Friends: Here’s a little exhortation related to the art of persuasion. John Reasnor has also been writing some good stuff related to deliberated communication recently. It’s important!
“(the people) were persuaded that John was a prophet.” (Luke 20:6)
“(Gamaliel’s) speech persuaded them.” (Acts 5:40)
“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)
“Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
“Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (2 Cor 5:11)
Before we get into it let’s just make it clear at the outset: There are times when false teachers or false ideas and public idolatry need to be simply called out and opposed. My friend was recently at a pro-abort “march for women” where planned parenthood and abortion were being arrogantly celebrated. He simply stood silently in the middle of the crowd with a large graphic image which spoke for itself. They were trying to make their gathering all about “empowering women” with pretty pink signs and this sign absolutely cut through all that bull crap. He got pushed around and abused but never opened his mouth.
I also applaud immediate bold and direct confrontation when it needs to happen. I’m not proposing a one size fits all solution, simply something to be mindful. Sometimes you need to not worry about coming off like a jerk and you need to say what needs to be said and you can’t control how everyone will perceive you. Not everyone can be reasoned with as they are stubbornly set in their ways.
There is also a warning AGAINST “persuasive words” in 1 Cor 2:4 which is talking about flattery and appeals to pride while never getting to the substance. So that kind of persuasiveness we want to avoid. Finally, the Holy Spirit uses the hearing of the gospel in regenerating sinners, and it is entirely of his doing which actually regenerates a sinner.
All that said, here’s my point, if we are trying to persuade and if we want to be shrewd, especially in interpersonal conversation where we are not “preaching to the choir” we have to remember the first rule of persuasion.
This is a rule I’m trying to observe in the poverty gospel article I just wrote where I’m attempting to persuade against a pietistic view of wealth. I’m also trying to observe it in this very post.
Disarm, disarm, disarm.
I’m not saying this always has to be the approach. But I read a study recently which showed that the worst thing you can do to persuade someone is to first dump on them a pile evidence to attack their position. That puts up defenses and digs in heels. The first thing you need to do is anticipate their fears and spend AS MUCH or as MORE time addressing those by affirming where you agree with them, how you understand where they are coming from and reiterate what you are NOT saying.
Also there are some good cases to look at in scripture.
In the case of Gamaliel he convinced a bloodthirsty mob who wanted to murder the apostles and he convinced them instead to give them a beating and let them go. Others he seems to have convinced to consider that maybe the Apostles really were right and really were from God.
How? Read the passage in Acts 5. First of all he was “held in honor”. So he had their respect from his general manor of conduct. Gamaliel was familiar with the audience and was known as a credible guy.
What was the first thing he did? He removed the Christians from the presence of the people for a few minutes before he addressed them (disarming).
What was the first thing he said? He said “Take care about what you are about to do”. He is appealing for a re-examination and self analysis, which is different from an immediate rebuke (disarming).
He affirmed “where they were coming from” by tacitly approving of the concept of wanting to oppose blasphemers generally speaking by giving examples of other contexts where taking a different course proved wise. This is the subtle art of “reframing”. This is similar to how Christ used stories and examples from other contests before making his point. Nathan did the same to convince David about his sin (disarming).
Then after Gamaliel did all that work of persuasion, he slips in his advice. Look what happens? They are persuaded.
As we seek to persuade others away from pietism, antinomianism, feminism or patriarchalism…as we seek to persuade our children about the folly of sin and the path they need to take….in our abolitionism….in our professions and in every day life….are we persuasive?