I have been to countless evangelism events, conferences and training sessions over the years, but I cannot recall a single sermon, lesson or resource on the biblical concept of persuasion. Yet, I contend that persuasion is at the very heart of apologetics, and I dare say, it is at the heart of evangelism itself. I have to wonder if the lack of emphasis on this biblical doctrine has lead to the decline in baptisms and evangelistic efforts among evangelicals over the last few decades?
What does the Bible say about persuasion?
Let’s take a look at some of it’s most relevant uses:
- “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas.” (Acts 17:4)
- “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:4)
- “This man is persuading the people to worship God.” (Acts 18:13)
- “(Paul was) arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
- “Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
Too often we speak only of the need to proclaim and explain the good news to the lost, but clearly the Bible teaches us that we should be trying to persuade people of its truthfulness. This is what Christian apologetics is all about!
Notice in Acts 17, when Paul “dialogued” (Greek: dialegomai, meaning ‘reasoned’) in the synagogue that it resulted in people being “persuaded” (Greek: peitho). Paul explained the Old Testament scriptures and answered their questions so as to convince them of the truth. This was typical in his approach with his fellow Jews (“his custom” v. 2), because he knew the Jews considered their scriptures to be authoritative. However, Paul’s approach with the Gentiles shifted to speaking about their culture first rather than the Scriptures (see vs. 22-31). Paul is using his God given gift of persuasion by connecting with his audience on their level. He has “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [he] might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
What does it mean to persuade?
Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words describes the word “persuade” as follows: To prevail upon or win over, to bring about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations.
This definition draws attention to both reason and morality. Essentially, appealing to one’s conscience in an effort to get them to do what is right morally may be one effective approach to persuasion, but it’s not the only tool. Appealing to sound reason (by means of dialogue) is an equally important biblical tool in the persuasion process.
Why don’t we speak more of persuasion?
If our evangelism is not persuasive the only thing left is unpersuasive evangelism, and what would be the point in that?
Maybe it does not sound as “spiritual” to speak of persuasion when it comes to evangelism, as if we are not relying on the Holy Spirit like we should? Some might argue that we have to rely on the supernatural work of God to persuade the listener. But, what does that mean practically speaking? Has God not given the preacher of the Gospel the gift of persuasion? If so, why wouldn’t God still get the credit when His own people successfully use their God given gifts to accomplish those God given purposes?
Are we to value experience over intellect, as if it is more spiritual to feel than to think? This approach to evangelism assumes God’s existence and the authority of the Bible while discouraging skeptics from asking the difficult questions. I am convinced that people don’t leave our churches because of their doubts, they leave our churches because they don’t feel like they can openly express their doubts.
This is why Texas Baptists offers the best there is in the field of apologetics. Our [un]Apologetic Conferences are lead by the most sought after scholars in their field. We believe pastors, ministers and laypeople alike should be fully equipped to engage a diverse, deep-thinking and often skeptic culture. Visit us online at texasapologetics.org and learn how you and your entire church family can be trained to better impact our world for Christ.
Contact Leighton Flowers at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (214) 828-5120.