I have recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. I was very impressed with the book and it has given me much to think about. Gladwell discusses epidemics and relates epidemiology to social movements. I am going to post a few of my reflections and I how think the ideas in the text relate to the local church because as we consider how to transform the world around us we need to be aware of these truths.
The first concept is “The Law of the Few” (30-88). The Law of the Few simply means that it does not take a large number of people to tip an epidemic. What you need to create a radical transformation is the right person. There are three kinds of people that can create a tipping point (in church language: the moment a ministry becomes a movement). The first kind of person is a “Connector”. A Connector is someone who moves in and out of many different social groups. Not only this they are able to connect the people in those groups to one another. There was a student at Illinois State University named Brad who was in my Bible study for a couple of years. Brad knew everyone. He did not just know names but he knew something about everybody. Almost every week Brad would talk about entering into a new realm of friends. It was incredible!
When a Connector catches a passion for something she is able to spread it fast into many different communities. We must identify the Connectors in our midst so that we can equip them to take the gospel message into their sphere of influence. When this happens a movement begins. People from many different backgrounds begin to interact and catch a similar passion and the movement grows.
The second kind of person is a “Maven”. Maven’s are the kind of people who know everything and they genuinely like to help you. A Maven is someone that people trust and turn to for advice. These are the people who correct Consumer Reports. When a Maven speaks you do what they say because you know they are right and that they have the done the research.
Imagine a Maven who comes to faith in Christ. When they go back to the people with whom they have relationships their testimony will have great power. It’s because those in their sphere of influence will respond to what they have to say. If Jesus works for the Maven, then Jesus will work for me. The power and influence would be incredible. However, they typically have smaller networks than a Connector.
The third person is the Salesman. A Salesman is the kind of person who gets results. They are larger than life personalities and they are able to win you over at “hello”. You know the kind of person that I am talking about. You are their best friend instantly. Salesmen have huge networks of shallow relationships. In spite of the shallow relationships they are highly effective at spreading an idea because people seemingly “can’t help but respond” to what they have to say.
A friend of mine named Darin is a Salesman. He said that everyone he ever met was his friend. People love to say yes Darin. It’s amazing to watch him have conversations with people. Within ten minutes they would trust Darin to care for their child (slight exaggeration, but you get my point)! People like Darin can tip a ministry into a movement. These are people who get tagged with “the gift of evangelism”.
In your community can you identify the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen? If your community is going to become a movement you need must be able to do this. To do this requires you as a leader to be have a great interest in every single person in your ministry.
Simply put movements explode because of the Law of the Few.