Felix, a new member in the Church Of Christ, sits down with Robert, a long time member, to get his advice on how to manage differences in religious beliefs with his family. Robert joined the Church over 30 years ago and shares his life lessons on how he peacefully dealt with conflicts with his family after changing religions.
Conflict of Beliefs
Felix: Me and my mom, we would have arguments, you know, like, whoa, why did you join this church and then my dad…He told me straight up to my face, like, I don’t want to join your religion, put that in your head. And you know that every time at the worship services, it’s always giving me signs of me, wanting them to invite them…that’s, that’s what I’m trying to do is just trying to be more positive.
Robert: Well, that’s the right attitude to be positive. Because, you know, I’ll tell you, right now, Felix, I’m still the only member of my family that’s a member of the Church.
(audio fades out)
Aliw Garcia Pablo: From INC Media Audio, this is Making Changes, a podcast about the changes we go through and the life lessons we learn along the way…always with God by our side. I’m your host, Aliw Garcia Pablo.
Aliw: Today’s episode is about making big life changes – big enough that it affects your relationship with your family. Meet Felix, a listener who we met on Instagram.
Felix: My question, Robert, was…like how would you still be able to talk to them—even if—when they still denied your invitations?
Aliw: He recently found the truth in the Church Of Christ but is having challenges in his relationships with his family.
Robert:…you have to be able to create this balance when you’re with them, right?
Robert: Felix, you’re not alone. There are stories like this, all throughout the church in every country. It’s a problem that a lot of members deal with. And it makes them stronger.
Aliw: Felix will be talking to Robert who joined the Church Of Christ over 20 years ago, who also experienced his own set of challenges with his family but have now found peace with them.
Let’s listen in.
Robert: Hey, Felix, how are you?
Felix: I’m doing good, Robert. How about you?
Robert: Oh, well, it’s good. It’s always good to be able to meet and talk to, you know, other members, even though you’re across the country? You know, we’re all so tightly knit.
Felix: Yeah, so basically, my questions were, you know, now that I’m a member of the Church, you know, even though when I was going through Bible studies, I was always, I was still facing persecution. Basically, it was last year where most of the time of 2021, it was very, very heartbreaking because of being persecuted by my own, even by my own loved ones. So my question is to you, you know, being persecuted at home, how did you still continue to communicate with your family?
Robert: Well, it’s—how long have you been in the Church, Felix?
Felix: I’ve been in the Church for seven months?
Robert: Seven months? Well, that’s, it’s a wonderful blessing. You know, persecution is a hard word. It’s a tough word. Because often, it comes from a place where people think that it’s, it’s coming from a place of being mean, right? And a lot of times what it is, it’s just confusion or lack of understanding, you know, about what’s going on. And then, you know, of course, when they don’t understand and it comes across, in a way that you know, you might be feeling is like persecution. And I’ll just share a little bit about, you know, my background, right? I’m the only member in my family, that’s a member of the Church. I was baptized back in 1989.
Aliw: This is when Robert opens up to Felix about his past. Robert begins to share how being raised Catholic, being an altar boy and doing all the rituals, suddenly didn’t feel right for him. As a young adult, he began church hopping from the Baptist church, then Pentecostal, then explored Evangelical Christianity, then became a born again Christian.
Robert: But you know, as most people find out, there was just a lot of ad libbing that was going on. And it wasn’t really as scripturally-based than what I was needing in my life. So I finally found the Church Of Christ, you know, and I was introduced to it and went through all the Bible studies, and I asked a ton of questions to the Minister that was giving me my Bible studies. And a lot of it is because I’d spent the last—at the time, I was only 24—24 years of my life in one religion. And when you spend that much time, and you’ve accumulated that much experience in history in that one religion, you’re going to have a lot of questions. So I asked a lot of questions. And really, everything that was given back to me came straight from the Bible, it was exactly what I was looking for. Then, you know, they didn’t try to interpret anything they didn’t try to, you know, cover everything up as a mystery. It was exactly from the Scripture.
