Summary: We will be influenced - but the Word tells us Do not be conformed. Who and what are influencing us, and to what effect?
Influence and Conformity
February 7, 2010
Open with on-stage re-enactment/illustration of this scenario (see below) ï¿½ ask individuals in your church to come:
A few years ago psychologist Ruth W. Berenda and her associates carried out an interesting experiment with teenagers designed to show how a person handled group pressure. The plan was simple. They brought groups of ten adolescents into a room for a test. Subsequently, each group of ten was instructed to raise their hands when the teacher pointed to the longest line on three separate charts. What one person in the group did not know was that nine of the others in the room had been instructed ahead of time to vote for the second-longest line. Regardless of the instructions they heard, once they were all together in the group, the nine were not to vote for the longest line, but rather vote for the next to the longest line. The experiment began with nine teen-agers voting for the wrong line. The stooge would typically glance around, frown in confusion, and slip his hand up with the group. The instructions were repeated and the next card was raised. Time after time, the self-conscious stooge would sit there saying a short line is longer than a long line, simply because he lacked the courage to challenge the group. This remarkable conformity occurred in about 75% of the cases, and was true of small children and high-school students as well. Berenda concluded that, "Some people had rather be president than right," which is certainly an accurate assessment.
C. Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p. 225.
No matter how NAME came out on this, I thought I might have a good object lesson to begin our look at influence and conformity. If NAME had gone against the tide, despite the pressure and influence of these adults of this church, it would have illustrated that despite the influence, we need not conform to the influence of those around us, especially when those around us are wrong. We do not have to conform, weï¿½re not powerless ï¿½ it is a choice.
If NAME had conformed, unable to muster the emotional energy to challenge the crowd, HE/SHE would have revealed only that HE/SHEï¿½s quite normal. In a similar experiment by a psychologist, about 75% of those who were not in on the experiment conformed to the group.
Now this experiment was done with teenagers, but itï¿½s a reality that even adults have to wrestle with conforming to this world.
Why else would Paul admonish in Romans 12:2 ï¿½ ï¿½do not be conformed to this world.ï¿½
Why else would Proverbs tell us in chapter 4:23:
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
We have these admonitions and commands in scripture because we are subject to influence. And because we are subject to influence in almost every area of our lives, we must choose daily what influences we will allow into our lives, and what we will either reject, or be cautious about, or freely receive.
Hereï¿½s a definition of influence: The power to affect, control or manipulate something or someone ; the ability to change the development of fluctuating things such as conduct, thoughts or decisions.
Thereï¿½s another interesting definition I want to look at ï¿½ it relates to astrodynamics
A sphere of influence (SOI) in astrodynamics and astronomy is the spherical region around a celestial body where the primary gravitational influence on an orbiting object is that body. This is usually used to describe the areas in our solar system where planets dominate the orbits of surrounding objects (such as moons), despite the presence of the much more massive (but distant) Sun
Now, letï¿½s for just a moment consider the spiritual implications of this astrodynamic definition of ï¿½sphere of influence.ï¿½
When weï¿½re conforming to the world, we might look at ourselves as moons. Despite the presence of a much more massive, much more powerful Son, a planet which is nearby influences or dominates our orbit, keeping us conforming to an orbit around that planet, rather than the significantly larger influence of the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How does that look in real life? As followers of Christ, we know what the driving influence of our lives should be in this analogy ï¿½ the sun, (or Son) which is the things of God, as outlined in His Word, which tells us all that we need to know about faith and practice.
But the reality is, because of the way we sometimes choose to conduct our lives, there are things, like planets in this analogy, that are closer to us, and these things often have a greater influence on our thinking, and thus on our behavior, than the purity of devotion to Christ.