Showing posts with label Persuasion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Persuasion. Show all posts

Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Chosen: Mocking God?


At Bethlehem we have been watching The Chosen on Wednesday evenings. Last night we finished season  3.

There is no doubt that the show is well done. It is able to grab and hold your attention, which is a must for any show or movie. The additional story lines they have added to it are compelling enough to keep, even us who are very familiar with the Gospels, engaged and wondering what will happen next.

I think the main benefit of The Chosen is that it helps people to engage their imaginations as they consider what it would have been like to have walked along side of Jesus. For instance, watching Jesus perform miracles has given me a greater sense of awe and wonder as I think about what those events would have been like then simply reading the text. In this way The Chosen enhances my reading of the Gospels.

On the flip side is the reality that the show is the interpretation and harmonization of the events recorded in the Gospels by  a small group of people, if not just one guy. There are certainly things about the show I would argue about. I think the sending out of the 12 on their mission work happened too early. I also think the disruption in the Decapolis is implausible, since it is in Gentile territory I am not sure the disciples would have gone there on their mission trip. Jesus’ return to Nazareth just seemed odd to me, like  having Lazarus grow up with Jesus (having Jesus declare that he is the Law of Moses was a good touch, even though that was one of the most controversial things heading into season 3).

To be honest, when it comes to The Chosen, I am rather indifferent about it. I have enjoyed watching it, but I don’t feel compelled to keep watching it either.

I know some people who are big fans of the show. Which I think is good because there needs to be support of well done media that is influenced by and supports Christian faith.

I also know that the show has its critics. For example this critique that I saw on Twitter.

What? The Chosen is mocking God?

The Chosen is a TV show, it is not a commentary on Scripture and it is not adding to Scripture. It is attempting to tell a story, helping people engage their imaginations (which is an under utilized tool in discipleship).  Hopefully, this will help them arrive at a greater appreciate of the text the next time they hear it or read it.

I am positive that if you asked Dallas Jenkins if he thought the Gospels were lacking or were in some way imperfect he would say no. He has a desire to tell the story of Jesus in a way that grabs people’s attention, and hopefully feel compelled to read the Bible to discover the whole story.

Here Mr. Jolly made assumptions about the thoughts and motivations behind the show. Rather than being charitable with his assessment, he assigned evil motivations to the people creating it. Because he has a high view of Scripture (notice he is holding a Bible in his profile picture), he felt the need to protect the integrity and sufficiency of the Bible.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Bible and that I totally believe that the Bible is the word of God that He wants His people to have. The Bible reveals God’s wisdom and will to us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, it renews our minds and transforms our lives. 

This is what I believe, yet, every week as I prepare sermons and lessons I think about how to communicate this wonderful book to people in a way that captures their attention and helps them on their discipleship journey. This work requires using illustrations, metaphors, and analogies to help  make the text understandable and applicable to the lives of those listening.

When a preacher or teacher of the Bible uses an illustration, does that mean he or she is judging the Bible to be lacking or boring? 

Of course not! 

It does show that the preacher or teacher understands that the Bible was written for us but not to us. In other words, the Bible was written to people in a different time and in a different culture, and what would have been understandable to them is not necessarily understandable to us. Therefore we need to do the hard work to understand it and explain it. The work God has called a preacher or teacher to do is to explain His word to people in a way that is understandable to them.

I believe that is similar to what Dallas Jenkins is doing with The Chosen

Is he doing perfectly? 

No, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t helping people understand a little bit better what it might have been like to follow Jesus 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is a wonderful book and the story of Jesus is a beautiful story. 

These realities should motivate us to make it as understandable as we can, whether creating a show about the life of Jesus, teaching about the parables, or preaching about the resurrection. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Perception and Truth

In our search for truth it is important to recognize that most of our beliefs that we hold on to as truth are just our interpretation of the data that we have. 

I am not saying that truth doesn’t exist or that it is impossible to discover truth, but I am saying that truth isn’t as objective as we sometimes would like it to be. 

We realize that two people looking at the exact same data can come to two different conclusions. 

Some of that is based on first principles, for example, believing in God is going to shape our interpretation of the data about the origins of the universe.

Some of that is based on our experiences, for example, whether you have a positive or negative experience with church growing up is going to shape your opinion on the importance of being part of church family as you grow older.

This is what Erwin McManus wrote in his book Soul Cravings:

In other words, for something to make sense to us, it cannot remain outside of us. We do not simply study information and then come to a conclusion; we absorb it and come to a personal interpretation of what is real.

I was listening to a lecture in which the speaker referred to studies in neuroscience that describe the process from which the human brain gathers and holds information. He explained that when the human brain absorbs information, that information is one part data and six parts emotion. Now that’s a fascinating thought--that everything we remember is wrapped around everything we experience. When you reflect on this, it makes perfect sense. (Meaning; Entry #12: It’s All in How You Look At It)*

What Erwin talks about here explains why, for most people, their relationships with the fathers affect their view of God. 

It also accounts for people who leave Christianity after a personal tragedy in their lives. Their view of God and the Church affected by their experience.

In the United States there is a significant amount of people who are not buying the version of truth being offered from the corporate press and politicians.

Why are they skeptical?

They are skeptical because they believe they have been lied to, overlooked, and stabbed in the back by these people who now say, "Just trust us." 

When we remember that perception is reality for people, it should not surprise us that there people who do not hold to your version of what is real. Their experience is leading them to a different conclusion.

It really doesn't matter how many experts, studies, and facts we believe back up our point-of-view because another person will put all of that through their filter of experience and emotion. This is why facts are weak persuasion. 

