In Christian Mission and the Modern World, John Stott, in defining evangelism, does not think that “persuasion” is a necessary component of a definition of evangelism. He follows J.I. Packer who critiques any definition of evangelism that includes persuasion as an element as confusing the act with the goal. Peter Wagner defines evangelism, though, as “Presence, Proclamation and Persuasion.” On Wagner’s definition, Stott comments, “Although I am not myself happy to include all three in a strict definition of evangelism itself, yet presence must certainly precede evangelism, as persuasion must follow it.” Stott loves his idea of presence and proclamation, but balks at persuasion.
He states, “Some speak of ‘persuasion’ as if the outcome could be secured by human effort, almost as if it were another word for ‘coercion.’ But no. Our responsibility is to be faithful; the results are in the hand of Almighty God.”
David Bosch, in Transforming Mission, says, “The focus in evangelism should, however, not be on the church, but on the irrupting reign of God.” In other words, by focusing on numbers and growth, as would including persuasion or conversion in the definition of evangelism, evangelism becomes man-centered rather than God-centered. At the same time, Bosch adds that “Numerical growth is , therefore, in a sense nothing more than a byproduct when the church is true to its deepest calling. Of greater importance is organic and incarnational growth.” As such, it seems that the church should expect to be persuasive if it is true to its mission.
So, here are the questions:
Does faithfulness to proclaim include persuasiveness?
What does scripture say about the attractiveness of the gospel message? What are the admonitions, the warnings, and the instructions?
If you are not seeing conversion growth in your church, is your church being true to its mission? If the faithful proclaimer and doer of the gospel is not seeing numerical growth, is she being faithful?