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.

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.