What?! People Run Away From Pioneers?

I’m reading a book called, “Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change”, by Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler.   (Second Edition. 2013) It’s an awesome book and I highly recommend it, although some of the insights are … well … thought provoking.

I’m in a chapter where the authors are sharing the story of Dr. Everett Rogers and his contribution to influence theory.  Dr. Everett’s findings, as they are told in this book, are interesting to say the least.  Yet, they make sense, too.  He found that a key to promoting change is connecting with people who are “socially connected and respected”.  He called these smart people, who are open to change AND part of the respected connected, “opinion leaders”.    Apparently, they make up a very small percentage of the population and they are not to be confused with ‘innovators’ who are ALSO the few, the smart and the open minded – they just lack positive relationship with the community.

His work, as it has been shared through the book, strongly suggests that we AVOID the ‘innovators’ and seek the ‘opinion leaders’.   Why?  Because the vast majority of the population will follow the respected connected leaders with new ideas, but they will flee from the ones with the new ideas that are not in relationship with the community.

In the many years I’ve been in ministry, I have heard this ‘relationship’ word over and over and over.  Emphasis on relationship instead of religion.  Check. Emphasis on relationship as the next step in reconciliation, after restoration.  Check. Emphasis on relationship in contextual, cross-cultural ministry.  Check. Emphasis on relationship with local ministers.  Check.

However, I don’t think I truly understood the role of relationship in influencing change in my local community like I do today after reading this chapter.   I am a woman minister involved in out-of-the-box church methodologies and incorporating culture into faith practices in a local community that is predominately non-indigenous.   I don’t exactly fit in with my local peers.

Which one am I?   When I come along side an idea, am I drawing others to follow or am I scaring them off?  A good question that we should probably ask of ourselves and the Lord on a regular basis.

Over the years, our financial support has dropped off significantly.  I attribute the change, in part, to our first Convocation of Eagles, which was hugely successful.  Yet, it was also a defining moment.  It was when we publicly ‘chose sides’ in a controversial subject.    On the other hand, I was recently appointed to a new role of leadership in our community at the recommendation of a peer.

Is it possible to be an ‘opinion leader’ in one circle of influence and an ‘innovator’ in another?   How do we choose which is the more important role?  Can we be part of more than one community?  Can we be connected and respected in more than one community?

It was recently brought to my attention that after 15-20 years of contextual ministry, there are still many hurdles in spreading the message and positively influencing change.  I find myself pondering this theory of influence even more.  I’m also looking at a fresh look at Scripture in this context.

What does the Word offer as instruction for being a pioneer and changing community perspective?  I am looking forward to the study!

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