Imprinting… the Power of your Influence on a New Believer’s Life

by | May 12, 2023 | Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Planting, Discipleship

Ducks and geese and Christ-followers. They have a lot to do with one another. “Imprinting” is the natural phenomenon that happens when a duckling or gosling begins to naturally follow its mother as soon as it is hatched.
A good friend of mine hatched a clutch of geese one spring (for all wordsmiths out there, isn’t that just a fantastic word – “Clutch” – try to use that a couple of times today if you can!). He didn’t understand the principle of imprinting, unfortunately.

Innocently enough, he was the first moving object these cute little critters first saw. At first, as they followed him around his yard in Spokane, Wash., it was fun, but by the end of the day, he picked up on the pattern. These little guys thought he was their “Mama” for real. Where he walked, they walked. When he drank from the hose, they, too, wanted to drink from the hose. At the end of each night, he would go into the house, and they would sleep on the steps, just waiting for him to emerge the next morning for another day of following him around the yard.


Within a week, the story came to a screeching halt.


Tragically, one day when he drove off to the mall, they followed him down the street, and several of the goslings were hit by cars … you don’t want to know the rest of the story.
The imprinting phenomenon isn’t confined to just geese and ducks. There is something in the human heart that believes that what we first hear as believers as “normal” is the baseline truth that all truths will be compared to in the following years and decades as believers.

It takes significant “unteaching” for us to shake off imbalanced influences we received early on as new believers.


It’s much like a first kiss. That kiss, as awkward as it may have been, will stand out in our minds as the one by which all other kisses will be compared to in our minds.

That being true (if you are a veteran pastor and think about this principle, I believe you will find there is a lot of merit to this), there is a lot riding on the version of the “Christ-following life” that you present to people under your influence each week as you teach and lead.

No wonder Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy, “Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted!” (1 Tim. 4:16 The Message) There is enormous power in the influence that comes through teachers who stand before a crowd on a weekend who have communication gifts. They/you sound believable! God’s Spirit is resting upon you, even if you may not be presenting everything in perfect balance (who is?) The issue isn’t whether we are teaching something false, of course; it’s a question of “Are we adequately challenging our people?”

Watchman Nee penned a powerful book from behind bars in China 50 years ago. I love the title – The Normal Christian Life. It is vital that we all define as clear as a bell, “What is normal here?”


May I suggest a couple of things that are universal for all Christ-followers?


You teach this consistently, and you will change the atmosphere of your church. Growth will follow – I’ve seen it in the 600 churches I have coached in the past few years. 85% of them began to move from being either plateaued or shrinking to growing within 90 days by changing their teaching/definition.

1.      Love-based lives – growing that way each week more and more. Not fear-based living.

2.      Practical in our love – we show generosity in lots of ways each day – and we as leaders model the way forward in that…
3.      We hunger and thirst for more and more of Christ – we walk in an unquenchable thirst for Jesus – through his word, through listening to him, step by step each day… he is #1… and #2 is so far behind we can’t see it even with the help of binoculars!
I pray this helps 🙂

Read More Blog Posts by Steve Sjogren

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