Evangelism in the Context of Love and Good Works

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?

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About Global Community Health Evangelism Network

This is the official blog of the Global Community Health Evangelism Network, www.chenetwork.org.
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3 Responses to Evangelism in the Context of Love and Good Works

  1. The idea of the relational element in decision making is receiving much more attention. Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion has pointed this out with regard to the growth of Christianity (see The Triumph of Christianity and other books by him on this point). He cites a study on Mormonism that compared conversion rates when they use a door-to-door, cold turkey approach (1 in 1000) compared to when they talk to relatives and friends in a living room (1 in 2); He also points out that most conversions take place before the convert even understands the doctrinal particulars of the religion or belief system he or she is converting to. Another example is the great success of the Alpha Course, promoted by Nicky Guimbel. Over time, through the dinner conversations and the small group interactions, people begin to feel a relationship to one another and this greatly facilitates spiritual progress and we have seen it lead to a number of conversions even among people who came into the course claiming to be Buddhists or atheists.

  2. Scott says:

    Anybody who thinks making a decision for Christ is a rational process would be off base. For all the “altar” calls that I have seen emotional techniques are used to touch the life of the person who “makes a decision.” The appeal to believe or accept Jesus, not go to hell, the style of music, and those who come alongside to give support with a hug or prayer all plays on the persons emotions. Sometimes I can imagine the next day someone would say to themselves, “what did I do last night?” Emotions are a guide and we are not to live in the emotion for the long term but use it as a guide to help make a rational decision. If I have the emotion of anger, that is my sign to get a hold of myself and think, what just triggered my anger response? If I answer the altar call because it sounded good and wonderful at the moment, I later need to ask, what was my need to have responded to that message? It triggered something in me that is deep and then I start the process of working it out in my life–for the rest of my life. It is always a mix of things: I didn’t pick my wife on a rational basis but emotional. Later I needed to think do I really want to be with this person the rest of my life based on observation, behavior, etc.

  3. Emeka says:

    Thank God for what He is doing through CHE, I want to bring the presence of CHE In my state. So how can that be achieved? And I want to patispate in the forth coming global CHE cooference 2014, where is venue,? registration fee? Etc. And if scholaship would be given count me as one of those that needed it i want to work with CHE but I’v not registered and I’v been founding it dificult to register so help me. God bless you real good.

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