Influence, Part #7

People are strongly influenced by the behavior of the people they perceive to be their people.


Note: there are three videos in this article; you might want to watch it online at

I am not much of a car guy. For me, a car is just a means to get from here to there. But, for some reason, I was always drawn to the Pontiac Grand Am. Seven years ago, I bought one. I loved that car.

But last year, at about 100,000 miles, it started to have troubles. I had it in the shop five times in less than 12 months. It was no longer getting me from here to there--at least not reliably.

I loved that Grand Am, but I didn't want another one. Been there, done that. Trouble was, I had no idea what I wanted, other than to get from here to there. I thought about an SUV and I thought about a Mustang and pretty much everything in between. Nothing really stood out for me.

Then, one day I read where Toyota Camry has been the #1 best selling car in America 9 out of the last 10 years. That was all the information I needed. By noon that day, a Toyota Camry sat in my driveway. I figure someone else is doing the research and reading the reports. If it is good enough for them it is good enough for me.

(Notwithstanding the current recalls, I am still a happy customer.)

You may not be as readily influenced by data that the Camry is the #1 best selling car in America, but everyone is influenced by what Cialdini calls "social proof." We see examples of this everywhere.

  • People like to buy best selling books--especially the books that their friends buy. If a friend recommends a book to me, I give it serious consideration. If I see an advertisement, I usually ignore it.

  • People like to go to movies that their friends like. We like to ask our friends what they have seen and was it any good.

  • People like to read reviews on Peer reviews tend to be more influential that professional reviews.

  • Shuttle drivers start their day salting the tip jar with a few dollars--including some higher denomination bills. When you see those dollars, you think others have tipped. If others have tipped you should too.

  • People who move to a new city will ask their friends for recommendations on doctors, restaurants and churches.

  • The Zagat Survey was established by Tim and Nina Zagat in 1979 in New York City. As of 2005 it had grown to 70 cities with 250,000 people reporting ratings on restaurants. People trust the ratings of normal people like themselves.

I believe this is one reason why Jesus got a group and Jesus spent so much of his time with His group. He knew the group would influence one another. Jesus didn't do so much one-on-one discipleship. He mostly worked in groups. He seemed to turn from the masses toward his group.

Hence, he concentrated on those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though he did what he could to help the multitudes, he had to devote himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, so that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of his strategy.

-- The Master Plan of Evangelism.

Jesus knew what modern researchers are only now fully understanding. People are profoundly influenced by the behavior of the people they consider to be their people. For more on this, see


Two implications:

  • For evangelism

  • For changing your church

The implication for evangelism is this. People rarely come to faith and stick (think, "fruit that will last" and, "good soil") against the influence of their people. Some have called this "oikos evangelism" from the Greek word for household. It doesn't mean family so much as it means, "my people."

The practical implication of this has been a core part of my teaching on You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less over the last 12 years or so. It has been validated in the research for my new book Make Your Group Grow (Group, June 2010).

Here it is in a sentence: you can double your class in two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. You surround your average pre-Christian with a six or eight Christian people--and I mean real Christians--people who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength--people whose lives are becoming a little more joyful, a little more at peace, a little more loving, a little more fruit of the Spirit--you surround your average pre-Christian with six or eight Christians like that and everything changes.


Implications for changing your church

I am guessing that many of you reading this are familiar with this message. What you are frustrated by is getting your groups to buy it. How do you influence your people to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month?

Well, for starters influence research has taught us that you won't get there by telling them about it. You won't get there by telling them about it. I said that twice because it is important.

You will influence your people to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month by employing all of the influence strategies in this series of articles. The application of this one works like this.

First, practice hospitality yourself. Lead by example. (This will be the topic of a future article.) Then, bring a few people along. Pick out people of influence--the people who have the most influence in your church. Have them over on a Friday night. Invite some recent visitors to join you, or absentees from their class. Do this every week for about six months. Then watch as they share the method with others.

Find as many expressions of hospitality as possible. Take people to lunch on Sundays; Take people to lunch during the week. Play golf and invite outsiders. Go to basketball games. Watch movies. Don't do it alone. Minister with people. Bring a person of influence in the church along side a new visitor and watch what happens.

The next step will be to ask this person of influence to do this without you. Again, you don't want them to do this alone. Have them practice hospitality with one of their friends, inviting a recent visitors, absentee or prospect to join them.

When people see others practicing hospitality, they will be motivated to do this themselves. As long as you just talk about it, it is not likely that you will influence many folks.

Bill Hybels talks about how Matthew Parties became part of the culture of Willowcreek in this clip


If you want to lead your people to invite every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month, lead them to do so. Lead them in groups. Let them watch and see how effective it is.

One more video. I saw this one on Youtube and thought it was silly at first. The more I watched it, the more I realized how significant it is. Watch it twice.

The lessons for pastors are these:

  • If you want to start a doubling group movement, start by leading yourself. Lead by example. Don't be afraid to stand out.

  • Look for that all important first follower. These first two steps are critical.

  • The next few are critical as well. Good news is, they will be easier. Don't think about starting a movement. Think about leading by example and getting your first three followers.



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