Influence.

That is what it is all about, isn’t it?

Influence.

We want to influence those far from God to come to faith. Paul said, “We try to persuade men.”

I looked it up the Greek. The word is peithomen. It means to persuade. πŸ˜‰ Theological Dictionary of the New Testament amplifies: “‘to convince,’ ‘to persuade,’ ‘to seduce,’” .A.T. Robertson adds, “It is always hard work.”

Indeed. But, it is the central task of the church.

And, not only do we need to influence those outside the church. We desperately need to influence those inside to live out all that it means to be Christian. We need to persuade them to live Spirit-filled, on-fire, purpose-driven, missional, prayerful, fruit-of-the-Spirit lives.Β Some would argue that if we could do this better, the evangelism task would practically fall into place.

Influence.

That is what it is all about.

(That line, by the way, is kind of an inside joke. I have a friend–he used to lead a small group in my home–the used to kid about how we use this phrase in church. We use it for everything. Someone will talk about feeding the hungry and someone will respond, “and that is what it is all about.” Someone else will talk about missions and one will reply, “that is what it is all about.” It seems what it is all about is in the eye of the bolder. To my way of thinking, it is all about influence. If we can join Paul in learning to persuade men, then all the rest will fall into place.

John Maxwell taught us two important truths:

  • Everything rises and falls on leadership, and,
  • Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.

If these statements are both true, then it follows that everything rises and falls on the ability to influence.

Influence as a field of academic study

What you may or may not know is that a great deal of research had been done around the topic of influence. One of the most notable findings to date is that words have a very limited role in persuasion. Modeling, in contrast has a huge role. And, there are many other influence strategies more powerful than words.

Like to see an example of this? Click just before the two minute mark of this youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SW9I7X9Wmqo

You will see how people are influenced to cross the street even though the light is red when they have the example of a well-dressed man. When the same man is dressed in shabby clothes, he is not able to influence anyone to follow.

A small example I know, but this kind of research has been quietly taking place on thousands of college campuses around the world over the last half century or so. Wise is the one who takes advantage of what we have learned. When Paul said, “we try to persuade men” it suggests to me that he would do all he could to learn how to persuade.

When we want to influence someone to come to Christ, or influence our church to change, what do we do? Usually we use words. Here are some influence strategies more powerful than words that we will explore:

  • Environment. Eating on smaller plates has more influence on losing weight than does will-power. Will-power is over-rated; smaller plates are under-rated.
  • Authority. People do what the people of influence do, not what the people of influence ask them to do.
  • Reward. Whatever gets rewarded gets done. Your church is perfectly tuned to get the results you are now getting. Want different results? Change the reward system. God is a rewarder and godly people are as well.
  • Peer-pressure. Masters of influence know the power of peer pressure. This is why Jesus, the greatest influencer of all time, formed a group. The first thing he did was form a group. He seemed to have a kind of gravitational pull toward the group, leaving the masses for the group. His strategy for winning the world had a lot to do with that group of disciples. Pastor: do you have a group?

This is just a sampling of the influence strategies we will be exploring. This is the first of a series of articles summarizing some of the reading I have done in the influence literature.

Many books have been written on this topic, but if you would like to do some reading, I’d recommend you start with these two books:

  • Influencer, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, and Ron McMillan
  • Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.

I have been a student of this field of study for twenty years and look forward to summarizing some of the things that I have learned. I have tried to incorporate many of these principles into my seminars, and fold these principles into Good Questions That Have Groups Talking.

The amazing thing is to see how many of the things we will look at are illustrated in the life of Jesus, the master influencer of all time. It is like he knew!

Join me as we seek to discover how we can persuade men.