They've seen you at your worst. They know your weaknesses. They remember most of your sins. They are aware that you are far from perfect.
And perhaps that's the reason it's so hard to witness to family members. Because they know all your inconsistencies and will never forget them, you don't feel you have credibility before lost family members.
That's the premise of Tony Nickel's workshop, Bringing Them Home: Leading Your Unsaved Family Members to Christ.
Nickel, pastor of First Baptist Church in Walters, Okla., said the idea for the workshop came from being pastor of three churches and noticing how many wives were coming to church without their husbands, and how many families attended church without one or more of their members.
"The ladies with unbelieving husbands were always in fear of coming to church because their husbands wanted them home," Nickel said. "I also noticed that no one was doing anything about the extended family. We have [evangelism programs such as] CWT, EE, and FAITH, but none of these specifically address this issue."
The program helps Christians regain credibility with their family members. The program got started in 1994 when he preached a message that addressed how to witness to unsaved family members.
"At a home prayer group meeting six months later, a church member said she did what I said in the message and led her brother to the Lord," Nickel recalled. "I couldn't believe anyone remembered what I preached six months ago, let alone using it to lead someone to Christ."
He said a survey of members at his church indicated nearly one-third admitted living with either an unsaved spouse or child, and others said they had extended family members with whom they have close relationships who have not received Jesus as Savior.
Nickel's program teaches seven lifestyle evangelism principles, the last one showing a way to share the gospel that comes out of a person's personality.
"The first six principles are testimony," Nickel said. "It all begins with the Christian getting right with God, then reconciling with unsaved family members."
He said that in the churches where he's presented the program, 98 percent of those attending get to a point of presenting the gospel.
"The ultimate goal is for the family member to get saved," Nickel said, "but as Paul said, 'How will they get saved if there is no preacher?'"
Nickel said he has had and still does have unsaved family members. He used the issue of bringing lost family members to Christ as his dissertation subject for his doctor of ministry degree at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. He was chosen as the seminary's outstanding doctoral student.
"It helped me complete my doctorate, but also gave me the opportunity to put the information in a form that can be used on a larger scale," Nickel said.
Nickel said there are five ways to go through the program, the ideal way being an eight-week course. But there's also the Friday night/Saturday morning sessions, all-day Sunday, and the Bring Them Home crusade from Sunday through Wednesday, with teaching prior to revival services.
"When people go through this, they walk away saying, 'Why didn't I think of this?'" Nickel said. "It doesn't call us to be perfect, but genuine."
He said his five-year-old son, who has already made a profession of faith, knows what sin is, and knows when his Daddy sins and tells him.
"When I say, 'You're right, Ethan, I was wrong and I'm sorry,' that satisfies him," Nickel explained. "If we can say we are wrong, people can cope with that, and they have respect for us."
Nickel said he doesn't feel the call to be an evangelist, but believes a part of the pastoral ministry is to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
"This is a process, not a knock-on-a-door, get saved, come back to church, and report type of thing," he noted. "It took me six years to get a lost family member saved."
"All this is is living the way God wants you to live," Nickel said. "Jesus, in Acts 1:8, says we are to be witnesses in Jerusalem [and] Judea, in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Our Jerusalem is where we live. How can we say we are doing what Jesus wants us to do if we go out on Monday night and witness, and have lost family members at home?"
For more information on Bringing Them Home, contact Nickel at First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 341, Walters, Okla., 73572, or call 580-875-3341.