On the fridge in our home is a little magnet that shows a flock of sheep meandering down a country road. Underneath is a caption: “Rush hour Ireland”. It reminds me of a Spanish professor visiting the west of Ireland where the sense of time used to be the slowest of all. Interviewing an old gentlemen he observed sitting for hours outside a pub, he asked him if the Irish had an equivalent for eh Spanish word mañana. The old Irishman thought for a long while, and then answered, “No, we don’t have any word as urgent as that.”
A Kenyan once said, “Westerners have watches, Africans have time” (pg.29) which is a succinct description of the way we in America tend to live our lives. Our clocks form the way we live, McDonalds the way we market ideas, but time is not on our side and fast food is often neither fast nor good. Thus, we trade quality for quantity, use clocks to measure efficiency and all the while never seem to have enough of either efficiency or time.
Good thinking however, requires thought, meditation, disjunctive reasoning and time which are not measured. When it comes to Christian persuasion, Guinness reminds us that it takes more than arguments to capture a persons’ soul.
First, Christian persuasion deals with a persons’ heart not just their “head.” We are complex creatures and as such our “web” of beliefs are not one dimensional, but rather multifaceted.
Second, Christian persuasion is not a science, but an art [I would say it’s both or else Os would not be instructing us with knowledge], there’s creativity, nuance, timing, etc. to the craft.
Third, Christian persuasion is person relative and as such, it’s rarely the same. No “cookie-cutter” approaches here. No two people are alike, thus it’s critical in conversation to listen rather than “waiting to speak”.
Fourth, Christian persuasion because it’s person relative requires different approaches to attain. What works for a scientist might not work for a carpenter.
Fifth, Christian persuasion has no sure-fire way to commend the faith. This means that sometimes regardless of our arguments, skill and tactics, some people won’t be reached.
Sixth, Christian persuasion is organic not mechanical. It often flows naturally in conversation and by how we live. The old adage, “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying” is so true. If our walk does not match our talk we lose “social capital” in persuasion.
Seventh, Christian persuasion uses techniques but is not overwhelmed by them. Well used techniques can often help remove obstacles for a clear hearing of the Gospel message and that is a good thing. But when it consumes our focus, we have lost focus.
Eighth, Christian persuasion welcomes honesty and at times silence. These two factors in human communication can have tremendous force in getting at the truth. In the West we tend to applaud honesty but abhor silence because it threatens our sense of “control” our sense of “stability” when neither obtain.
Ninth, Christian persuasion is sourced and grounded in the Cross of Christ not sophistry. The temptation to want to “out-sophisticate” our opponents with arguments without ever bringing in the meaning of the Cross must be avoided because believers are called to make disciples of the nations, not theists.
Tenth, Christian persuasion makes much of God and humbles man. The Gospel indeed crushes human pride for Christ alone is the answer to our sinful plight. We bring nothing to the table but a broken and shattered life which needs to be mended in order to flourish. The only physician fit for such a task is the Great Physician Christ Jesus.
Eleventh, Christian persuasion uses both books but ultimately submits to God’s incarnate word. Both General revelation (the knowledge of God through nature) and Particular revelation (the redemptive knowledge of God through Christ in Scripture) are the means used to communicate the Gospel. But the Particular revelation of God through Christ is ultimate and must be our last word since it is God’s last word (Heb.1:1-3).
Twelfth, Christian persuasion aims for repentance which leads to real conversion. A prayer does not save a person, Christ does. Consistent with the preaching of the apostles in Acts, the hearers of the Gospel must be confronted with Christ’s demand to repent and believe in the resurrected Lord who bids us all to come and lay down our lives for the cause of the kingdom and ultimately the King.
Thirteenth, Christian persuasion must be enveloped by love which grounds the previous points. This love is costly but gives life to those who receive the message. “The one who does not love”, the apostle John wrote, “does not know God for God is love”