Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has one of the most loyal and rabid fan bases, who are easily influenced by the sport’s intoxicating affect. Though not a fan, I am amazed by those who are enamored by its entertaining allure. An innovative ministry leader in this industry spoke to me, and she educated me on how she builds relationships at raceway sporting events, earning the right to share the gospel in the process. What a creative way to go to the people and get to know them, so they might come to know Jesus.
A blogger named Amy Martin describes the process of how NASCAR leaders have built their fan base:
Access leads to connection. (Fans are able to sign the actual racetrack.)
Connection leads to relationships. (At all ages.)
Relationships lead to affinity. (You can’t fake this affinity.)
Affinity leads to influence. (There’s a reason so many brands are attracted to NASCAR.)
Influence leads to conversion. (These fans would likely buy anything this driver is selling.)*
*( p. 48, How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie and Associates.)
As we learn how to love like Jesus and enjoy access with Him, we can apply this process of influencing others with our everyday relationships and with new friends we would like to meet. I’ve taken the NASCAR process to develop raving fans and applied it to growing relationships.
Access Leads to Connection
Similar to a NASCAR fan inviting an acquaintance to a race for the first time, perhaps you invite someone you would like to know better to an experience you both would enjoy: a sporting event, training seminar, men or women’s conference, a concert, church, golf, tennis, hiking or a business opportunity. Be willing and generous to invest time and money to grow relational equity. When you give people access to your life, interests and relationships you grow understanding and trust.
Several years ago I hoped to meet a leader who led a family foundation. We had a mutual friend who agreed to set up a meeting for us to get to know one another. Fortunately, another friend, Gary, who I worked with at the time had served our new acquaintance’s father several years before at a mountain resort. This common experience solidified our connection.
Connection Leads to Relationships
The leader of the family foundation, I’ll call him Scott, asked thoughtful questions that revealed his interest in our best practices certification for non-profits and a willingness to personally engage in our year long program. Over the next 12 months we were able to build a relationship during our monthly shared experience of teaching, training and coaching. Growing a relationship takes intentionality.
Relationships, like a tender seedling, require attention and care. Each person must water with time and cultivate with understanding. Over time the relationship takes root and eventually bears fruit. Which leads us to the next progression in gaining influence: relationships lead to affinity.
Relationships Lead to Affinity
What exactly is affinity? Sympathy marked by community of interest: She has an affinity to him because of their common musical interests (Webster’s Dictionary). Dedication to a common interest increases the likelihood for two people to grow closer to one another by getting to know each other. An excuse to hang out together over a worthwhile project grows affinity.
Scott and I were both passionate about helping faith based ministries build organizational capacity so they could most effectively further their God-given mission and vision. We experimented on an executive leadership group model that proved to be a most valuable collaborative process with leaders exchanging ideas, resources and relationships. Scott’s foundation generously provided scholarships and we were able to provide leadership. I knew our affinity had solidified the moment we celebrated our results and discovered ways to improve.
Affinity Leads to Influence
Because I trusted and respected Scott, I was very open to his input on how to make our best practice training and coaching even better. I felt the reciprocal from him. Scott was very interested in our organizational growth plan and the financial and human resources required to advance forward to the next level or two. Our shared interest grew our interest in each other.
You may push back, saying, “Boyd, I don’t have a year to grow affinity with another person or organization, I need help now”. I truly feel your angst, but part of the shift in learning to love like Jesus is to think long-term rich relationships, not short-term expedient ones. After all we can trust God’s timing is best for everyone, and we need to protect ourselves from using people for our own agenda, with only shallow interest in their’s. Long-term relationships expand influence.
Influence Leads to Conversion
Another way to say influence leads to conversion is influence leads to becoming a raving fan. Because of the generosity and practical wisdom of Scott and his family, our team became raving fans of their passion and priorities as a foundation. Instead of just looking to our interests (which we were compelled to follow), we learned how to appreciate the value of what a third generation organization like his had to offer. By taking time to learn from them, we were able to educate our colleagues in ideas we had developed over the years. Everyone was better: We is better than me!
Three years into our relationship, Scott casually asked me one day how the foundation could make a significant investment in Ministry Ventures(which by God’s grace I co-founded in 1999). I explained our vision to repurpose our content for an online learning platform, which resonated with his entrepreneurial DNA. With the foundation’s input we scrubbed our plan, and over the next three years they gave a significant six figure gift for MV to practice what we preached about innovation and growth. The results were stunning with their gift returning 10X!
Relational conversion may be an individual coming to faith in Jesus because of your influence, or an organization enjoying favor from God and people because of your faithfulness to invest for the long-term. This is an example of a process we can follow to pour into others (not expecting anything in return), so they will want to pour into us.
“For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another” (Galatians 5:13, AMP).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me how to serve others, expecting nothing in return, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Application: Who needs my prayers and attention in this season of service?
Related Readings: John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:2