“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell

I read a lot. Mostly history and classic literature. I tend to like variety in the authors I read, but I do have some favorites that I keep going back to—Charles Dickens, Thomas Cahill, and Malcolm Gladwell. Oh, and I do own and have read 37 of the first 50 classic The Hardy Boys detective series! They were my childhood favorite growing up.

But it’s been Malcolm Gladwell who has provided out of the box understanding for ministry. It began with The Tipping Point. Subtitled, “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, 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. Gladwell offers insight for us with limited resources seeking to make the greatest possible impact. He looks at three factors that push something past the tipping point to an epidemic.

  1. The Law of the Few– People with exceptional abilities critical in spreading an epidemic.
  2. The Stickiness Factor– Ideas must be memorable in order to move others to action.
  3. The Power of Context– The circumstances and conditions of the environment also impact something going to an epidemic.

We normally think about looking for people with gifts of leadership, evangelism, etc. But Gladwell asserts in the chapter on the Law of the Few that there are three types of people instrumental in making a difference.

  1. Connectors– “Those with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances.” p. 41.
  2. Mavens– “Information brokers, sharing and trading what they know.” p 69.
  3. Salesmen– Those with the “persuasive personality” type. p. 71.

Some things to think about.

  • How we can enlist those who know lots of people around campus (connectors)?
  • Who do we know with the social skills to pass on what they know about Christ (mavens)?
  • How much of our efforts go into developing those who can persuade others to believe (salesmen).
  • Gladwell says,“Starting epidemics requires concentrating resources on a few key areas.” pp. 255, 6. How do these sociological factors correspond with what we are developing spiritually in those we lead?

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 greater insight into the interpersonal dynamics necessary for reaching our campuses for Christ.

Tips about ending the campus year well.


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