Paul said that since we know what it means to fear God, we seek to persuade men. Then he said, “we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” In his earlier letter to the same group he said that he was willing to become whatever he needed to become so that by all means some more people might be persuaded to follow Christ.

I bring all that up, because our goal when we teach or preach (to a group or to our friend over coffee) is the same as Paul’s. Our goal is to persuade people to accept Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord.

We must always be ready to give an answer when asked about the reason for our hope, with gentleness and respect.

Todd Hiestand has an exellent post up about persuasion in sermons. His illustration is the speeches given at the political conventions that just occurred. He believes that most of those speeches at both conventions did nothing more than cement previously held beliefs by the respective partisans. (I would disagree slightly on this point. Lieberman’s speech at the Republican convention [and even John McCain’s, to a certain extent] was not primarily targeted at Republican’s. He was deliberately asking for security conscious Democrats to put that belief above party for the sake of the country.)

Todd wonders how much of his preaching is the same thing. His goal is to provoke thought and consideration by someone who disagrees with him.

as Todd puts it:

Now, I have nothing wrong with believing and speaking things with conviction. In fact, if I did, there would be no point of me continuing to preach. But, a huge challenge to those who preach (and dare I say those who speak in political settings) is to make your case for your side in such a way that allows the other side to begin to see why it is important that you think the way you think.
What I am talking about a difference between being a bully with your words and carefully shepherding with your words.

When I get done preaching, I would honestly rather hear someone say to me, “Your sermon was very thought provoking” than to hear someone say, “your sermon was awesome.”

When someone says, “your sermon was awesome” it usual means they already agreed with me and I just reinforced their previously held belief.

When someone says, “that was thought provoking” it means I really communicated well and made them think about the topic a little differently.

It’s easy to effectively communicate with those who already agree with you.

It’s a whole other challenge to communicate effectively with those who disagree with you.

And pissing them off isn’t necessarily effective communication.

Todd’s post is convicting. Ephesians 4:29 requires that we use our communication to minister grace to the hearer and build them up. Let us endeavor to do so.


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