Book Notes | The Business of Belief

bookI recently read a short, fascinating book by Tom Asacker called The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to BelieveWhile written from a business leaders perspective, the application for pastors who preach every week are enormous. Because, let’s be honest, pastors are in the business of belief and seeing the beliefs of people changed.

I think one thing that is easy for pastors to forget is that changing beliefs is hard and an enormous task. We forget that when someone wrestles with Jesus and the implications of following Jesus, what barriers they have and what that will do to their lives.

Here are a few notes from it:

  • Every new product, service, cause and idea must now work overtime to capture people’s attention.
  • Today’s most forward-looking people and organizations are moving beyond attention. They’re acutely aware that it’s not enough to simply have people know about them and their agendas. They need people to choose them, support them, work with them, and recommend them. In other words, they need people to believe.
  • Belief is an incredibly difficult concept to wrap one’s head around because, like fish in water, our heads are swimming in belief. Beliefs touch every facet of our lives, mundane and profound, from the religions we choose to inform our spiritual and moral lives to the products we purchase to make us look.
  • We choose what we choose because we believe in it. And those beliefs are (or were) driven by our desires.
  • Belief is what humans do. Our personal beliefs define our choices, shape our lives and, collectively, determine our futures. Nothing is more important than belief. If you want to change the world, if you want to change your world, if you want to succeed at work, in the marketplace, or in any other social endeavor or organization, belief is your Holy Grail.
  • Beliefs are really nothing more than working assumptions. Most are provisional, conditional and have varying degrees of certainty
  • Reason is simply a tool to help the brain get what it cares about (and to feel good about it).
  • We only see what we’re prepared to see, and what we expect to experience influences what we do experience.
  • Our minds crave consistency in our beliefs and behaviors. We want to appear logical, to ourselves and to others. And when faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort.
  • We don’t really want total control and responsibility. We want guided control—based on an empathetic assessment of our feelings and desires—along with the freedom to create our own meaning, our own story, without external pressure or coercion. What we want is the illusion of control.
  • There is no distinction between what you do and what you desire.
  • We are not computers. We don’t optimize our decisions. We decide, and believe, in order to feel good. And to avoid feeling bad.
  • If we desire something, we’ll be attentive to the evidence that supports it and inattentive to conflicting evidence.
  • Desire drives belief, which motivates people to seek out information and act in certain ways that help them attain those desires.
  • Changing a belief is like crossing a footbridge stretched above a deep chasm; it requires motivation (a reason) and consideration (evidence).
  • Every leader knows that before you can lead people, you have to know where they want to go.
  • Want is not the same impulse as need, nor is it simply a wish or a dream. Want, or desire, is a motivating force which shapes our choices.
  • People don’t venture down an unfamiliar path, unless they can visualize their desired destination.
  • Great leaders simplify the belief process by eliminating difficulties and competing options on our attention. They work really hard to make belief really easy.

The Discomfort the Truth Causes


In his book The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker makes this point:

Our minds crave consistency in our beliefs and behaviors. We want to appear logical, to ourselves and to others. And when faced with evidence which contradicts our beliefs, our minds work to eliminate the psychological discomfort.

This is crucial for pastors to get as they preach on a weekly basis.

Often, the truth that you are preaching will contradict what people sitting their know, believe or want to believe or know.

Here are 3 ways to do this:

  1. State the obvious. Talk about what is clear to everyone in the room. If something seems weird or unusual in the Bible, talk about it. Think about what the Christians believe: God created the world out of nothing, Noah built an ark and the world was covered in rain killing everyone but those in the ark, God speaks through a bush, God becomes human and is born an infant to a virgin, Jesus rose from the dead. That’s just a sampling, but things that seem crazy. When you get to something that seems hard to believe, talk about it. Andy Stanley says, “this gives you credibility with the unchurched.”
  2. Help them through the discomfort. Talk about the difficulty in believing things, what changes the gospel will bring to lives and how difficult change is. Everyone knows change is hard. This is why we hold on to baggage and hurt for so long, it is why people don’t stick with diets and workout programs. Because change hurts. It is uncomfortable. Talk about it, give ways out of it.
  3. Imagine the future. When you apply the bible in a sermon, don’t just talk about how to live it out. Talk about how life will and can be different when this truth is applied. Say something like, “Imagine what life can be like next week, next month if you live this out, if you believe this” and then explain it. Often, people struggle to apply the Bible because they can’t imagine how great life can be if they live it out, they only think in the loss column.


4 Ways to Help People Connect to God


In his book The Business of Belief: How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, Tom Asacker makes this point:

We only see what we’re prepared to see, and what we expect to experience influences what we do experience.

This has enormous implications on church, preaching, atmosphere in a service, etc.

Often, when a worship leader or pastor get on a stage, they expect everyone wants to be there. That everyone has prepared themselves to be there or agrees with everything that is about to happen.

Think for a minute about how different a church service is from anything else you experience in life.

