May 4, 2008
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
Amen. The word of God. thanks be to God.
The rock star Bono knows how to woo. Back in 2000, he paid a visit to arch-conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Bono was lobbying for debt relief for Africa, and he entered the meeting prepared to throw a lot of facts and figures at the senator. But on the spot, he switched to a completely different approach and began to talk religion with Jesse Helms. He focused on Christ’s deep concern for the sick and the poor. The conversation was incredibly fruitful, leading to an appropriation of $435 million for debt relief.
Bono knows how to woo. G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, who both teach at the Wharton School, have written a book called The Art of Woo. We do not use the word “woo” often, and when we do it refers to courtship. We speak of a boy “wooing” a girl. However, the word as Shell and Moussa use it has a wider meaning. Woo is relationship art — the ability to win people over without coercion, without manipulation, using emotionally intelligent persuasion. Woo is courtship, invitation, solicitation. Charles Lindbergh needed woo in order to attract backers for his first trans-Atlantic flight. Nelson Mandela used it to lead a peaceful revolution in South Africa. Business leaders practice woo every day. Motivational books urge you to “sell yourself” to your bosses and colleagues. But Shell and Moussa in their book advise you to do so with self-awareness, matching a personal style to your own particular strengths and weaknesses.
For example, they point out that you must woo with integrity. The authors tell the story of John Bennett Jr., who found and embraced his own personal persuasion style, using it to create a $500 million pyramid scheme. Problem is such schemes are both immoral and illegal, and John Bennett Jr. got a 12-year sentence in the federal pen. The point is we should not only persuade, our persuasion should be devoted to something worthwhile.
Christians have something worthwhile to talk about, the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we do not use the word “woo”; we use the word “evangelism.” However, let us face it, evangelism involves the art of woo.
Jesus urges his apostles to woo when he says, you will woo “in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). Jesus is about to be lifted out of their sight, raised up into the heavens, and he tells them that they have a job to do. “You will be my witnesses,” he says — you will tell others what you have heard me say, and what you have seen me do. You will woo. The risen Jesus wants his followers to evangelize and win people without coercion, using emotionally intelligent persuasion.
This is a huge challenge, but fortunately, we do not have to do it by ourselves. Again, in v8, Jesus says, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” The word “power” here is the Greek word s, the root of the English word “dynamite.” This is a robust and earth-shaking force, one that can topple earthly kingdoms and clear a path for God’s kingdom. This power is to be exercised in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. Filled with this Holy-Spirit-energy, the apostles are to evangelize, that is they were to take the good news — the evangelion — of Jesus Christ to every corner of the world.
The thing is, s is dangerous. Like dynamite, it is a force that can be used for destruction as well as for construction. The apostles know they must handle this material carefully.
That is the first tip on how to woo. Use your power wisely. We all know evangelists who come on too strong, hitting people hard with the promises of the gospel. “If you die today, if you go out of this church and get hit by a car crossing the street and die,” they ask, “do you know where you will be spending eternity?” Fear of hell is used as a motivation for people to put their trust in Jesus Christ.
Now this approach has a certain logic, and it may work with some people. It relies heavily on what Richard Shell and Mario Moussa call “the rationality channel.” In other words, it appeals to the logical thought process that go something like this: If I die today, I do not want to go to hell. The way to avoid hell is to put my faith in Jesus Christ, the one who died and rose for my salvation. Therefore, I will trust Jesus and go to heaven.
The rationality channel is a power play, and it sometimes works, but not always. When Bono was talking with Jesse Helms, he had the good sense to turn off public policy talk about debt relief, which was grounded in logical thought processes. Instead, Bono switched from the rationality channel to the vision channel, and he began to use religious talk about poverty and disease. This is what touched the heart of Jesse Helms, and ended up persuading him to support debt relief. Bono sold his idea, and in the process, he created trust.
This is the goal of all good evangelism — to sell an idea, and create trust. If you come on too strong, you may sell your idea, but you are not going to build trust. Both are necessary if you are going to be a successful witness for Jesus.
