How Do We Communicate with Winsome Persuasion in our Hostile Culture?

Tim Muehlhoff and Richard Langer are two of my colleagues at Biola University. Dr. Muehlhoff teaches Communications and Dr. Langer teaches Biblical Studies and Theology. They recently partnered up to tackle a vital issue for today—how do Christians communicate with winsome persuasion in a culture that seems to be increasingly at odds with Christian beliefs?

Winsome Persuasion Culture

I had the chance to endorse their book Winsome Persuasion and highly recommend it for both its content and style. In particular, Dr. Muehlhoff has really challenged me to personally consider how to speak truth today with both kindness and graciousness. I love his last book I Beg to Differ, and even used it in a small group with high school students. If you want to be an effective communicator today, check out this brief interview, and then think about getting their excellent new book:

SEAN MCDOWELL: Why did you write Winsome Persuasion?

TIM MUEHLHOFF: As a professor of communication at a Christian university, I’ve wrestled with a powerful question: How should Christians respond to a culture steadily moving away from a biblical worldview? Biblical views concerning sexuality, abortion, marriage, and God are abandoned in favor of an accommodative stance that often intolerantly attacks, belittles, and ultimately silences opposing views. When president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A Dan Cathy answered “guilty as charged” when asked if he supported traditional marriage, he was publicly attacked and Chick-fil-A stores were defaced with “Tastes like HATE!” graffiti. As the minority, how can Christians engage those holding the dominant perspective in a way that is winsome, civil, and persuasive?

MCDOWELL: What mistakes do Christians make when sharing a biblical perspective?

MUEHLHOFF: If no one responds to our message, we often feel that the only option is to turn up the prophetic volume. So we shout louder, or stage more vigorous protests, or show more horrific pictures, or warn of increasingly apocalyptic disasters. But in the face of diminishing returns, it would be good to remember that there are other options than turning up our prophetic voice. We might adopt a pastoral or persuasive voice instead; sometimes gates that are barred to angry shouting can be opened by knocking and offering to help.

MCDOWELL: Why did you think it important to include historical sketches of Christian communicators such as Wilberforce, St. Patrick, and Harriet Beecher Stowe?

MUEHLHOFF: It is good to remind ourselves that every generation of Christians has faced opposition, and many have faced opposition even more pronounced than what we are facing. More importantly, these Christians have left us a rich legacy of examples in the way they rose to meet and conquer the challenges of their day.

MCDOWELL: What is the most important question Christians should ask as they seek to have an impact on their surrounding community?

MUEHLHOFF: A local church, or Christian ministry must ask whether it is perceived as vital to the community’s social capital or just a group of people who merely take care of their own. When hardship hits our neighbors can they count on us to help?

MCDOWELL: How do we unintentionally put people on the defensive during a conversation?

MUEHLHOFF: If you want to provoke anger from someone, respond to his or her convictions with emotionless nonchalance. In other words, I treat your conviction as merely a point being made in a debate. Rather than acknowledging the deep emotions that accompany your view, I dispassionately offer my counterargument. After all, there is a debate to be won!

MCDOWELL: You suggest that Christians should link arms with non-Christians to tackle community concerns. What do you mean?

It may surprise us that non-Christian groups desire many of the same things we do—caring for the homeless, organizing a food bank, promoting anti-bullying campaigns—and might be open to linking arms. If these temporary partnerships give voice to the needy and marginalized, not only will our communities flourish, but private sanctuaries— once thought impregnable—may be dismantled.

MCDOWELL: Why are Christians today so fearful to share the biblical perspective about controversial issues?

MUEHLHOFF: Rather than engaging in today’s hostile communication climate aptly labeled the argument culture, many Christians have adopted the attitude, “To stay silent is to be safe!” Or, better silent than sorry. Better to keep unpopular views private than to risk ridicule or hostile opposition. But what if you and your community want to engage? “Starting a quarrel,” suggests an ancient Proverb writer, “is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out” (Prov. 17:4). Winsome Persuasion explores how we can avoid quarrels with others as we seek to advance a position increasingly seen by many as unpopular and in the minority.