So when I obviously became a member coming from a family that was devout Catholics, it wasn’t something that was looked upon very favorably. Right? Leaving the church. And when that happened, a lot of what you’re probably describing as persecution was happening to me. They didn’t understand, you know, why I would leave the religion that I was in for 24 years at the time. It was hard for them to understand why this transition, and all of the different things were changing about me, you know. I was living a different life, so we didn’t celebrate a lot of the holidays that the Catholics would celebrate, right? So, I wouldn’t be involved in those and I think that that’s where some of that comes from, right? Because they just they don’t understand,
And a lot of people are afraid of things that they don’t understand. And that’s what turns into what we perceive to be persecution.
And what I found is that through that whole point, there was a point where almost up to two years, we didn’t talk. For two years. That’s a long time.
Felix: You and your family?
Robert: Yeah. And I lived in New York, they lived in California, And the one thing that I did is I just never gave up trying to show that, you know, that I’m still reaching out that I still want to communicate, that, you know, because I’m in this religion, now, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you. That you know, your family, you know, you’re still my family.
Aliw: Two years. Robert spent two whole years reaching out to his family and getting very little in return. I heard shock… and maybe even fear, in Felix’s voice. As if he’s picturing what might happen to him. But then, Robert tells Felix when his family finally reached back out to him.
Robert: And it took just never stopping and reaching out in what finally turned the table is when my mom got really sick. And they, you know, my brothers and sisters reached out to me, because, you know, at that point, we didn’t know what’s going to happen. And, you know, thank God, she was okay, she recovered. But that really is what sort of started the communication over again.
It’s just, it’s difficult, but they’re gonna say things that may not sit well with you. And you just have to remember that it’s not—they’re your family, they love you. And all of that they’re just coming from a place of not understanding and not knowing, so they might say things that hurt, but just you know, remember you’re still going to continue to love them
Felix: I’ll be honest with you because, I’m trying not to remember all the negative things that they said about me because, trust me, it was really hard.
Robert: I know.
Felix: Like I said, I’m just trying to stay strong and continue on putting them in my prayers. Because when I was at home, every day, me and my little brothers, we would just look at each other, we wouldn’t talk. Me and my mom, we would have arguments, you know, like, whoa, why did you join this church and then my dad after, when he came back to El Salvador…He told me straight up to my face, like, I don’t want to join your religion, put that in your head. And you know that every time at the worship services, it’s always giving me signs of me, wanting them to invite them, but when the chance is there to invite them I feel everything, you know, falls apart. So you know, that’s, that’s what I’m trying to do is just trying to be more positive.
Robert: Well, that’s the right attitude to be positive. Because, you know, I’ll tell you, right now, Felix, I’m still the only member of my family that’s a member of the Church. This is 32 years, right? And, but I will tell you that when we first started, I was much like, in the same situation where they didn’t want to hear anything about the Church, and it’s because they didn’t understand.
You know, you have all these feelings, like you’re, you’re doubting yourself, like, you know, why is this happening now? And, you know, why are they so angry? And why is it that they can’t understand. And that takes time, right? You have to know how to create a balance, right? Because you want to spend time with them. But you don’t want the time that you spend with them to always be awkward, right? So if I know I’m going to spend the afternoon with you, and if I know that the minute I walk in the door, the first thing I’m going to talk about is how they need to leave their church and join my church, that’s going to create kind of an awkward space, right? So you, you have to kind of create this balance where they know that when you’re there, you’re still present, you’re still Felix. I’m still your son, I’m still your brother. And then when the opportunities come up, when you start to see opportunities, and God’s gonna show you when those opportunities come up. That’s when you can talk about, you know, hey, you know, we’ve got this activity. It’s an activity that you know, that they’d enjoy, you know, something, something that’s maybe less formal, because it took almost two and a half years, I think, before, I was actually able to get my mom to come to a Bible study, which finally came, and then when she comes to visit us when we were living in Atlanta, and even here, she joins us in the worship service. Because now we’re at a point where she respects my faith, because it’s the faith that’s raising her grandchildren.
