But Agrippa did answer: “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!” (Acts 26:28, The Message)
This week I’m in Israel, touring with Christ Fellowship Church (Palm Beach, Florida). And just a few days ago, I taught a lesson in Caesarea, the ancient city built by Herod the Great right on the Mediterranean.
As you might have guessed, this lesson relates to my Christian faith. But I don’t share it here in order to impose it on you, but rather because I believe that Paul can teach all of us – whether we agree with him or not – a thing or two about the power of connecting.
After all, as the above quote from Acts indicates, Paul was such an effective witness to his faith that he almost convinced King Agrippa.
How did Paul’s testimony have such a powerful impact?
1. He immediately connected with King Agrippa.
In only a few words, Paul established common ground with Agrippa. Not only that, but Paul also appealed to the king’s intellect and ego.
Agrippa spoke directly to Paul: “Go ahead—tell us about yourself.”
Paul took the stand and told his story. “I can’t think of anyone, King Agrippa, before whom I’d rather be answering all these Jewish accusations than you, knowing how well you are acquainted with Jewish ways and all our family quarrels.”
Clearly, Paul had done his homework. He understood Agrippa’s point of view and what he cared about, and he used that knowledge to immediately create a connection.
2. He was vulnerable and open about his past.
Finding common ground is a two-way street. While it’s important to focus on others to understand them, it’s also critical to be open and authentic so that others understand you. Paul did it by telling his own story – the good, the bad and the ugly – to the king:
From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion.… For a time I thought it was my duty to oppose this Jesus of Nazareth with all my might…. I stormed through [Christians’] meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people….
One day, …right in the middle of the day a blaze of light … poured out of the sky…. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?’
I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’
The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal.
3. He expressed his conviction.
Just as Paul was honest about his past, he held nothing back when sharing his passion.
[the voice continued], ‘But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you.’ …What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that!
Whether you agree with Paul or not, don’t you find his passion contagious? If you had been there as he spoke, wouldn’t you have wanted to hear more of what he had to say?
Connection, authenticity, and conviction: what a powerful combination. Scottish philosopher and religious skeptic David Hume was once observed early one morning hurrying to hear evangelist George Whitefield preach. When asked where he was going, Hume answered, “To hear George Whitefield.” Puzzled, the questioner asked if he believed what the evangelist preached.
“Certainly not!” Hume replied, “But Whitefield does.”
Everyone communicates. But if you want your communication to be truly effective, do what Paul did. Listen, speak honestly, and be passionate. Then you’ll be communicating at the highest level, and maybe others will rush to hear what you have to say, too.