SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & How and When Does Conversion Occur?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. (excerpted from Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey, Abingdon Press, pp. 140-143).

Does conversion occur in a flash, with miraculous transformations and heavenly encounters?  Does conversion take place over time?  Or perhaps conversion is a stumbling process, where the conversionary experience takes place in what Richard Peace calls “fits and starts.”[i]  Richard Peace, Scot McKnight and others have looked at the New Testament record and conclude that the answer is “all of the above.”[ii]  Let us look at three basic categories.

Sudden Conversion.  Sometimes conversion takes place “in a flash … a sudden point-in-time transformation based on an encounter with Jesus.”[iii]  This is the experience of Saul/Paul in Acts 9, and has became the standard way the evangelical church looks at conversion.[iv]  At the altar sudden and dramatic responses are often expected, door-to-door visits lead to a “prayer of commitment,” and mass rallies end with an appeal to come forward for conversion.[v]  While this may be required to facilitate a person on the verge of a sudden conversionary experience, not all conversions happen in this manner.  Psychologist Lewis Rambo, in an exhaustive look at religious conversion, concludes that “for the most part it (religious conversion) takes place over a period of time.”[vi]  Thus, the evangelical church may be limiting the number of wayfarers she can help by focusing too exclusively on sudden conversion.  

Progressive Conversion.[vii] A closer look at the Gospel of Mark reveals that Mark was describing a different, more gradual paradigm of conversion.  As Peace notes:

“What Mark sought to communicate in his Gospel was the process by which these twelve men gradually turned, over time, from their  culturally derived understanding of Jesus as a great teacher to the amazing discovery that he was actually the Messiah who was the Son of God. In showing how the Twelve turned to Jesus, step-by-step, Mark was inviting his readers to undergo the same journey of conversion.”[viii]

Peace concludes that “what happened to Paul, and what happened to the Twelve was identical in terms of theological understanding, though quite different experientially.”[ix]

Scot McKnight describes how progressive conversion can take place in churches that practice infant baptism.  McKnight states, “for many Christians conversion is a process of socialization,”[x] meaning that nurture is confirmed later by personal affirmation.  For example, an infant baptism or an infant dedication can be seen as a public affirmation that the church community and parents will nurture that child (i.e. via spiritual socialization).  After growing up in this environment of spiritual socialization and religious community, the grown child will be expected to ratify this effort via further instruction (i.e. catechism) and confirmation.  

Liturgical Acts and Conversion.  McKnight also notes that in some liturgical traditions, such as the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, while conversion is experienced, the sacraments are more involved.  Thus, baptism, the Eucharist and “official rites of passage” are where conversionary experiences often take place for “liturgical converts.”[xi]  There is nothing to preclude that God can use such spiritual rites as touchstone experiences where metanoia (repentance) is combined with pistis (faithin order to bring about epistophe (conversion).

Download the chapter here: BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT Spiritual Waypoints 10, 9, 8 & 7 and read more in Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Abingdon Press, 2010). Please remember, if you enjoy the free download please consider supporting the author and the publisher who invested in this book by purchasing a copy.

[i] Charles Kraft, Christian Conversion As A Dynamic Process,” International Christian Broadcasters Bulletin, [Colorado Springs, Colo.: International Christian Broadcasters, 1974], Second Quarter; Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels; Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 6; Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion;” Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993).

[ii] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels

[iii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 6.

[iv] Peace, “Conflicting Understandings of Christian Conversion,” 8-9.

[v] Donald Miller’s analysis of the results of crusade evangelism in the Harvest Crusades with evangelist Greg Laurie discovered that only about 10 percent of the decisions for Christ resulted in long-term changes in personal behavior (Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the new Millennium, Berkley: University of Calif. Press, 1997), 171-172.  However, Sterling Huston’s earlier research on the Billy Graham Crusades suggested the results were six times this (Sterling W. Huston, Crusade Evangelism and the Local Church [Minneapolis, Minn.: World Wide Publishing, 1984]).  Whether these discrepancies were the result of tactics, cultures, samples or eras remains to be researched.  The answer may lie somewhere in between. The ambiguity of these results begs further analysis by researchers. 

[vi] Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion, 165.