So she respects it. And the rest, I leave up to God, because now you know, as members of the Church, our job is just to invite, right? We’re not the ones that are going to convert anybody, all we can do is introduce them. And if we introduce them to the Church, and we pray, it’s God who’s going to call them.
Aliw: As Felix listened, there was one thing that he needed help in dealing with that frankly, is a challenge for everyone….rejection.
Felix: My next question Robert was, how would you still be able to talk to them, even if, when they still denied your invitations or talked down on you?
Robert: Well, when you’re inviting them to come to a Bible study or join worship service, or you know, to come and listen, and you’re noticing that that’s a point of tension, right? Because then all of a sudden, the conversation doesn’t go quite the way that you wanted it to. You have to be able to create this balance when you’re with them, right? Because when you’re with them, and you want to spend time with them, be present. And, you know, provided that the gathering isn’t like a celebration or something that you know is against the doctrines, you can be there and be present, you don’t have to, to always be trying to get them to come to an activity or listen to the Bible study all the time, because that’s where a lot of the tension comes from.
The thing that really made the biggest difference was when they started to see how my life changed. Because I was a member of the Church. My outlook on life was a lot more positive, you know, it was a lot more optimistic. I, you know, didn’t cuss, I didn’t do a lot of the things that I used to do when I was younger, and they started to slowly see that change. And that’s really where I think they started to understand that, you know, being a member of the Church, even though they didn’t understand the doctrines or hear anything, yet. They knew it was good for me. It was a good influence. And it was even more so after we had our first child and my mom and my relatives saw how they were being raised in the Church. Respectful, industrious. They were, you know, always willing to help, it doesn’t have to be you always trying to, you know, I need you to come to Bible study tonight, I need you to come to Bible study. And, try to do that. So that way they can at least see that being a member of the Church was actually a good influence. And it’s affected your life in a positive way.
Felix: I remember telling my mom that every time I’m at the Church, I’m always happy.
But when I’m at home, I’m not happy. Because I told her that at the Church, I always see love all the time. I would go to work. And then if there’s an evangelical mission or worship service, I would always go, you know, I would always, I would always come back home with a smile. But then every single day, I was in a very bad mental state because there was no love in the house, you know what I mean? So, my question is, how can you bring that love that you have at Church at your house? You know what I’m trying to say?
Robert: Yeah, you know, what, you’re already doing it, Felix. When you go home, you go home, with a smile on your face. And, you feel—if I’m guessing, you feel like, you know, when you leave the evangelical missions, is that your life has purpose, and that no matter what you’re going through, you know that there’s a solution, right, you know, that God has your back, no matter what. And when you go home, you’re bringing that love and that feeling already that optimism and the positivity, what you have to try to avoid is, you know, engaging in, you know, discussions that if you know that when you start to talk about it, it starts to escalate, right, and things start to get heated, you have to try to avoid that. Because when emotions once emotions get involved, especially when it comes to religion, it’s sometimes difficult to dial it back down.
Robert: And you sometimes have to remember, you know, how humble our Lord Jesus Christ was. Imagine that, right? With everything he was able to do, how humble he was.
And, you know, redirect them if you can, because you can’t forcibly change how someone feels sometimes, as much as you want to. You sometimes just have to wait and pray. Because God can do things that you and I could never imagine would have happened. Yeah. Right. You have to believe that if you pray hard enough, and you really pour your heart out in your prayers. And you show God how much you really want this, that you just continue to just, you know, be who you are.
Felix: Yeah, that’s, that’s one thing I’ve always been reminded of at the worship service is to renew our lives and to live the way He wants us to live.
Robert: Yeah, I mean, you have to really be just so, you know, so many years after my baptism, but I realized, like, how I lived my life before I was baptized, and then how God out of the millions of people chose me.