 


 

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8 replies
  1. John B. Moore says:

    Why is the culture hostile instead of neutral? It’s because Christians are seen as attacking other people’s values. Step one would be to stop harassing people.

    It’s not a simple choice between “starting a quarrel” or being silent. There are lots of ways you can communicate your own Christian values at the personal level without threatening people.

    For example, if someone offers you a marijuana joint, you can say “No thanks – I think it’s wrong.” You can still be friends with them, right? You share other things but just not the marijuana. If your marijuana-smoking friend takes offense, that’s his problem.

    But Christians really need to do their witnessing at the personal level – not in the government or in the mass media. It has to be a person-to-person thing, or else they’ll miss the warmth and the compassion.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      “But Christians really need to do their witnessing at the personal level – not in the government or in the mass media.”

      Don’t point out their double standards! Welfare isn’t good because the government does it instead of the church, but legislating discrimination against the LGBT community is something god thinks government is good for.

      Reply
      • Kalmaro says:

        Not sure what church you’ve been to but most churches I see take care of their own pretty well. The Bible speaks of the individuals helping people when it comes to those outside o the church, not the congregation itself.

        Reply
        • Kyle says:

          If a church only wants to help its own congregation that is fine, but then it also needs to stay out of government trying to help others.

          Reply
          • Kalmaro says:

            I agree, that is not a job for the ‘church’. However, if the individuals of the church want to do that, that is their prerogative.

  2. Susan Tan says:

    I say just go for it the best way you know how when you feel ready to do so. God really can strengthen your faith as you actively exercise it but how can you exercise it if you always remain silent? Read the whole bible and continue to read it regularly knowing that you are feeding your spirit to come to a full measure of a man as it says in Epheisans 4:13. It’s ok to step out blind every now and then like Peter did when he got out of the boat. In fact that’s actually when you realize there is actually a rock beneath yiur feet.

    Be an original. Be yourself and do what you feel comfortable saying and doing. Even if it only a simple thing like wearing a cross or saying “Have a blessed day” to someone. It might make an impression on them because God really does work in mysterious ways. But it is easier for Him to work through you when you’re not afraid to stand out.

    Not everyone will come to Christ on a first meeting or first hearing of him but you can make a good and lasting impression or open a dialog. “Each is saved in his own order” cf. 1 Cor. 15:23, NASB ( The Order of Resurrection Passage ).

    Reply
  3. Tracey says:

    God is not the author of confusion, it’s the thousands of bibles, that are written over the Authorised Version,KJV (400yrs old), these other bibles are the devils work, to created confusion and discord.
    Blood of Jesus.
    (not in the KJV) in one of the other bibles. Col 1:14. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
    NO,
    KJV. In whom we have redemption, through, HIS BLOOD, even the forgiveness of sins. This is a profound difference, because of the Strongman Spiritual Warfare, without this verse written with the correct word of God, people will be cursed by Satan.
    There are many more, so go and get an old King James Bible, and read for the differences they are truly amazing.
    The modern day bibles still printing coming out today, are the very problematic devil bibles, so are these bibles?
    Read from the true Bible, the Holy Spirit, the other bibles will transmit the other one!
    Who is Judging? God is, to us, not there other way round.
    Satan cannot judge God, but Satan is short on time.
    Bible interprets Bible.

    Reply
  4. Susan says:

    While the Word of God is reliable Tracey I wouldn’t describe non-King James bibles as devil bibles. All bible translations can contain some translation errors because a translation is worked on by men so an error or two will happen.

    If you doubt this then read the history of the bible article series over on bible.org. Where Dr. Wallace, a Greek professor, at Dallas Theological seminary explains some things about how the Bible has been translated. Even the King James Version has been revised more than once.

    I understand your preference for the King James because it is my favorite also because of the beautiful language. But as someone once said the best bible is the one that is read. If you don’t read it then you’ll get nothing out of it.

    But if you want to make an argue for it’s use only one of the best points you can make is that the King James is excellent at upholding the doctrine of the deity of Jesus. I saw a multiple passage comparison online once between the NIV and the King James and the King James was highly superior in it’s word usage to the NIV regarding the deity of Jesus.

    Reply

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