect of the gospel.”
Bob: You know, I think that’s an important point; sometimes we forget cultivating a relationship. We turn relatives into projects instead of friends. Friends talk about football, and they talk about the weather, and they talk about what you’re doing in your life, and your grandkids. They have all of those conversations without an agenda; it’s just how you build a relationship. That’s really what you became committed to—is the cultivation of a relationship—it’s a whole lot easier to share Jesus with your friends than with a stranger.
Dennis: There is a moment that is really uncomfortable, that most of us will face with a family member; and that’s standing by the bed of a dying person, who is still lucid, awake, and can have a conversation. Can you give us just some thoughts of, maybe,
some do’s and don’ts. What should occur in those final moments, when you really do have a chance to talk to that person?
Randy: First, I want to precede it with—acknowledge the elephant in the room, if there is one—“You know, Grandpa, I know that this is difficult,” or “I know we never talk about this,” or “I know we never have talked about this,” or “I know you don’t like me to talk about this,”—that’s the first thing: acknowledge it.
And then bridge to the gospel with: “But you know, I really love you; I really care about you. I care about you so much that I want to tell you something.” And then, one of the things I say in the book is:
Find a way to be concise in expressing the gospel—that: “You can know God in a personal way; but you won’t if sin is a separation between you and your God, as it is for everyone. But Jesus is the one who paid the price for your sins. He’s the one who bridges that gap if you simply tell Him you want to trust in Him as your Lord and Savior/that He’s the one you are counting on to be your righteousness.” And “Grandpa, would you like to tell Jesus that right now/right here?”
I think we all need to practice saying those things in just neutral situations. On our own, practice—even writing it out if we need to or finding a tool that expresses it—because nobody is going to be brilliant enough to make that up on the spot. It would be hard to make that up in an easy situation. If you’re next to someone—who’s a loved one, who is dying—you’re not going to be brilliant on the spot. Don’t count on brilliance on the spot; prepare!
Know what you would say, and actually know what you would say as a sample prayer. If you’d say: “Listen, why don’t you repeat after me? Here’s a prayer you can tell God: ‘I’m sorry for all of my sin. I repent of all of my sin, but I want to know You. I want to spend eternity with You, and I realize I must have a Savior. Jesus is my Savior; I place my trust in Him.”
Michelle: Oh, that’s Randy Newman with some great encouragement. You know, don’t be afraid to share Christ. Maybe you need to take some time, like Randy said, and practice this gospel narrative of what you would say to somebody. Take some time this weekend, and write down the words that you would use; so that you’ll be ready the next time there’s an opening in the conversation with a co-worker, a close friend, or even a family member.
Hey, next week, we’re going to be talking about moms. Tim Challies, Ron Deal, and Laura Petherbridge are going to be talking about step-moms, and single moms, and moms of historical significance. That’s going to be next week on FamilyLife This Week, so I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, James Youngblood. Thanks to our producer, Marques Holt. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time. I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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