[vii] Charles Kraft introduced terminology to distinguish the different types of people that experience sudden conversion or progressive conversion.  On the on hand, Kraft saw people who undergo radical and sudden conversion as usually “first generation Christians” who previously had only been moderately influenced by Christian principles.  On the other hand, Kraft saw “second-generation Christians” as those who were raised in Christian homes and in which “there may be little or no behavioral change evident as a result of the conscious decision to personally affirm one’s commitment to the Christian community in which one has been practicing since birth” (Charles Kraft, Christian Conversion As A Dynamic Process,” International Christian Broadcasters Bulletin, 8.)  While the terms “first” and “second generation Christians” have been widely used, these terms cause some problems. First, Paul’s conversion was certainly radical and sudden (Acts 9), yet he had been practicing a devout lifestyle (Acts 23:6), so in Kraft’s paradigm he should have had a more progressive experience.  In addition, McKnight’s story does not fit with Kraft’s paradigm, for in the interview that concludes this chapter McKnight states that he underwent a radical behavioral change in a progressive sequence.  Thus, the value of Kraft’s insights may be that there are numerous ways that conversion is encountered and that whether a person is a first- or second-generation Christian has some, though limited, affect.  Instead, the emphasis should be upon the fluid role of the Holy Spirit in individualizing conversion to each traveler, for as John 3:7 states, “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God” (The Message).

[viii] Richard Peace, Conversion in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve, 4.

[ix] Ibid., 10.  Some may argue that progressive conversion as described in Mark was necessitated because the Holy spirit had not yet been given at the Day of Pentecost.  While this is a valid critique, Lewis Rambo’s research suggesting that most conversion is progressive (Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion, 165) may indicate that both examples are valid.

[x] Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, 5.

[xi] Ibid., 7.

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP & Three agenda items for your next strategic planning meeting. #HarvardBusinessReview 3STRandLEADERSHIP

Strategic Planning Should Be a Strategic Exercise by Graham Kenny, Harvard Business Review, 10/4/22

… Here are a few pointers to help make your next strategic planning session really “strategic.”

1. Distinguish between operational and strategic plans.

The argument that strategic plans are inevitably not “strategic” is a straw man. Critics conflate strategic and operational plans and then show how strategic plans aren’t strategic. It’s true, operational plans aren’t strategic. The primary focus of a strategic plan is competitiveness. It is designed to respond to change and future opportunities in a way to find advantage. The primary focus of an operational plan is efficiency. Operational plans are designed to roll out strategy via internal department programs developed by, for instance, HR, IT, marketing, and manufacturing.

Take Toyota, for example. A strategic position is decided by Toyota at the corporate level to add electric vehicles to its product range. This is then executed via a production plan rolled out in Toyota’s factories. The first plan is strategic, the second is operational.

2. Don’t think of your strategic plan as fixed.

Few plans ever turn out exactly as drafted. It may seem obvious to state this post-pandemic when every organization on Earth has had to contort itself to survive. But strategic planning’s critics seem to think that strategic planners always assume that the world is standing still — and consequently are doomed to fail in an ever-changing world.

Don’t forget that “strategy” originates from the Greek strategos, which means a general in command of an army. Military chiefs don’t envisage that their plan of attack will remain static after contact with the enemy. Nor should you.

3. Aim for insight.

This is the most difficult shift of all. I’ve often come away from strategic planning sessions with a feeling that we didn’t “nail it.” Not that the clients weren’t happy. They were. I was the one who felt we’d left something “on the table,” so to speak. I’ve come to recognize that my disappointment, if I can call it that, was something I’d now label a lack of insight. What do I mean by that?

It’s that aha moment when the “penny drops” or when you see something with fresh eyes. Should you experience this realization in your strategic planning, appreciate that you’ll be ahead of your competition if you act on it.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2022/10/strategic-planning-should-be-a-strategic-exercise

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP & Three agenda items for your next strategic planning meeting. #HarvardBusinessReview 3STRandLEADERSHIP

Strategic Planning Should Be a Strategic Exercise by Graham Kenny, Harvard Business Review, 10/4/22

… Here are a few pointers to help make your next strategic planning session really “strategic.”

1. Distinguish between operational and strategic plans.

The argument that strategic plans are inevitably not “strategic” is a straw man. Critics conflate strategic and operational plans and then show how strategic plans aren’t strategic. It’s true, operational plans aren’t strategic. The primary focus of a strategic plan is competitiveness. It is designed to respond to change and future opportunities in a way to find advantage. The primary focus of an operational plan is efficiency. Operational plans are designed to roll out strategy via internal department programs developed by, for instance, HR, IT, marketing, and manufacturing.

Take Toyota, for example. A strategic position is decided by Toyota at the corporate level to add electric vehicles to its product range. This is then executed via a production plan rolled out in Toyota’s factories. The first plan is strategic, the second is operational.

2. Don’t think of your strategic plan as fixed.

Few plans ever turn out exactly as drafted. It may seem obvious to state this post-pandemic when every organization on Earth has had to contort itself to survive. But strategic planning’s critics seem to think that strategic planners always assume that the world is standing still — and consequently are doomed to fail in an ever-changing world.

Don’t forget that “strategy” originates from the Greek strategos, which means a general in command of an army. Military chiefs don’t envisage that their plan of attack will remain static after contact with the enemy. Nor should you.

