I am a slow reader. But I am interested in lots of topics. Sometimes I am asked to read a book to give an opinion. I had a few of those this year. So my reading list is varied. But one book I read this year was one I noticed someone reading on a plane, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. Okay, so the book has been out for several years now. I am just slow. But I found the book so fascinating after taking it out of the library that I asked for and received it as a gift from my wife, Chris.
Gladwell examines “social epidemics” and the factors behind them. That is essentially what we are attempting to create on our campuses, spiritual epidemics. Subtitled, “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, Gladwell’s book has great potential for us as we think about how to maximize limited resources for the greatest possible impact. He looks at three factors that push something past the tipping point to an epidemic.
- The Law of the Few– People with exceptional abilities critical in spreading an epidemic.
- The Stickiness Factor– Ideas must be memorable in order to move others to action.
- The Power of Context– The circumstances and conditions of the environment also impact something going to an epidemic.
We saw something of a social epidemic last week. Adrienne Coogan sent out an email to the NCO that listed many of the responses on http://campuscrusadeforchrist.com/virginiatech/a-call-to-prayer/ and the call to prayer on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2343330557. I forwarded it to my support team. The response was incredible. Viral spread of information is one thing. But we are trusting God for changing lives.
We normally think about looking for people with gifts of leadership, evangelism, etc. But Gladwell says in the chapter on the Law of the Few, that there are three types of people that are instrumental in making a difference.
- Connectors– “Those with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” p. 41.
- Mavens– “Information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.” p 69.
- Salesmen– Those with the “persuasive personality” type. p. 71.
As we think about growing our ministries, let’s consider how we can enlist those who know lots of people around campus (connectors), those who have the social skills to pass on what they know about Christ (mavens) and those who can persuade others to believe (salesmen). “Starting epidemics requires concentrating resources on a few key areas.” pp. 255, 6.
The Apostle Paul went to synagogues on his travels, but he also went to the influencers of those cities. The time he spent on Mars Hill in Athens is given considerable attention. “Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics. In the end, Tipping Points are a reaffirmation of the potential for change and the power of intelligent action.” p. 259. Ours is a high call. May God give us insight into the interpersonal dynamics necessary for reaching our campuses for Christ.