Robert: Gave me this chance, right. It’s like, the ultimate job that you’ve always wanted, that you didn’t know you could interview for. And, you know, all of a sudden, here you are in the Church. And you and I recalled, you know, when we were in our early 20s, against all odds, right? Because our families weren’t supporting it. They’re not supportive of it. But yet, we’re here. And, you know, we made the choice, because it’s the right choice and we never have any regrets. Never have any doubts, and just keep living your life, the way that God means for you to live it.
Felix: Yeah, exactly. And that’s, it’s like, when I hear it’s like, it’s always refreshing, you know, I love to hear that.
Aliw: Then, Felix brings up the topic that’s been the most difficult for many new members of the Church to deal with… with their families – the annual holidays.
Felix: And when it comes to like, with holidays, such as Christmas, I think it was last year, I told the one of the brethren like, Hey, is it okay if I can, night guard at the at the church because I don’t want to, be I don’t want to be at the house celebrating Christmas with my family, because I might be, I might be tempted or you know, because usually, it’s always drinking or partying to like, three in the morning, right?
I ended up going back home, but spending time alone in my room while the others were celebrating and doing those things downstairs.
Robert: I’ve been there. I’ve been there, Felix, I, you know, it’s when you’re when you’re the only member in your family, it’s hard. It is. It’s not easy. It’s a test. It’s a test of your faith because you’re surrounded by that, right?
And it’s a tough thing for them to understand. But eventually they will, that it’s got nothing to do with you not wanting to be a part of the family. But they have to respect and that’s all, you know, it’s gonna get to a point where you’re not asking to convert them, you’re not wanting them to become members, necessarily, but you want them to at least respect your faith. The same way that you respect theirs. But you want them to respect your faith and respect the choices that you make as a result of it.
Felix: I’ve been through so much last year with persecution, I know, we have to face more, all of us, we all face it. You know, the person who faced it even more was our Lord Jesus Christ, you know, he, even he’s been, he’s been hated by almost the whole world. So we have to face it, too. But you know…
Robert: And imagine the choices He had to make…He made some difficult choices. And the choices we make pale in comparison to that. But you know it to us our choices, and our persecutions, and our trials are just, you know, there’s something we have to deal with.
And right now is a very difficult time when you’re a new member. But just don’t give up. You know, just be patient, keep praying, and, you know, God’s gonna be the one to call them. You have to believe that.
When you’re inviting people for missionary work, everybody has a number. And what I mean by that is that sometimes people have to be invited five times, sometimes they need to be invited three times, sometimes they have to be invited 100 times. We don’t know what that number is. The only thing that we can do is keep inviting. Because imagine if that person’s number was 100 and you stopped at 99, because you said I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to invite them anymore. But their number was 100. And you were only one number away, one invitation away from getting them to come and listen.
But you know, just don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing, you’re doing exactly what you need to do, which is just to invite and when you invite and if they say no, what you should be feeling is good that you still had that love for them to want to invite them. It’s when you don’t want to invite them anymore and you’re like, nah, nevermind, that’s when you should start worrying.
Felix: Okay, yeah, yes. That’s what I that’s what I feel because every time I invite my dad—with my dad, I either watch INC posts on the on the app or invite him to the Evangelical Mission or it can either be an excuse or he doesn’t want to but you know, like I said—
Robert: There’s so much content INC Media. I always dig through the libraries to find something that I know is going to mean something to them.
It doesn’t always have to be about trying to convert them or trying to get them into a Bible study. You just want them to become familiar, because remember, the way that you feel that they’re treating you it’s just because they don’t know. And our job is to educate them, and to let them know what the Church is all about.
Felix: Thank you so much, Robert, for, you know, being in this podcast with me, you know, like I say, you know, even though, I just met you just now, I feel like, I can say if I’m in the future, I can go back and be like, Okay, now, I’m a very strong man, with a very strong faith as well.
Robert: It was great meeting you, Felix.
Aliw Pablo: So Felix, how does it feel to be able to hear from someone who has been in your shoes?
