It is our responsibility to preach the Gospel. What an amazing thing to be a part of. Usually however, when it comes to preaching the Word it is as the final step in a long process of preparation. There are many different elements that are important with regards to the messenger long before the message is proclaimed. In this section we look at Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric and the three forms of persuasion that can be applied to the way we witness to others about Christ. The main focus of this study is to look further into these three forms, exploring their importance in our witness to a non-Christian. Each of us may find that we have natural giftings or struggles more in one form than another but all of them are elements that we should recognise are part of drawing a non-Christian to the Saviour.
In Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric the three forms of persuasion are ethos, pathos and logos. These terms have deep meanings but they certainly aren’t complicated to understand. The hardest part is developing these forms of persuasion and making ourselves more effective in our witness.
Let’s first consider ‘ethos’. Quite simply, ethos is our character. It is the way that we live out our faith. As Christians it is of the utmost importance that our lifestyle and our actions back up our words, otherwise we are perceived as nothing more than hypocrites. (This is, of course, extremely important for those in positions of leadership). There is nothing worse for our witness to a non-Christian than preaching about God and a godly way of life and not actually living it out personally. Paul states this very matter in his letter to the church at Philippi:
. . . so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. . . (Philippians 2:15)
Our lifestyle and our character must back up our words. This will add authenticity to our message when the non-believer can see that being a Christian isn’t some far-fetched idea but something that is actively vibrant and visible in us. We must live out our faith! While there is nothing better than being able to back up our words with a visible Godly lifestyle, there is also nothing worse than a bad witness, than someone who doesn’t practice what they preach. Of course as human beings our faults, failings and weaknesses are all too often manifest and it is sometimes hard to stick to the narrow path, which is why it is vital that we must constantly be in prayer and in the Word of God, asking Him to develop Christ-likeness in each of us.
Secondly, we must consider pathos. Pathos is very simply the compassion and love with which we communicate our message. The way in which we share the message of Salvation can influence the way in which it is received. For instance, it is possible to share the Gospel with someone in the manner of an uncaring sales person anxious to get the numbers. It’s easy for some overzealous evangelists to fall into this trap – seeking results and converts rather than being motivated by genuine love for an individual. When we witness concerning Christ it is vital that we do so for nothing other than the glory of God. As Peter emphasises, this must be done with love and compassion.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . . (1 Peter 3:15)
This verse is key. Give an answer, but always be aware of the importance of the manner in which you give it.
The final of Aristotle’s forms of persuasion we should consider is logos. This is the ‘words’ that we say. It represents the content of the message that we are presenting to non-Christians. It is amazing how powerful words alone can be. They have the power to build someone up and tear someone down. They have the power to make a person happy or to ruin a person. In the same way the words of the Gospel are ‘the power of God to Salvation . . .’ (Romans 1:16). However it is important that the words we share are the true and full Gospel. God promises that whenever we speak His words that they will ‘never return to me (God) void’ (Isaiah 55:11). What a great promise! When we speak the words that God would have us speak they will always have an effect.
These three forms of persuasion are all vitally important. To conclude; we must share the Message of Salvation (logos) with a real and vibrant passion and love for the recipient (pathos) and further authenticate our message with the manner in which we live out our life (ethos).
Keep on keeping on…
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