Cognitive Dissonance in Evangelism: A Comparison of Two Approaches
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It is the great commission of the Christian faith to “go and make disciples.”(Matthew 28:19) This activity, otherwise known as evangelism, can be analyzed not only from a theological perspective, but also through the lens of communication theory. This study is designed to investigate this persuasive act through the theoretical perspective of Leon Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. In doing so, it compared two approaches; 1) the first emphasized building dissonance through a message of Biblical punishment; and 2) the reduction of dissonance through the message of a loving and gracious God. Through the use of survey type instruments, reinforced through focus group discussions, this study was designed to measure the responses of listeners to evangelistic messages that either evoked or reduced emotional discomfort. The most notable findings were the desire amongst the participants to hear a message that is balanced in its use of the two approaches and the subsequent propensity for backlash against a message that appears one-sided.