What kind of influence are you?

Lisa Misner —  June 13, 2019

In the golden age of piracy, a pirate captain had power, authority, and a wide-brimmed hat that set him apart as commander of his ship. His crew agreed to follow their captain wherever the seas took them.

While the captain had legitimate power to move the ship onward, the ship’s quartermaster had a different kind of influence. Often placed second in command, the quartermaster’s primary job was to take care of both the needs and the discipline of the crew. He interacted with his fellow pirates on a daily basis and had the responsibility of keeping up morale and making sure the crew was effective in their daily duties.

His influence, though not official, also allowed him to have authority over the crew. And if the captain became despotic, the quartermaster could use his influence to assume power and lead a mutiny.

Pirates don’t pastor churches, but pastors and church leaders do wield different types of influence. Each can be used wisely for the edification of the church and the glory of God.

1. Legitimate influence. This is formal authority, like the captain, the President of the United States, a police officer, and yes, a pastor. A person with legitimate influence occupies an official position and because of that, has authority. Biblical examples of this kind of influence include King Saul and King David, both anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.

2. Referent influence. Like the quartermaster who understands and cares about the needs of the crew, referent influence is based on affection, trust, integrity, and dependability. While the culture’s referent influence comes from Hollywood actors and star athletes, referent influence in ministry often comes from missionaries, ministry leaders, and again, the pastor. He may start with legitimate influence, but to be most effective long-term, a pastor must develop referent influence.

3. Reward influence. This type of influence is based on the ability to offer rewards or incentives to motivate. A general example of this is an employer/manager or a military superior. In ministry, a pastor can utilize reward influence.

Paul’s commendations at the end of his letter to the Romans showcase the value of reward influence. He extends warm greetings to several fellow believers by name, and then addresses the whole church. “The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you…” (Romans 16:19).

4. Coercive influence. Averse to reward influence, coercive influence is based on the ability to punish, discipline, or penalize. This kind of influence also comes from an employer or superior. The same authority that can promote you can also fire you.

Pastors also have this kind of influence, though it should only be used on rare occasions.

5. Expert influence. This influence is based on knowledge, special skills, or insight that others do not have. Examples of expert influence include doctors, lawyers, teachers, and scientists. Pastors and other full-time ministers and experienced Bible teachers can become experts in their ministries. They follow trends, know what works and what doesn’t, and have experience dealing with a variety of issues and challenges.

6. Informational influence. Though not an expert, someone with informational influence possesses the ability to attain and distribute information, and usually to effect change. This influence stems from personal connections. Political leaders and people in sales are prime examples. Similarly, pastors, elders, and denominational workers can use their connections as a way to influence people around them, for the glory of God.

God is the ultimate source of pastoral influence, and we as leaders are completely dependent upon him. However, we are called by God and affirmed by our congregations, and we should be moving our people toward God’s agenda.

In other words, we want people to do what God wants them to do. Most of us influence and lead with our own intuitive style, but understanding different kinds of influence—seen both now and in a biblical context—can help us be more intentional based on the challenges and needs of our specific ministries.

– Bryan Price pastors Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville.

Lisa Misner

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Lisa is IBSA Social Media/Public Policy Manager. A Missouri native, she earned a Master of Arts in Communications from the University of Illinois. Her writing has received awards from the Baptist Communicators Association and the Evangelical Press Association.