This brings us to Woo Tip Two. Speak from experience. Bono had traveled to Africa, and had seen firsthand the suffering of infants, children, and families. Bono had studied the New Testament, and knew Christ’s concern for the sick and poor. In his meeting with Jesse Helms, he spoke of how AIDS should be considered the 21st-century equivalent of leprosy — an affliction that Jesus had seen and cured many times. Helms sensed that Bono was being honest and genuine in this sharing of personal experience and before the meeting was over, he promised to champion Bono’s cause.
When we are trying to woo someone for Jesus, it is essential that we speak from experience. We talk about the ways in which Christ’s teachings have guided and challenged us in our work and family life. We speak of the times and places we have sensed the presence of the risen Jesus. We express thanks for Christ’s gift of forgiveness, which has lifted the burden of our guilt and helped us to move forward. We share an experience of uplift and inspiration from a worship service or small group gathering. We tell of a time we saw the face of Christ in an unlikely person. The key is to be an eyewitness, right along with the apostles of Jerusalem — to speak from our own personal experience. People do not want to know what the preacher said on Sunday. They want to know how Christ has affected your life. So your Christian experience is your very best testimony. What is Christ doing in your life right now? Talk about it.
Woo Tip Three. Focus on relationships. When Nelson Mandela was incarcerated in South Africa, he found a way to obtain blankets and other necessities for his fellow prisoners. He did this not by crying out for human rights. He did it through developing relationships. There is a book called Goodbye Bafana written by James Gregory, who was Mandela’s guard for years. Gregory began as a dedicated White Supremacist who was chosen by the South African government to guard Mandela because he could speak Xhosa, Mandela’s native language. But over years of close contact Mandela gained Gregory’s respect, and sold him on the idea of fair treatment for all people, so that eventually Gregory, the White South African became one of Mandela’s most dedicated supporters. By the way, there is also a movie out based on that book.
Something similar happens in the book of Acts, when the apostles gather as a group in Jerusalem. We read in chapter 1, verse 14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” These early disciples did not practice their faith in isolation, but in a network of relationships. Then, after the day of Pentecost, the members of this first Christian community shared their possessions with one another, worshipped in the temple, and earned the good will of all people. Acts tells us that “day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (2:43-47). Later on, in chapter 10, Peter reaches out to the Gentiles and says, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:34-35), and Paul makes a connection with the Greeks when he says, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way” (17:22).
Evangelism is all about making connections. Our challenge is to focus on relationships, and win people over without attempting to manipulate them or take advantage of them.
Woo Tip Four. Secure commitments. “One of the most common mistakes people make in selling ideas,” says Richard Shell, “is to think that their job is finished once they succeed in getting someone to say ‘yes’ to their proposal.” Charles Kettering was a brilliant inventor and engineer from the 1930s who invented the automatic transmission and safety glass. But one of his best ideas, the air-cooled automobile engine, sat on the shelf for decades because he did not follow up and persuade people to build the engine. Says Richard Shell: “He didn’t do the political coalition-building needed to implement his idea.” But the Germans did, with the Volkswagen.
The final stage of evangelism has to be securing commitment. The apostle Peter knows this, which is why he concludes his preaching to the people of Jerusalem with the instructions, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven” (2:38). Peter gives very clear steps for the people to follow, and the result is that those who welcome his message are baptized, and then they devote themselves “to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42).
The point is we cannot simply preach the gospel and walk away. We need to secure commitments, and then make a firm connection between converts and the Christian community. If people are going to devote themselves to teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers, then we are going to have to show them the way.
We have totally lost the idea of community in our modern ideas about evangelism. We think an evangelist today is a person who shows up, preaches a few sermons, and leaves. That is not at all the NT view of evangelism. An evangelist is a person who makes a commitment to you to form a bond in Christ so that we can all live together as the fellowship of God’s people in the world.
The mission of that fellowship, the mission of the church, is to share the good news that through Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven, through Jesus Christ we have eternal life. This is the most important news the world has ever had. We need to share this good news and share it effectively. That requires emotionally intelligent persuasion, that means we should learn to woo well.
So, Use power wisely. Speak from experience. Focus on relationships. Secure commitments. That is Christian Woo.
Sachs, Adrea. Review of the business book The Art of Woo, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa. Time Magazine, October 18, 2007, time.com.
“‘The Art of Woo’: Selling your ideas to the entire organization, one person at a time.” Knowledge@Wharton Web Site, October 17, 2007, http://knowledgewharton.upenn.edu.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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