How To Change People (By: Bob West)

The mission of the church is to change people. Our object should never be that of just winning an argument or making a point. Our goal should never be just to “put down” someone; rather, we want them to change their minds and their lives to conform with the saving gospel of Christ. To this end, all of our collective and individual efforts should be devoted. It therefore behooves us to consider how we might get people to change. There are only three possible ways by which men have ever been changed: (1) By Force; (2) By Purchase; or (3) By persuasion. Men and even nations have been changed by the use of physical force. When a person’s life or physical welfare is sufficiently threatened by the use of force, he will usually submit to the will of another. The history books are full of examples of this kind of change. Likewise, if a sufficient price or consideration is offered to most people, they will change their lives to conform to the will of the purchaser. This is readily recognized in the area of wages or even bribes. Man’s conduct is also changed by the power of persuasion. When compelling reasons are given for a different course of action, a person may frequently be convinced to change both his mind and his conduct.
Now, of these three ways by which man can be changed, which is/are acceptable for use by Christians? It should be obvious that neither Force nor Purchase is acceptable in trying to change others. Neither one of these methods has anything to do with changing the mind of the individual. These methods might change his actions. But they will not change his convictions. Belief in what is right cannot be imposed on the human mind by either force or money. Even the change in conduct wrought by these methods lasts only as long as the force or the money holds out.
The only tool, therefore, left to the Christian is the power of Persuasion. This is precisely as God has ordained it:
“Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” — 2 Corinthians 5:1
“…and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” — Acts 28:23
Our Lord is not interested in forced service or bribed obedience. He is interested in people being persuaded to “obey from the heart” (Romans 6:17). God desires a transformation of the whole man which begins with “the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
While the power of persuasion is all we have, it is enough! The only thing that renders it ineffective is our refusal or negligence to use it. May God always find us busily engaged in using the power of persuasion to change men. — Bob West, The Milpitas Messenger, November, 1995

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