11/19/2014

Persuasive Preaching

Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion by R. Larry Overstreet is a helpful book for preachers, pastors, and ministers of the gospel. It is not an easy read but more like a textbook with much interaction with the Greek. But I enjoyed reading it and found it useful and practical as a bivocational preacher. It prompted me to think seriously about persuasion, and to reassess how I am to preach and teach and communicate Scripture by using persuasion biblically. This book has 4 logical parts moving from issues, need for, theology of, and how to regarding persuasive preaching:
  1. Issues Facing Persuasive Preaching.
  2. Biblical Basis of Persuasive Preaching.
  3. Structuring Persuasive Messages.
  4. Pertinent Applications in Persuasive Preaching.
What is persuasion? "Persuasion aims at change. It may be change of belief, change of attitude, or change of behavior, but change is the goal." Overstreet makes a very strong case for the utmost importance of persuasion in preaching. Preaching that was geared toward some change was the norm in the past. But persuasion in preaching has been replaced by a more reflective and contemplative style of preaching where the congregation may simply feel informed but not feel challenged or motivated by the sermon. Overstreet encourages the return to persuasion in preaching that would lead to positive change in the congregation.
Preaching at its heart is all about persuasion. Overstreet exegetes the Greek word for "persuasive" (πειθός) peithos. He looks at the use of persuasion in the gospels and the epistles. Persuasion is aimed at honoring God and to help bring people closer to God. Peitho (πείθω) is about convincing people toward action and not mere head knowledge. It includes elements of winning over, obedience, confidence, convincing, faith, trust, and as an emphatic declaration of Christ. Overstreet urges preachers not to just teach Scripture but to empower listeners toward action. He points the "logos," "ethos," and "pathos" in  Paul's theology of preaching. Logos uses logic, pathos appeals to the emotion, and ethos stems from the speaker's integrity and credibility.

Importantly, Overstreet differentiates biblical persuasion from human manipulation. The former is ethical while the latter is not. He points out eight ways to distinguish persuasion from manipulation. For eg., biblical persuasion is honest, does not oversimplify, has no pretense, is not misleading, is not lopsided, while manipulators tend to be deceptive, controlling, have a lack of awareness, and a distrust of the audience. The biblical preacher acknowledges the role of the Holy Spirit that does the true work of inner persuasion. Overstreet concludes with many tips about how to move toward a call to action.

You can access a PDF excerpt here.

I received a free copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews on behalf of Weaver Book Company.