Religions should not treat evangelism as persuasion because persuasion is violence. When you use rhetorical techniques to forcibly change a person's point of view, you are forcing your will to usurp their own and this process often involves trickery. Think of how accustomed we've become to that trickery as acceptable. Watch a commercial or political ad and you will see that we tolerate rhetorical trickery on a daily basis. These are acts of deception and violence. I propose that all persuasion has a root in some form of deception. The most effective kinds of persuasion and those most valued by our cultures are the kinds that are less obvious. Persuasion sits on a proverbial slippery slope, ethically and morally.
I believe that our cultures are bubbling forth with a desire to no longer tolerate these levels of persuasion. The recent popularity of new media and communication platforms is an expression of this. Twitter, for example, has forced efficiency in terms of transmission, but INCREASED frequency. Social mediums in general have exhibited a desire on the part of the public for greater transparency in communication.
Martin Buber favors non-coercive, non-manipulative communicative influence. I would assert that this relies too much on the communicator’s subjective opinion concerning the boundaries of coerciveness, and manipulation. It is a step in the right direction in that it recognizes the inherent violence located within rhetorical persuasion. For generations, we've developed cultures that value the ability to persuade through rhetorical means, and have become as a species very adept at masking our persuasive attempts, making them indistinguishable from efforts of pure communication in the shape of information transmission as a part of dialog.
My solution to this ethical problem is to favor more communication rather than less. The dialog is a ping process. I ping you with what I believe. You return ping what you believe. The process of internalizing the beliefs of others is a private act and should not be directed by the other but rather the self alone. Persuasion interrupts this process and inserts a foreign agenda. Our cultures have traditionally favored a "less is more" mentality about communication because of the often dire circumstances around which the need to communicate evolved ("You! Stab Bear Now!) We still have these circumstances and yet there are other circumstances, such as matters of belief or emotional attachment, when a greater frequency of communicative "pings" is required for successful transmission.
Quite simply, I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the efficiency of communication, favoring less communication by volume per communicated artifact. This is an anomaly that exists, in my opinion, not as a result of communication best practice, but as a byproduct of our attachment to the use of technology in communication - a shift I believe that occurred when cultures moved form predominantly oral communication to predominantly written communication (the entrance of writing is the entrance of technology.) Because of the nature of technology and machines in general, efficiency is highly valued. Communicating more in less space is more efficient for the technology but not necessarily more effectively communicative (Twitter solves this problem by increasing frequency, remember.) Most uses of technology in communication have forced the communication process into a cost/benefit analysis in terms of transmission, therefore some of the information initially intended to be transmitted is lost (signal depletion.) When the nature and purpose of the communication is inherently changed by the efficiency decisions forced upon the communication process, mis-communication occurs
I would contend that persuasion need not exist at all, especially in the context of evangelism (for any religion or belief.)
My maxim has become: "there is no persuasion, only dialog and patience."
Ethical communication is not deceptive, nor is it coercive. It allows for the existence of variety in human perspective and respects the necessity for transparency. When one has the desire to persuade, one must communicate that desire to the intended "persuadee" in a transparent manner. Dialog can then continue to occur without rhetorical persuasion techniques in play and, through patience, free will can play out its course. The purpose of dialogue is not persuasion. The purpose is information transmission. I transmit my point of view to you and you transmit yours to me. If, in doing so, my point of view is altered, it is not as a result of persuasion but as an act of free will on my part. This is the intended role of evangelism. Transmission of the "Good News," not coercion into assimilation. Just because we CAN persuade, does not mean that we SHOULD.
I take this method as being exemplary of the type of behavior God has exhibited toward humanity. It is well within the boundaries of God to persuade humanity to behave or believe a certain way. The truth we see exhibited in terms of his behavior toward us (as recorded in Biblical history and elsewhere) is a behavior of patience rather than persuasion.