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A Credible Witness

A CREDIBLE WITNESS
ADAPTED FROM THE MIND CHANGERS, BY EM GRIFFIN

Dr. Em Griffin of Wheaton College, in his book, The Mind Changers, relates an interesting story about his son, Jim, mashed potatoes, and credibility. For years, he and his wife tried the usual parental ploys
to make their child eat mashed potatoes, but to no avail. Then, one night, one of Dr. Griffin’s students, Don, came over for dinner.

Don was a big, rugged, friendly guy. Their son particularly admired him because he was the captain of the college soccer team. After dinner, Don took Jim out back and kicked the soccer ball around. The next night their son asked for mashed potatoes. Why.? Because Don told him they were good for him. For years his parents had told him the same thing, but the message fell on deaf ears, but from Don it had a persuasive impact. According to Griffin, this incident points up a central truth of persuasion – that who says some-thing is just as important as what is said.

If we are to witness effective to our friends and neighbors, must work hard at being credible witnesses. Credibility can be defined as the capacity for being believed, and it plays a powerful role in persuading
people. It’s not a technique to be mastered, but something that develops over time in cultivated relationships. According to Griffin, credibility is like money, it can be earned and spent. For instance,
each time you lie or are excessively argumentative or irresponsible, you make small deductions from your personal credibility. If you continue to make withdrawals from your credibility without making any
significant deposits with a person, then when you want to share something important with them, your message may not be heard because you won’t be trusted or believable.

Credibility, says Griffin, isn’t so much a personality trait of the speaker as it is an aura of acceptance bestowed on him by the listener. Griffin goes on to point out that there are three components to credibility. Possessing any one of these will give you some credibility; having all three will give you high credibility.

The first is enthusiasm . Though there may be some exceptions, a genuinely enthusiastic person conveys that he believes in what he’s talking about. If it’s not forced or overdone, enthusiasm creates a sense of confidence in the listener. Of the three components, enthusiasm is probably the most personality-driven and difficult to develop. Still, there are some things that you can remember. First, be genuinely excited about what you believe. Dynamic people stand out, and people want to hear what they have to say. Secondly, be creative. Don’t get caught in a communication rut, giving exactly the same presentation each time. Repetition can drain the life out of the most exciting message.

The second component of credibility is Integrity. If people feel you’re trustworthy, they will feel secure around you, and will be more open to what you have to say. There are several ways you can strengthen your integrity with others. First, spend lots of time with the people you’re seeking to influence. The more time you spend with people the more apt they are to trust you. Second, do not lie, gossip, or put down others. These things may draw a crowd and people’s interest, but deep down they may be filing away the information that you can’t be trusted. Also, if you want someone to trust you, trust them. It may be hard, but be willing to discuss some personal things with them. If you’re not faking or being manipulative, trust will breed trust. Remember, the turtle only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.

Finally, the last component of credibility is competence. The key to competence is actually knowing what you’re talking about. If we don’t know what we’re talking about, people won’t pay much attention to us.
When it comes to sharing the gospel, this may mean further study or training in areas such as apologetics, but don’t be too intimidated. Remember, you have a story to tell about how Christ changed your life, and you’re the expert on that. if you can’t answer someone’s question, admit it, and then ask someone who can help you find an answer. Your honesty and willingness to research difficult questions will go a long way towards building credibility. Also, find points of agreement between you and your listeners. Not that you should ignore any fundamental differences in your positions, but if you can discover common areas of agreement, point them out. We’re all human and we tend to think that anyone who agrees with us is an astute and clever thinker. Lastly, be organized. Too much rambling and stumbling can detract from your message.

These are the three components of credibility and some suggestions on how they can be strengthened. Dr. Griffin reminds us that like money, credibility is no good unless we use it for something. It does us no good to constantly work at building our credibility if we never take a stand and spend some of our accumulated credibility. As Christians, we don’t build credibility just to enhance our personal image, but to be able to use it in an attempt to persuade others of their need for Christ.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE MARCH 1995 ISSUE OF THE COMMON GROUND NEWSLETTER, ADAPTED FROM THE MIND CHANGERS: THE ART OF CHRISTIAN PERSUASION, BY EM GRIFFIN.

THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR RESEARCH AND STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.

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