Monday, 3 June 2013

Persuasive Evangelism

Presence and proclamation evangelism are often regarded as valid no matter what the response from it.

Nevertheless a negative response may result from:

A poor communication of the message

The unbelief of those who listen

Disobedience to the message

The demands of the message too high.

Some Christians, especially those of a post-modern disposition believe there isn’t a place for a third approach to evangelism namely that of 'persuasion' in witnessing or evangelism. They believe that instead, our example will draw them to Christ that is all we need to do.. But as in Fly Fishing, it sometimes requires a particular fly to catch a certain fish and we need to have several flies in our fishing box. Having only will not catch every type of fish! It is however true that persuasion alone or aggressive evangelism that encourages antagonism from those the evangelist tries to reach is counterproductive. Some Christians may have also been put off by aggressive or pushy evangelists who force themselves onto unsuspecting unbelievers. This is understandable: we don't want to be pushy when people don't want to know the message. But if those we seek to reach are prepared to debate or discuss and many do, there is certainly a biblical basis for it.

I would not recommend it for young Christians to have regular Biblical discussions with members of the sects such as the Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses, but if our Biblical knowledge is strong and we have a good working knowledge of their teaching AND have a strong sense we are being led by the Holy Spirit a Christian should have no fear in examining the scriptures with them in order to persuade them of the Truth.

As we will see from the following biblical accounts, in the right situation, persuasion, reasoning and even using good arguments can be used in evangelism.

Acts 9:22
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ
29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him

Acts 17:2-4 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

Acts 18:4
Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 19:9
But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Acts 26:28
Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Acts 28:23-24
They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.

You could make a list of the words and phrases that refer to forms of persuasion.
Persuasion evangelism tries to get the person to respond to the message by way of proving , debating, reasoning, explaining, discussing or convincing the hearer that the message is true and must be acted on.

This type of evangelism as practised today has been criticised because of the dangers of manipulation and pressure tactics to achieve results. One has only to think how we dislike the ‘hard sell’ salesman who tries to sell us something we don’t want to buy or would want more time to consider the purchase, but are not allowed. Compare this with Jesus letting some disciples leave when they could not receive the word or the advice he gave his would be followers to consider the cost before they would follow him.

Results of pressurised results are often seeds sown without much depth of roots and will often vanish with the morning dew. I have been to see certain Ultra-Charismatic preachers who have almost persuaded me of their message by the end of the meeting, but after a good nights sleep and a calm reflection on the subject I have dismissed their claims. Nevertheless Jesus and Paul often would bring the hearer to a point of decision.

Look at 2.Cor.4.2-6
'Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God'

Paul has renounced underhanded methods

Does not deceive or distort the truth of God’s word.

Lets people make their own minds up.

Recognises the spiritual barriers and leaves the result to God.

Persuasion evangelism might be presented through

1)a Testimony which would describe the change in a person’s lifee.g a converted drug addict who has been given power by God to overcome his addiction. Remember the man who had a legion of demons ? He wanted to follow Christ but was told to tell everyone what God had done for him.

2) Apologetics :reasoned presentation of the gospel attempting to remove some of the barriers to faith e.g. C.S.Lewis etc.

3) Warning :Pointing out the dangers of not becoming a Christian and urging them to respond. Have you ever read or sung this verse in church?

Sinners, turn: why will you die?
God, your Saviour, asks you why.
God, Who did your souls retrieve,
Died Himself, that you might live.
Will you let Him die in vain?
Crucify your Lord again?
Why, you ransomed sinners, why,
Will you slight His grace and die?
Charles Wesley

Evangelism need neither be just Presence evangelism or Proclamation Evangelism or Persuasion Evangelism: each one should build upon the other.

In Presence evangelism those the Church seeks to reach are unaware and ignorant of the gospel and our job is therefore to show them love ( See post on Presence Evangelism) in order to prepare them for the proclamation of the gospel. Having thus prepared them and being now aware of the gospel, in the proclamation of it we explain then what is at stake. It is at this point that we are obliged to persuade them to heed the word in order to make a life changing decision, to turn from their old way of life and follow Christ.

It is also true that we must be sensitive to both those we seek to reach and the Holy Spirit within us.Presence must of course must never be as calculated as described above. People sometimes can come to Christ without 'presence' at all. Nevertheless the Church should not expect results from what I would call 'cheap' evangelism, that is evangelism with just words.

Evangelism is also the most wonderful adventure that any Christian can be involved in. We must be open to the Holy Spirit each day,listening for his voice and direction. The result will beat any excitment on any drama found on T.V.


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John said...

Great post on evangelism Andrew.

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Paolo Yañez said...

What Christ actually did was to set an example to all Christians how to do evangelism. I think we should remember how Christ won his disciples and we should also remember what Christ did, He just set an example.

I have encountered different kind of evangelism nowadays. It feels like they will force you to believe what they believe. They are not setting an example but they are ruining the whole Spirit of Evangelism.

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