The Tipping Point and The Imago Dei

June 22, 2011 — Leave a comment


[This post is part of the Adventures in Psychology series]

A couple of weeks ago I read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. I’m not entirely sure where I first heard of Gladwell, but Tim Challies gives him a solid recommendation in The Next Story so maybe that was what did it for me. Regardless, Gladwell writes the kind of books I should spend more time reading because (a) they are usually exploring psychology and (b) they stimulate me to think theologically.

As an example, consider this. In The Tipping Point, Gladwell is basically trying to map out how social epidemics start, charting their development and most importantly, how they “tip” or actually become a widespread phenomena. He identifies three types of people who are key to making this happen:

  • Connectors
  • Mavens
  • Salesmen

Connectors just naturally connect with other people (hence the name) and have a networking ability that outstrips most people. Mavens just naturally collect knowledge and not only know a little about everything, may even have a level of expertise in multiple subjects. Salesmen, well, I think you can figure out what a salesman does. The interesting thing you might not connect with Salesmen though is their ability to not only persuade people to buy, but their general ability to affect people’s disposition through just interacting with them. They are, in a word, infectious.

Now, here’s where it got interesting for me. If you’ve dabbled in John Frame’s writings (specifically DKG, or DG) you are perhaps familiar with his triad of lordship attributes. In Frame’s understanding, the most important thing you can know about God is that he is Lord. For him, the central message of the OT is that Yahweh is Lord, and the central message of the NT is Jesus is Lord. Frame sees a tri-dimensional demonstration of that lordship through these three attributes:

  • Presence
  • Authority
  • Control

Or perhaps more familiar, the omni- attributes:

  • Omnipresence
  • Omniscience
  • Omnipotence

God controls all things because he is omnipotent, or all-powerful and his presence is everywhere. If God is truly omniscient he has the authority to declare what is true, what is beautiful, and what is good. If Jesus is the express image of God, then he will display these attributes as well, and in fact they correlate to his threefold office:

  • Priest (enabling us to come into God’s presence)
  • Prophet (declaring to us the Word of the Father which is true, beautiful, and good)
  • King (ruling and reigning in grace having inaugurated the new creation in his resurrection)

What stuck out to me about Gladwell’s analysis is that his three key people are essentially imaging one of these attributes:

  • Connectors extend their presence across a network
  • Mavens exhibit authority in certain areas of knowledge
  • Salesmen exert control by influencing people to buy into things

So in other words, social epidemics take off when people collaborate to image God through their actions. Any individual connector, maven, or salesman won’t get anything off the ground working on his own. But working in tandem with other image bearers of God in order to image God’s lordship more completely leads to ideas spreading rapidly.

It seems like an effective discipleship program at the local church might want to harness this concept don’t you think?


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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