All of us like to believe that we rational and that the beliefs that we hold we arrived at through following the facts. The reality is that the majority of the time we arrive at our beliefs for emotional reasons and we use facts to justify our positions afterwards. This is why these facts seem so obvious to us.

If we want to change someone's mind the best thing to do is not to throw a bunch of facts and figures at them, but to offer a listening ear and show that you understand what they are saying. Without listening and seeking to understand other people there will be an ever growing divide between people who hold different points-of-view.

* Soul Cravings is a book without page numbers. For reference I provided the title of the section and the entry number and title. I believe the McManus discussion on truth is worth the price of the book.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

What We Think About Most


On Thursday I wrote a post about being a persuader.

Last year I had a Barnes and Nobel gift card and one of the books I bought was Win Bigly by Scott Adams.

Win Bigly is a look at President Trump’s ability to persuade. Whether you like him or not (I personally do not support President Trump, but I am willing to admit he has done some good things).

After writing the post I Thursday I took Win Bigly off my shelf and flipped through it, looking at the  highlights I made. The above quote caught my eye.

In persuasion it is important to get people to think about things you have said. The more they think about what we say, the more it influences their thinking. 

This is why repetition is not a bad thing. When we repeat something there is a better chance of it getting lodge in the mind of someone. 

There is a secondary reason why I shared this quote with you. It reminds us that we need to be mindful of what we allow ourselves to think about.

Remember, the key to transforming our lives is changing the way we think:

Romans 12:2
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Changing our thinking is key to changing our behavior.

This is the reason that I am concerned about the person who shares only political posts on Facebook or the person who only talks about sports. This reveals that their thinking is dominated by “the behavior and customs of this world.”

One of the key disciplines that God’s people have practiced over the years is the discipline of meditation. In earlier times meditation was crucial because they did not have access to their own copy of Scripture. They had to rely on what was said during their times together, and then remember what was said.

In this way they were able to memorize God’s word and bury its wisdom in their hearts.

Because of our easy access to the Bible the practice of meditation has fallen by the wayside. We are content to get our daily Bible reading in so we can move on to the next thing on our agendas. In the process we are not really thinking about what we read and how it applies to our lives.

I have found it helpful to do a longer reading of Scripture (I have been reading the the New Testament in 90 days, which is about 3 chapters a day) and then a shorter reading, which is just a few verses. With the shorter passage I can take time to think about it, ask questions about it, and even pray it. That way it has a chance to become a part of  the way I think.

I challenge you these next few days to pay attention to what you are thinking about. 

Are your thoughts godly and loving? Are they based behaviors and customs of the world? How can you be more intentional in directing your thoughts to things that are good, noble, and pure (Philippians 4:8)?

Understanding persuasion can help us be better persuaders and it helps us to identify things that are working on us.

Be mindful of what you let persuade you.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Being a Persuader

Part of my job is to persuade people.

That is what I seek to do when I preach or when I teach (yes, there is a difference, but that is for another post). I want to convince people that there is a change the need to make in their lives.

This is not an easy task. 

If I had to base it on percentages, I would guess more often than not I fail to persuade people the way that I should. Yes, they may leave agreeing with what I said, but they won’t be led to make in changes in their lives.

At the end of August Michael Malice tweeted this:

I have pondered this thought off and on since then.

Here are a few of the thoughts I have had about persuasion.

First, persuasion happens when a person is ready to make a change. That is what happened to me when I shifted away from a standard Rush Limbaugh conservative Republican worldview to a libertarian/Christian anarchist worldview. It was 2008 and I noticed more and more inconsistencies with what the Republicans were doing and the limited government beliefs I was told Republicans had. I remember a phone conversation I had with my brother when I told him about my frustration and he said, “Check out this guy named Ron Paul.” I did and the rest is history.

That change happened because I was ready to make a change.

Second, persuasion is easier when there is a trusted relationship. All my brother had to say was, “Check out Ron Paul,” and because of our relationship I did it. This means a good relationship is an important part of being able to persuade another person. When you trust the other person you are more likely to listen to what they have to say.

Persuaders need to do what they can to build relationships with people.

Third, there needs to be a level of expertise involved. It is hard to persuade people when a quick Google search reveals the holes in an argument. Two people who have influenced me intellectually have been Tom Woods and N. T. Wright. Part of the reason is I accepted their arguments is because of a level expertise they bring to their work. That helps me trust what they have to say

Persuaders need to demonstrate that they have a good understanding of the subject they are talking about.

Fourth, persuasion is a journey. More than likely, the beliefs you hold didn’t magically develop overnight. Rather, the came into place over a period of time as different influences shaped those beliefs. We can’t expect people to take they same journey that we took in the course of a single conversation or a 30 minute sermon. We need to be willing to take people along one step at a time. In my early days of being a libertarian I was quite obnoxious, everything seemed so clear to me, and I thought if I could just be loud enough people would see it too. Big mistake.

Persuasion takes time as we walk people through the process of changing their mind.

Fifth, persuasion takes integrity. When we see that the person lives what they believe, it helps us to listen to them. In college, my Christian Ethics professor’s wife had Alzheimer’s Disease. He brought her to class  each day. The way he treated her made an impression on the group of friends I was a part of and we all talked about having that level of love for our wives someday. He influenced us because he lived the Christian life that he taught.

Persuaders need to have integrity. Nothing causes a person to loose influence faster than discovering that he/she doesn’t live what they teach.

If you want to persuade people to make a change in their lives, take some time to think about that process. Persuading is not as easy as it sounds, but it is worth the effort to figure out.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...