Consider some of the stories Patterson and his colleagues explore:

  • The international effort to eliminate the guinea worm parasite, a three foot worm that grows on the inside of humans until it reaches maturity. Then, it secretes an acid that allows it to bore through the skin, causing excruciating pain. Thanks to the power of influence, the worm is nearly extinct. It is the only time a disease has been stopped without finding a cure. More on this story below.
  • The effort to influence sex workers in Thailand to insist that their clients wear condoms during sex, thereby preventing millions of new cases of HIV infection. How would you influence this crowd? Dr. Wiwat did it.
  • The effort to get hospitals to recognize that approximately 100,000 people die in the United States each year in diseases caused in part by the hospital stay. Turns out, hospital stay is a leading cause of death in America. Once the problem was recognized, they take realistic and effective steps to prevent them–like influencing doctors to wash their hands better and influencing nurses to speak up when they see a doctor making a mistake.
  • An organization in San Francisco with an amazing record of turning people with extensive criminal records and a history of drug use into productive and valuable citizens.

(This list adapted from an review.)

One of the things that reading Influencer will do for you is inspire you around the idea that amazing influence can take place. People can change. Organizations can change. Cultures can change. Your church can change. It is hard. It takes time. It takes knowledge of influence strategies. It take some trial and effort. It takes more than words. Words are the most commonly used, yet least effective of the influence strategies. It is not easy to influence, but when we apply the influence strategies, it can be done, and it is amazing.

I love Influencer because it is filled with stories.  My favorite story is the story of the eradication of the guinea worm. You can see a picture of the critter in the video at this location:

The guinea worm has plagued mankind for at least 3500 years. It has the capacity to incapacitate whole villages, making it impossible for people to work their fields and harvest their crops, deepening the cycle of poverty.

Besides being painful and incapacitating, it is just plain gross. Imagine a three foot long worm living inside you. It begins to bore its way out through the skin in your hand or your stomach or you face. You can’t pull it out or it will break, prolonging the agony. You have to wind it slowly about a stick for a month or so while it slowly crawls out of you. The pain is excruciating.

The only relief is in the form of water. The worm creates an almost irresistible urge to be plunged into water for cooling relief. But, here is the problem. If you do plunge the infected limb into the public water supply, the worm will deposit its larvae into the water, thus potentially infecting the whole village.

As of 1986, 120 million people in 23,000 villages spread across Africa and Asia lived this way. There is no known cure. How do you influence so many people, so spread apart across vast reaches of geography to change their behavior so that the guinea can be irradiated?

Imagine that was your job? How would you do it? Where would you start?

Dr. Donald Hopkins started where all great influence masters start: he identified vital behaviors necessary for the irradiation of the disease. The topic of vital behaviors will be the topic of the next article  (article three). What vital behaviors contribute most to discipleship and evangelism?

The next influence strategy we will discuss comes from another classic: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Cialdini explores the issue of liking. Stated simply, we are rarely influenced to move in the direction of people we don’t like. Article four.

Article five will deal with personal motivation. Anyone who wishes to influence another must get into the minds of the people we would influence. Notice their radio is tuned to WIIFM: What’s in it for me? One of the challenges Dr. Hopkins faced was the reality that the motivation of the individual worked against the good of village. People with the worm desperately wanted to get to the water supply. Unless the influencer deals with the motivation of the individual, we don’t have much hope of effecting change. One of the things I try to say in the Double Your Class Seminar is that doubling teachers are happier. They are having more fun. I don’t ask groups to double because I want to punish them. I want to bless them. We must find ways to work with personal motivation, not against it. And, here is some good news. God is a rewarder. It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life.

Article six will deal with the issue of faith. We must convince people they can. They can have a quite time. They can double their class. They can conquer sin and live the John 10.10 abundant Christian life. Again, in the DYC seminar I show several videos of groups that have doubled to convince people it can be done.

Article seven deals with the issue of social proof. We are profoundly influenced by the behavior of the people in our group. Whenever I face any major decision I subconsciously ask, “What do my people do?” This is why Jesus made disciples in a group. The first thing Jesus did was form a group. He seemed to have a kind of gravitational pull toward that group. Jesus’ primary ministry was that of small group leader because he knew that change happens in a group.  The group is influenced by each other. Early church growth minds (McGavran and others) observed that it was sometimes easier to start a people movement than to win an individual who had to stand against his people.

Article eight deals with authority and leadership. People are influenced by leaders. One of the reasons Sunday School doesn’t work in lots of churches is that the pastor and staff don’t attend Sunday School, don’t promote Sunday School, don’t believe in Sunday School. Leaders must lead. Leaders must do the things they want their people to do.

Article nine deals with accountability. Influence masters inspect what they expect. They don’t just depend on words. They create systems of accountability.

Article ten will deal with rewards. Whatever gets rewarded gets done. Your organization is perfectly tuned to get the results you are now rewarding. If we want different results, reward different things. Jesus had a lot to say about rewards.

Article eleven has to do with systems that make the desired behavior easier. People who eat from smaller plates lose more weight. If you want your groups to have a party once a month, provide baby-sitting for the young couples.

Article twelve is a wrap up/ summary/ put it all together/ application article.

Bottom line: far bigger influence problems have been solved than influencing your church. Your church can change. Learn from the influence masters. Paul said, “we try to persuade men.” We too should try to persuade men. We would do well to learn everything we can about how to persuade men.


If you just can’t wait to start learning, get a copy of Influencer and start reading.