Persuasion is part of preaching. The apostle Paul said, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others” (2 Corinthians 5:11). The historic study of public speaking has identified three essential elements of persuasion.
The message must be convincing.
A speaker will not be persuasive if the message is not sound. It must be logical. The speaker must use valid reasoning to make the point. Hearers will say, “That makes sense.”
In preaching, we evaluate not only whether the message makes sense and uses valid reasoning, but also whether it is biblical.
The speaker must care.
Every message will always be associated with the messenger. The message can be persuasive in itself, but the speaker must also be convincing. This happens when the speaker makes an emotional commitment in two ways.
First, the speaker must care about the message itself. The message won’t convince anyone else if it hasn’t convinced you. People are more likely to be persuaded if you are passionate about your subject.
Second, the speaker must care about the people hearing the message. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
In preaching, then, God’s truth has to grip you first. And you need to have God’s heart for the people you’re sharing with.
The speaker’s life must be credible.
The speaker must be credible not only emotionally but ethically. The content of a message can’t be separated from the character of the speaker. First, a credible speaker does not manipulate the audience with false facts and stories or emotionalist tactics. Second, the speaker lives in such a way that their way of life supports the credibility of their message.
In preaching, we have to consider whether we are following Jesus in a way that no one can reproach your message because of something about your life.
For Christian teaching, a fourth element is essential.
The Holy Spirit is the ultimate persuader.
In our natural condition, human beings don’t want to hear from God. We are naturally opposed to his ways.
1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
Without the work of the Holy Spirit, not even the best preacher can convince the human heart of the truth and application of God’s Word. Be sure your preparation and presentation are led by the Spirit. (See “Preaching with the Power of the Holy Spirit.”)
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- In your experience, what makes a sermon believeable? What makes a sermon hard to buy into?
- Have you heard a speech, sermon, or talk where the speaker did not seem to care about the subject? What happened?
- How can people tell whether a speaker cares about them?
- What are some factors that would undermine a speaker’s ethical credibility for you?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.