August 19, 2013
Influence can be a sweet poison.
A couple years ago I attended the E2 Conference on technology and innovation. As is the nature of most business-tech conferences, there was plenty of Kool-aid for the drinking. Industry experts and leading technology vendors were selling visions of how "Facebook-like capabilities" would transform business from a strict "command and conquer" authoritarian style of giving or following orders to a more “dynamic, collaboration-centric” way of working. They talked about how everything was changing. Everything. In their future, people won’t just be able to work from home, the entire concept of work and the economy will shift from providing products to “providing value.”
Yep, they really talk like that.
Though there were many reasons to be skeptical of these latest industry bandwagons, middle-managers for the Fortune 500 companies and tech analysts were buying it all. Literally.
Some of us had our doubts about the buzzwords, but were uncomfortable speaking up. After a couple sessions this was all so flatly apparent that if you questioned it you would be mocked. It was as if someone had posted a sign: Buzzkill not welcome.
In the middle of this romp through Rainbow Kingdom, Ross Mayfield, VP of Business Development at SlideShare, took the stage and spilled the Kool-aid.
"The best minds of my generation are trying to figure out how to get people to click on a link” he said. “That's horrible."
The appeal of influence
I share Ross’s sentiment. But my concern isn’t for the technology industry—I’m more worried about Christian leaders. While the appeal of influence has always been a temptation for Christians, I think we are increasingly confused about its relationship to leadership.
Paul Pastor noted this in his recent article "Can You Drink this Cup?"
"Because we believe that influence is what gives us significance in the kingdom, we lose sight of the truth. We've been romanced by the lie that the 'young influentials' are the real leaders of Christ's church worthy of emulation."
Evangelical Christianity fell into the influence trap long ago, when a zealous desire for the salvation of souls subtly became a pragmatic metric—like clicking a weblink. Typically, when we ask questions about how healthy a church is we just mean "is it growing"? Technology has allowed us to quantify the impact of the sermon as well. A sermon that gets lots of downloads is better than one that gets no downloads, isn’t it?