he Jewish community collects stories that highlight their minority identity in a predominantly Gentile world. One memorable tale tells of a young boy who asked his rabbi, “What’s the difference between Jews and other people?” The rabbi replied, “Oh, Jews are just like everyone else . . . only more so.”
I often wonder if witnessing to family is just like witnessing to everyone else . . . only more so. Witnessing takes time. With family, it takes even more time. Witnessing involves the expression of love. With family, that love flows deeper but requires clearer expression. Witnessing encompasses a comprehensive worldview. With family, we have a wider range of common experiences in which to shine the glow of the gospel.
I keep this in mind when people ask me for a nutshell summary of my book “Bringing The Gospel Home”. I offer the memorable slogan, “Witnessing to family takes TLC.” I hope they catch my reference to “Tender, Loving Care” but then I tell them I mean something else. “T” stands for time, “L” stands for love, and “C” stands for comprehensiveness. These three were the common denominators I heard in the stories people told me. You need a longer-term perspective when it comes to family. You need a deeper reservoir of love. And you probably need to come in the side door by presenting the gospel as comprehensive in its effects, not just as a ticket into heaven.
But I hope you won’t settle for a nutshell summary. Some topics are far more complex. That is certainly true of the expansive topic of the kingdom of God, of which evangelism is just a part. Jesus offered numerous illustrations and parables to help us grasp the kingdom’s scope. On one occasion, He asked, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” (Mark 4:30).1 He wanted His hearers to realize that no solitary image captures the complexity and enormity of the topic. Surely witnessing to family shares similar complex dynamics.
In Mark 4, Jesus tells three kingdom-illustrating parables that all talk about seed—how seed falls upon different kinds of soils, how some seed grows even without constant human attention, and how some seed has the potential to grow far beyond our imaginations. Some reflection upon these parables can help us sustain the long-term, loving, comprehensive perspective we need as we witness to family members, close friends, and others who know us well.
The first parable encourages us that even though some seed falls on ground that cannot produce a crop, other seed does produce seed:
And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:2–9)
Fortunately for us, Jesus gave us the interpretation we need to understand this parable. When asked to explain it, He said,
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