We covered things to avoid with a “C,” but how about something more positive and proactive for us to seek at our Christmas gatherings this year? So here’s 4 P’s of Gospel ministry over Christmas:
1. Plan to share the Gospel. Do not get so carried away with the parties, preparation, travel, and gifts that you forget to consider the people with whom you’ll be exchanging gifts and partying! How will you share the Gospel with them? Consider them, individually and specifically – how can you discuss the things of Jesus with Uncle Joe or Grandma? Consider good, open-ended questions that you may ask each one – what would provoke their thoughts, insights, beliefs, and understanding of God in Jesus Christ? Are there good tracts or simple and clear Christian books that might make good stocking stuffers or party favors?
Then pray for opportunities. For some of our friends and family this will be a rare meeting with a real Christian, so take advantage of the opportunity! Oh, and plan for ridicule, mockery, and those awkward moments, but remind yourself that it’s a privilege to be treated in the same way as our Lord. As I look back, it is notable how many Gospel opportunities I have had at Christmas parties and family gatherings. Why not expect and plan for them!
2. Preach the Gospel. Obviously, by “preach” we mean simply commending the truth of the Gospel to others in any fashion. If we’re hosting, of course, we can offer a devotional or pre-meal Bible reading. Remember that the advantage of Christmas is that most of our family and friends will not resist some public meditation on the Gospel.
One year, when circumstances prevented us from seeing much of our family, we included this exhortation in our letter to family and friends:
This Christmas we pray that you who believe will ponder anew the the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). And we also pray that He will give the greatest gift of all to you, our beloved family and friends, who still remain in unbelief – repentance of your sin and believing in the Lord Jesus.
We do not have to secure the prayer of repentance before the meal’s over, but we can seek opportunities simply to declare the Gospel. And pray for the Lord to give them the gift of repentance and faith (2 Tim 2:25; Eph 2:8-10).
3. Pray publicly (if possible). Related to our previous point, take advantage of the greater allowance for public prayer during this season. We do not need to fit an exposition of Rom 5-6 in our prayer, but we can pray the truth – the truth that we normally pray, after all. Just because we’re praying for (and before) unbelieving family and friends does not mean that our petitions have to be restricted to “good food and good fun.”
Our sincere Christian prayers can be a testimony in and of themselves. Most people have no idea for what real Christians pray and praise God. Trust me, if you’re adoring our holy and righteous God, confessing our inexcusable sin, giving thanks for the incarnation and substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus, and praying for the repentance of sinners before His Kingdom comes, people will not be checking-out or ignoring you! And what a great prompt for conversation topics through the rest of your time with others.
I was once asked to pray at a company’s Christmas party in very mixed company. Praying before a hundred or so people with varying beliefs (and unbeliefs) I was scared and as I prayed, people snickered and laughed. But I lived. And over dinner we had some real fruitful conversations over the claims of the Gospel.So seize opportunities to pray and when you pray, be sure to pray.
4. Patiently correct unbelief and error. Scripture calls us to expose evil and correct opposition to the Gospel, but with gentleness (2 Tim 2:25). What is important is our self-evident love and patience, but this does not mean that we have to sit in silence while Christ is blasphemed and false ideas of the Lord are bantered about.
I’ve always like Mike Huckabee’s approach to political conservatism: “I’m a conservative, but I’m not angry about it.” That’s true for all manner of conserving, even the Gospel kind. So be correct and even correct others, just don’t be angry about it. Correct like someone who’s grateful that you’ve been corrected. We do not need to needlessly stir controversy, but we do need to point people to the truth that He has revealed in Jesus and by His Word.
Plan, preach, pray, and be patient! That’s it. Have a Merry Christmas.