Heuristics is a fancy name for “rules of thumb” or principles. Joe Carter and John Coleman share several heuristics in their book How To Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion From History’s Greatest Communicator that “illuminate more fully the character of Christ’s communication and can have an enormous impact on the ways in which you communicate with others” (124). One rule of thumb they describe is starting with your audience’s needs.
Why does Jesus repeatedly connect salvation to water for the thirsty and bread for the hungry? Why does he call God the shepherd, and his people sheep? Why is the message of grace so compelling to Jesus’ audience, composed of thoroughly sinful people?
The answer is simple: If you want to persuade people start with their needs. Some needs are universal. Everyone requires love, friendship, water, shelter, and security. Some needs are contingent or relative (poor people need money more than rich people; debtors need debt-relief; the sick need medical care).
God understands that people think mostly about their basic needs, as as Rick Warren notes, even his various names reflect his understanding of reaching people through their needs. Warren writes: ‘God’s response has been to reveal himself according to what they needed at that specific time.
- To those who needed a miracle, God revealed himself as Jehovah-Jireh (I am your provider).
- To those who needed comfort, God revealed himself as Jehovah-Shalom (I am your peace).
- To those who needed salvation, God revealed himself as Jehovah-tsidkenu (I am your righteousness).
Find out which needs your audience finds most compelling, and tap into them. If you can connect your message via example or explanation to a person’s deepest needs, you will win him or her over (126).