Peter concluded: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2. 36 – 38, 41)
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others. (Acts 17. 32 – 34)
This week we have come to the fourth and final one of the Leading Your Church into Growth (LYCIG) ‘Four Ps’: Persuasion.
At some point, every good salesman has to pop the question: Are you going to buy one of my products? Without such directness, a sale is unlikely to be forthcoming, and there may need to be a little further explanation and persuasion to clinch the deal.
In our two readings, we see Peter and Paul sharing the Christian message with two very different groups of people. Peter was speaking to a predominantly Jewish crowd following the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Paul was speaking to a Greek audience in Athens. Both had spent some time explaining their message, perhaps wondering what the reaction might be. For Peter, the people were deeply challenged and asked directly what they should do? This situation required little persuasion, just a straight answer: ‘Repent and be baptized’. Peter had already explained enough and the people made a decision there and then to turn to Christ. About three thousand people became Christians on that day. For Paul, however, the Greek audience was more reticent, some sneered, but others were definitely interested and wanted to know more. Paul left the Council, but the conversation clearly continued elsewhere. As a result various people continued to listen to Paul and learn more, resulting in them too becoming Christians.
Now we may not be Peter or Paul, but we can still be effective witnesses where we are. Persuasion is simply about having meaningful conversations that help people to grow in faith. This might happen in a one-to-one conversation or it might happen in a small group such as a Confirmation Course or an Alpha session, or it might be a combination of the two. David and I used to sit next to each other on the school bus, where we’d chat and help each other with homework. David had already come to faith through his church youth group, and over time he ‘persuaded’ me to go along too. I became a regular member, as did many of our school friends, and over time we all made decisions to follow Christ.
LYCIG promotes a simple slogan: ‘I’m going. It’s going to be really good. Would you like to come with me?’ This is the exact strategy used by David with all his friends. You could invite a few people round for a coffee or a meal, or to a social event. For example, Hannington Hikers is a great way to have a good walk and a good chat. If you enjoyed the last Alpha, you could suggest someone comes with you to the next one, which will be starting in September. You will be able to think of other opportunities. It’s so simple, we can all do it!
Loving God, lead us to those who are already searching for you, and may we become an answer to our own prayers as we share our faith with others. Amen.