After Paul’s sermon at Athens, some mocked, some said “We will hear you again on this,” while others “joined him and believed,” Acts 17. Later in Corinth, he testified to the Jews that Christ, the Messiah, was Jesus. When they rejected his message, he turned to the Gentiles with the gospel, Acts 18. As the church grew in Corinth, false apostles began to attack Paul’s work there. Paul reacted mightily to their accusation that he had used guile in his work among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12).
What we are saying is this: Paul’s approach to preaching the gospel of Christ and to the up building of the church was always direct and honest. In this he followed the example set by Christ himself. We may search, in vain, for high pressure, manipulative methods in the work and preaching of either Christ or his Apostles. An understanding and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ must be the motivating forces in our turning to Jesus, obeying, and serving Him!
We are fearful that some approaches in “personal evangelism” and in the formulation of “church programs” are indeed manipulative using tactics borrowed from high pressure salesmanship. Such tactics in “closing the sale” lays great emphasis on “numbers” baptized to the neglect of the real thrust of the Gospel, implanting the message of Christ in the heart of the sinner until he is overwhelmed with his need to obey Him.
Manipulation can take many forms. A skilled “salesman” can create such an emotion charged atmosphere that the “prospect” will do most anything he suggests, at least for the moment. Or he can get the “prospect” in a corner and pressure him until the only way out is by way of a trip through the baptistery!
Various cults pressure their new converts by working on their sense of guilt, (a constant confessing to another all of ones faults and weaknesses will accomplish this), and by so monopolizing their time and thinking with constant meetings, prayer sessions, soul talks, etc. that they never have time for independent thought. This amounts to a subtle form of brain washing.
Surely Christians should be forewarned of such tactics! “Preach the Word,” the message of redemption through Christ and Him crucified. Exhort, instruct, reprove, correct and thus edify. But, above all, avoid manipulation! Jesus’ message to the rich young ruler was direct and living, but left him free to accept or reject that message. Our business is to instruct in righteousness, not to enforce by manipulation or any other means the way of the Lord upon men. It must be the sinners decision!