Concentric Circles of Influence. They don’t lie.

A Saturday Bohemian Husband Post.

 

A fellow named Oscar Thompson came up with this idea of concentric circles to illustrate our levels of involvement in people’s lives.  I think it’s brilliant.  AND it raises a few questions for me.

 

But before I jump right into making everyone defensive, let me explain the circles.  Basically, the closer the person is to the center of the circle, the closer your relationship with them is.

 

 

Obviously, you are closest to you.  Then family, relatives, friends, and on and on until you go past acquaintances to “Person X”.  That’s a person you don’t know at all.

 

Now I know, I know—many of us are closer to our friends than we are to our family and relatives.  Those middle circles blur very easily.  And honestly, if your friend is that close, they’re sort of “family”, if you know what I mean.

 

The point for Mr. Thompson, and my point as well, isn’t to determine who you hang out with the most, or who knows more of your dirty little secrets.  Mr. Thompson was all about who we have the ability to influence the most.  More precisely:  Who is God more likely to use you to influence?

 

That’s where friends and family get sorted out.  Because if you go nuts your “friends” will usually drop away eventually… the best ones will hang in there for quite awhile before they do.  But your family…usually you can treat them all kinds of bad and then show up 30 years later and still get to sleep on their couch for a night if you need it.  In other words:  the circles don’t lie.

 

Statistics exist because we actually are able to quantify results based on the likelihood of their occurrence.  So please don’t try to discredit a statistical fact with your anecdotal evidence.  Or as King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

 

Now, on to the questions.

 

Who was the biggest influence on your relationship with God?  Was it some random stranger knocking on your door on a Monday night, or was it someone you knew, like a parent or close friend?

 

Why do we spend so much time in our churches teaching people “clever” (not so clever, really…) ways to share the good news with people they’ve never met, but pastors—at least where I live—openly mock “relationship evangelism”?  As if they were “led to the Lord” by a total stranger themselves?

 

Why do our churches stress so much about sharing with People X, instead of saying, “Hey, stop being a royal butt at your house.  Why don’t you try talking to your buddies about God instead of hunting and football?”

 

Why do we value people who spend so much time going up to these random strangers, or putting Bibles and tracts in public places, when we probably don’t personally know a single person who was truly saved that way?  I mean come on, even Billy Graham admitted that the majority of the people at his crusades were “rededications”—whatever that means.

 

Why do we think relationship evangelism is just “an option”, but the “real” evangelism is the stuff where you go up to random strangers and debate them into loving God?  If that’s true, then what’s the point of having a testimony?

 

What’s the point of living like Jesus if you’re only supposed to talk to people who don’t know about your life?

 

Who do you, personally, have the most likelihood to influence?

 

-Jeremy

Comments

  1. Very good point. :)

  2. Hi Jeremy!

    This is a thought provoking post. I came to Christ through my parents. You don’t get much closer relationally than that, that’s for sure.

    I do happen to know quite a few people who came to Christ through complete strangers, though, too. Even someone who first heard the good news through Billy Graham. I don’t think there’s any reason to choose one of these methods over another… I don’t see why we can’t do both. One of my good friends led himself to Christ by reading a tract at an outreach where he was trying to share the gospel with someone else (he always liked hanging out with church kids). I thought that was a funny story. All that to say, God draws people to himself as he chooses. Sometimes with strangers, sometimes with the people closest to them.

    • You’re right. I think I got confused and didn’t mention that part. I wrote a paper for seminary about the same thing this week–but, you know, WAY more boringly–and in that paper I had said that I thought no approach should be considered to be “off the table”. Because, after all, God used a talking donkey once to get through to a guy (Balaam).

      Anyhow, I think my point was–in keeping with this whole kick about postmodernism vs modernism–that, for the postmodern-types, relationships are valued a lot more than truth. David Kinnaman cites the statistics that 71% of “born again believers”, a term he uses to mean “real Christians, not nominal ones”, listed the primary influence on their lives as being a person from within the first 4 of Thompson’s circles. Whereas, all forms of media (radio, TV, tracts, etc.) accounted for less than half of one percent put together.

      But, like you said, my dad knows a guy who was a Muslim in Nigeria who picked up a tract out of the mud and became a Christian. It’s just that God seems to prefer a certain avenue according to the numbers, and we should be sensitive to that, so that we don’t miss out on doing his work.

  3. Great post, Jeremy. And very thought provoking.

  4. Great great post.

    You are so right…influencing someone’s spirituality in a way that it sticks requires relationship and trust. I remember ‘leading’ students to Christ when I was younger, and for all intents and purposes (not that you can judge another’s heart) nothing changed in these kid’s lives.

    I was ‘led to Christ’ (WHATEVER THAT MEANS!) at a Continental Singers concert.

    Yes. I am completely dating myself.

    As the years went by, I realized this conversion meant nothing. It was only through my husband modeling Christ-like love to me for YEARS that I came to know the Spirit of Jesus, and long to have that in me.

    So there you have it. Relationship rules.

    I have the most ability to influence my children. It is a huge privilege and responsibility.
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