If there ever was a time when ministers should study the human mind in order to cope with an ever-advancing educated audience, now is such a time. The testimony given to ministers by the pen of inspiration exhorts gospel workers to study the human mind to draw souls to Christ.
"It is highly important that a pastor should mingle much with his people, that he may become acquainted with the different phases of human nature, readily understand the workings of the mind, adapt his teachings to the intellect of his people, and learn that grand charity possessed only by those who closely study the nature and needs of men." Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 267.
A study of the workings of the human mind adapted to the minister's teaching of his people will increase his harvest of souls.
Stirring and Moving People
Everyone who cares to move men toward Christ must recognize that the Holy Spirit employs certain devices in the hands of a persuasive speaker. One of the strongest persuasive devices that the Holy Spirit can use in the hands of a minister is the emotional appeal. The proper use of emotions appealing to the desires of the audience will produce a far greater harvest of souls than the hit-or-miss, "tear-jerking," funeral-parlor stories of past generations.
Emotion used for the sake of emotion alone will stir audiences but never move them to action. The work of the preacher is to seek to be used by the Holy Spirit not only to stir audiences but to move them toward conviction and decision. If a preacher uses emotional stories as a crutch for his message, audiences will be stirred for the moment, but once tricked by pure, unwarranted emotional appeal, they will evaluate his whole message by the trickery employed. Thus they may never return to hear him again, and he will have placed a stumbling block in their way and in the way of the Holy Spirit to reach their souls.
Appealing to Basic Human Desires
Audiences are moved properly by appealing to their desires for immortality, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, and the kingdom of Heaven, because man has these basic desires, prefers them, and has emotional urges for them. (H. L. Hollingworth, The Psychology of the Audience, p. 116.) Wise is the preacher who understands this trait of the human heart and appeals to it with discretion.
Preach the message in the fullness of its truth, keeping in mind the basic emotional desires of man's heart. Instinctively all men have a desire to worship God in one form or another, all in your audience have a desire to secure life in the hereafter, all want a second coming of Christ to take them from the fears of this world of chaos and sin, and all have a deep-seated yearning for life in the heavenly kingdom. Appeal to these warranted emotional desires, but much more to one of the strongest emotional appeals that a preacher can be entrusted to employ in the hands of the Holy Spirit man's love for Christ and appreciation for His sacrifice on Calvary's cross. The Holy Spirit moves upon the hearts of men strongest when they hear what Jesus has done for their sinful souls. There is power in the simple story of the cross and still more power in Jesus' name, when taken reverently upon the lips of the sincere speaker.
Mingling much with his people, the pastor can learn the problems of his audience and bring these into his preaching, interweaving their difficulties with their basic desires. This will add tremendous power in leading men to Christ. The results of such preaching will strengthen our ministry and increase our harvest of souls.