“Therefore, because of the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” 2 Corinthians 5:11
“And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:4
“And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” Acts 19:8
“Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:28
Persuasion gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to evangelism.
Sure, we all know those types who take it to far. We’ve all felt that holy cringe when we’ve seen pointed fingers and heard “repent” reverberating from a bullhorn on the street corner. But I think we can all agree that this style of “evangelism” is more coercion than it is persuasion.
The English word for persuasion smacks of the used car salesmen stereotypes of evangelism that ask “what can I do to get you to buy into Christianity today?” to a hurried, harried and harrassed customer. But the Greek word for evangelism (“Peitho“) is a whole different story.
Peitho means “to gently win someone over, to lovingly convince, to make a friend.” And that’s exactly what we want to do in evangelism. We want to gently win others over to Christ. We want to lovingly convince them to believe. We want to make them a friend to us and to Jesus.
Years ago when my cousins and southern belle aunt were in town we went to Six Flags for a day of fun in the Colorado sun. I was willing to ride pretty much everything except “The Tower of Doom.” I don’t like rides that drop straight down and this was the king of them. The TOD slowly elevates you and your crew high above the amusement park and then suddenly drops you down, leaving your stomach in your throat and sometimes it’s contents on your lap.
My cousins tried to “persuade me.” They called me “chicken” and told me to “man up.” They took shots (as close cousins do) but all to no avail. Their taunts didn’t work. They actualy steeled my resolve. I was now firm in my “no” to The Tower of Doom!
Suddenly I felt a gentle hand under my right arm. It was my Aunt Diane. “Ya’ll come with me” she said with her sweet-as-pie southern accent. “Where are we going?” I said, almost entranced by the gentle cadence of her voice. “You’ll see. Don’t be nervous. We’re all gonna have fun.“
Before I knew it I was in line for The Tower of Doom. What my cousins’ brashness couldn’t do, my aunt’s sweetness could…get me to willingly ride the ride I hated the most.
My cousins’ version of persuasion was the American version….brash, loud and obnoxious. My aunt’s version of persuasion was the Greek version….sweet, gentle and convincing.
If we adopt the Greek version of persuasion when it comes to evangelism then we should be busy making friends and influencing people to say “Yes” to Jesus. We love them to the foot of the cross. We convince them through our compassion. We speak the truth saturated in gentleness and drenched in respect.