Where else do you stand with a bunch of people you don’t know and sing songs (that you often don’t know)? Where else do you sit and listen to someone talk for 30-60 minutes? Don’t even get me started on the churches that have the “turn around and say hi to someone” moment.

You must as a pastor, help people be prepared for what is coming. You cannot assume they are there or ready for what is about to come.

Here are some ways to do this:

  1. Explain what you are doing. If you sing, tell them why. I’ll often say, “We’re going to sing some songs that we believe to be true.” I’ve just told them what is coming, why we are doing and what they mean. I’ve given them an out. If they don’t believe them to be true, just listen. Also, tell them how long it will be. We always say, “For the next 75 minutes” or “For the next 80 minutes” depending on the week. This lets them know, “I know you are curious as to how long this will last and now you can set your watch.”
  2. Have great signs. Atmosphere and worship start out in the road as people drive up and walk up to your building. Have great signs. They should explain where to enter, the front door, bathrooms, kids space, worship space and food. Your signs should be so good a guest should be able to navigate your church without ever having to ask for help if they want to.
  3. Assure them they don’t have to do anything. Give them an out. More than likely, they’ll take it anyway. But, by giving them an out you also communicate you know how they feel and that it is okay. Pastors, remember this: the New Testament is largely written to churches, filled with Christians. Don’t make those who don’t believe feel guilty if they don’t apply a passage. Yes, you want them to and tell them that. Also say, “You don’t have to do this, but if you do, here’s what you can expect _______.” Cast a vision for how amazing applying the truth of Scripture to your life.
  4. Talk as if they have no idea what you are talking about. This is what The Heath Brothers in their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die call the “curse of knowledge.” Christians and pastors forget what it is like to not understand the Bible. To not know the order of books of the Bible, what the sovereignty of God means, what justification or sanctification mean. Don’t assume everyone knows what you are talking about. If you use a big word (like the ones in the previous line), define them. It takes 10 seconds and if you don’t, you will give everyone who doesn’t know what you are talking about a great excuse to check out.


Tuesday Morning Book Review || To Sell is Human

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others (kindle version) by Daniel Pink.

Let me be honest, I love the work of Daniel Pink. This book is not exception.

Pink starts out by telling us how his book is for more than just salesman. The reality though, is that everyone is in sales. You may not make cold calls or get people to buy things, but you are seeking to motivate people everyday. Whether that is a boss, a child, a spouse or a friend.

For leaders, this concept is enormous, but it is even more important for pastors. Every week, when a pastor preaches, they are seeking to move people. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they seek to help people move from where they are to their next step with God. This takes motivation. According to Pink, this takes sales. While pastors will bristle at this idea, it is also true. Call it motivation or sales, it is the same thing. According to Pink, “The average person spends 40% of their life trying to move others. We’re persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got.”

One of the problems Pink points out that we have when it comes to communicating is that we don’t help people identify the correct problem. This is huge for preaching, helping people see what they could fix. Pastors often answer questions people aren’t asking, and therefore don’t move the people they are preaching to.

Another takeaway for me as a preacher is helping people to see what a truth could look like in their life 5 years from now. I’ve started to say in sermons, “Imagine what your life would be like if you believed ____________.” People are often unmoved, not because they don’t understand something, but because they can’t see the benefit or goodness of something.

Here are a few things that jumped out:

  • One of the most effective ways of moving others is to uncover challenges they may not know they have.
  • To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.
  • The correlation between extraversion and sales was essentially nonexistent.
  • You have to believe in the product you’re selling—and that has to show.
  • Once positive emotions outnumbered negative emotions by 3 to 1—that is, for every three instances of feeling gratitude, interest, or contentment, they experienced only one instance of anger, guilt, or embarrassment—people generally flourished.
  • Next time you’re getting ready to persuade others, reconsider how you prepare. Instead of pumping yourself up with declarations and affirmations, take a page from Bob the Builder and pose a question instead. Ask yourself: “Can I move these people?” As social scientists have discovered, interrogative self-talk is often more valuable than the declarative kind. But don’t simply leave the question hanging in the air like a lost balloon. Answer it—directly and in writing. List five specific reasons why the answer to your question is yes.
  • The problem we have saving for retirement, these studies showed, isn’t only our meager ability to weigh present rewards against future ones. It is also the connection—or rather, the disconnection—between our present and future selves.
  • The third quality necessary in moving others today: clarity—the capacity to help others see their situations in fresh and more revealing ways and to identify problems they didn’t realize they had.
  • We often understand something better when we see it in comparison with something else than when we see it in isolation.
  • So if you’re selling a car, go easy on emphasizing the rich Corinthian leather on the seats. Instead, point out what the car will allow the buyer to do—see new places, visit old friends, and add to a book of memories.
  • Clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.
  • The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.
  • Questions can outperform statements in persuading others.

Overall, a worthwhile book for leaders or preachers.