Felix: Makes me feel like, you know, I’m not the only one out there, you know, so I’m really happy that he shared what he’s been through. And the advice that he gave me.
Robert: 100% Felix, you’re not alone. You are not alone. There are stories like this, the stories about people like you and I, all throughout the Church, in every country. So, believe me, this is not just a me problem. It’s a problem that a lot of members deal with. And it makes them stronger.
Aliw Pablo: And, Robert, if there was one piece of advice that you could say was the ultimate game changer, that you could really see the change in your family in the way they started to treat you, speak with you, when you invited them or when you even talked about religion, what would it be?
Robert: Just one: it’s when they realized that my being a member of the Church of Christ didn’t mean that I didn’t love them anymore, that I didn’t still count them as my family.
And it was that love that I have. That makes me want to continue trying to invite them. And I needed them to see that. It took time for them to finally realize that, you know, I’m still Robert, I still love you. You’re my mom, you’re my brothers, you’re my sisters. But this is my life in the Church, and I want you to be a part of it. And I’m not going to stop inviting you.
Aliw Pablo: Do you think it’s possible to to stay true to your spiritual identity and still be able to, you know, still maintain really strong family connections? Is it possible?
Robert: It’s, it’s possible. And it’s not something that is very easy in the beginning. But because your spiritual identity is something that when you’re a new member of the Church, you’re still trying to form, you’re still developing it, right? And your identity builds. The longer you are in the Church, the more active you are in the Church. You know, you stay active, you attend the Bible studies, you listen intently in the worship services. And you consume as much education as you can, you know, and that’s how you start to really build and reinforce that spiritual identity. But you’ve got to be able to create that balance that says—But when I’m with my family, and we’re making connections—You’re not prohibited from doing that. Just because you’re a member of the Church Of Christ doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden have to cut all ties with your family. Because that’s not what God wants. Right? He wants us to be the reason that your family is attracted to the church because they say, wow, look at the difference it made.
Felix: And we still love them no matter what. My prayer is just to love more because like I said, even in the scriptures, it says, you know, even your own loved ones would even hate you. But you know, all we got to do is just love them. Pray for them. So, like you said, so you know, we’re members, and I’m still your son, I’m still your brother and I will always love you no matter what.
Robert: Yes. And don’t—you know, in your mind, no matter what’s going on in the moment, just make sure that that’s what’s sitting in your mind, is that you know, ‘Mom, I’m talking to you, we are having a tough conversation, but I love you.’ And sometimes it’s a hard thing to say. But you know, you want them to know that that’s how you feel.
Aliw Pablo: Thank you both. Thank you both for a really enlightening conversation. And thank you for sharing your heart and the life lessons, Robert. And Felix, we hope that what you heard from Robert today is going to help you in your own spiritual journey.
Felix: That’s what I’m trying to do is just be more positive. You know, just keep inviting them if you never know when God will call them to the church. So you know, it really helped me out.
Robert: It was a really, really great meeting. You know, I feel like I’m meeting myself 30 years ago, 20 years ago, maybe just 20 years ago. I don’t want to be that old.
Felix: I feel like when I’m his age, I’ll be in his shoes, giving the same advice to someone who is in my shoes, at my age.
Aliw Pablo: That’s right. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you both so much. Thank you so much. And we know that just from this one conversation, you’re going to help so many people who are going through the same things you’re going through Felix who may be quietly struggling, and we hope that this conversation has given them hope, has given them inspiration…to just keep loving, keep trying and to just never giving up. So thank you both so much.
Robert: It was great meeting you, Felix. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Aliw, for having us.
Aliw: Special Thanks to Felix and Robert for taking the time to share their journeys and life lessons with us. Now, if you know someone who may be going through what Felix is going through, please share this episode with them to give them courage and find peace during what could be the best change in their life but also a very difficult transition in their lives.
For more inspiring content or to learn more about the Iglesia Ni Cristo Church of Christ, log on to incmedia.org or download the INC Media app.
Thanks for listening. And may your change uplift you.