Many evangelicals view evangelism as a rational process. Believers make truth claims. Hearers consider those truth claims and make a decision to believe or reject them. Working from that assumption, the command to make disciples is a command to teach and preach the truth.
Jonah Lehrer in his book “How We Decide” argues from neuroscience that the decisions we make are a blend of both feeling and reason. In an interview, Lehrer says, “For the first time in human history, we can look inside our mind and see how we actually think. It turns out that we weren’t designed to be rational or logical or even particularly deliberate. Instead, our mind holds a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever we make a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when we try to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence our judgment”.
Researcher John Pijanowski at the University of Arkansas developed eight stages of decision making Pijanowski (2009, p.7). He describes the first stage as “establishing community: creating and nurturing relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how problems are understood and communicated. This stage takes place prior to and during a moral dilemma”. In other words, the first stage of the decision making process is not intellectual, but relational. In establishing community, we choose who we will trust and what assumptions we will bring to the table.
My intention here is not to delve into psychology or neuroscience, but to raise the question: “Is evangelism an entirely rational process of making truth claims, or is there more to it than that?” What more could there be?
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Could it be that our most convincing argument is the quality of our relationships more than the logic of our propositions?
Jesus also said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:18. Could it be that our actions speak louder than words, and that the most convincing argument for faith in Christ might be our charity?