During these days my son Jeremy is so very ill with lymphoma, I will, on occasion, use quotes from other writers. This one is from Dr. Lori Carrell’s new book Preaching That Matters: Reflective Practices for Transforming Sermons.
Informative preachers who make the declaration “I will not manipulate people” often have childhood memories of coercive altar calls. Their commitment to avoid pressuring people with emotional, guilt-inducing pleas is an appropriate ethical standard. But if preachers avoid even asking for change based on aversion to all things persuasive, their sermons will be less transformative than possible.
When I teach public speaking to students or business professionals and we talk about the general goal or purpose, the word persuasion is used without issue. In those settings, the word is not problematic.
With many clergy, however, there seems to be immediate association of manipulation with persuasion. Did that happen for you? If so, might you be able to replace that term with the concept ethical spiritual influence or spiritual leadership? The roots of your aversion may be deep and worthy of your close consideration. One pastor wrote,
I endured endless verses of “Just as I Am”—a spiritual arm-twisting that made me and other people in my youth group repent and recommit endlessly. I felt badgered and pushed—and I don’t think I’ve ever quite recovered. It’s just so wrong. I never want to “persuade”—just quietly live and talk about my faith.
In your role as a person called by God to lead through the spoken Word, are you able to respectfully and ethically challenge others to change on the authority of the Scriptures, on your conviction that change is needed, and through the power of the Holy Spirit? It is possible to maintain these same commitments—to be a teacher, to be biblical, to be ethical—and to engage in sermon communication for the purpose of spiritual transformation.
Please click here to visit David Mains’ Sermon-Coach.com website.
You will also find a variety of resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries website. Please click here.