3. Aim for insight.

This is the most difficult shift of all. I’ve often come away from strategic planning sessions with a feeling that we didn’t “nail it.” Not that the clients weren’t happy. They were. I was the one who felt we’d left something “on the table,” so to speak. I’ve come to recognize that my disappointment, if I can call it that, was something I’d now label a lack of insight. What do I mean by that?

It’s that aha moment when the “penny drops” or when you see something with fresh eyes. Should you experience this realization in your strategic planning, appreciate that you’ll be ahead of your competition if you act on it.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2022/10/strategic-planning-should-be-a-strategic-exercise

STORYTELLING & Jeff’s story illustrates why your church website should include life inspiring stories about your ministers & the congregation.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. Researchers have found that if you attach a storyline to a vision statement, then the vision is three times more likely to come about. Take a look at this example. Would you promote Version 1 or Version 2 on a website?

“Does your brand have a great story behind it? If so, tell it,” by Steve Strauss, USA Today, 11/3/22.

Version 1: Jeff had an enviable, cushy Wall Street job that he probably would have stayed at for years had not fate intervened.

One day, Jeff’s boss gave him the assignment of analyzing a new industry. Jeff was amazed by what he learned, namely, that it was growing at an unbelievable 2,300% per year. He had to be part of it. Jeff quit his job and he and his wife packed up the car. While she drove West, Jeff pounded out a business plan to sell goods – first books and later everything – over the newfangled internet.

Compare that to this stoic version of the same facts.

Version 2: Amazon.com is an e-commerce company founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 and based in Seattle, Washington.

I am illustrating these two versions of the same facts about the same businesses because far too many entrepreneurs think of their venture’s story as the latter, i.e., practical facts and dry data, when they should be sharing the former, namely a compelling story, interestingly told.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2022/11/03/brand-storytelling-narrative-behind-your-business/8238969001/

RELIGIOUS SWITCHING & Beginning in the late teen years 31% of Christians become unaffiliated, while 21% of unaffiliated Americans become Christian. This it has resulted in a net flow of millions of Americans from Christianity to unaffiliated. #PewResearch

by Alan Cooperman, Pew Research, 8/29/22.

Earlier this month, Pew Research Center released a study exploring how the religious composition of the United States might change by 2070. One of the conclusions of the study that drew widespread attentionis that Christians – who constituted 64% of the nation’s population in 2020 – may no longer be the majority five decades from now.

But the future course of Christianity in the U.S. is not set in stone. Whether the U.S. will continue to have a Christian majority in 2070 will depend on many factors, including one that was a key focus of the Center’s new study: religious “switching” – that is, voluntary changes in religious affiliation.

Religious switching goes in all directions. It might be a switch from one kind of Christianity to another, from Christianity to another religion, or from Christianity to no religion at all.

Religious switching goes in all directions. It might be a switch from one kind of Christianity to another, from Christianity to another religion, or from Christianity to no religion at all.

Research has shown that religious switching tends to occur when people are younger, typically starting in their late teens. We estimate that between the ages of 15 and 29, 31% of Americans who were raised as Christians become religiously unaffiliated – a group that includes atheists, agnostics or those who describe their faith as “nothing in particular.” (This doesn’t necessarily mean they give up all religious beliefs. Many of these so-called “nones” believe in God or a universal spirit. But by a wide variety of measures of religion and spirituality, they tend to be less religious and less spiritual than Americans who identify with Christianity and other faiths.)

We also estimate that before turning 30, 21% of Americans who were raised with no religious affiliation convert, formally or informally, to Christianity.

The difference between those two percentages – 31% of Christians become unaffiliated, while 21% of unaffiliated Americans become Christian – might not seem large. But the difference actually is huge because of the imbalance in the size of the two groups: Many more Americans are raised as Christians than as “nones.”

The bottom line is that although Christianity is by far the majority faith in the U.S., religious switching – beginning in the late teen years – has resulted in a net flow of millions of Americans from Christianity to unaffiliated.

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/09/29/religious-switching-patterns-will-help-determine-christianitys-course-in-u-s/?

SMALL GROUPS ONLINE & #SaddlebackChurch ‘s Online Pastor Explains How They Grew to 1k Online Small Groups. #strategy

Check out this course that can equip your small group leaders with the relevance, practicality and technology of growing online small groups in the #PostPandemicChurch.

Read more at … https://pastors.com/ask-these-9-questions-before-starting-online-small-groups/

SMALL GROUPS & Even completely arbitrary group membership has a surprisingly strong influence on human behavior.

by Patricia Y. Sanchez, PsyPost, 3/23/22.

Social learning helps humans navigate the world by learning the consequences of actions through the behavior of others. Humans are also quite sensitive to group membership, in that we tend to place ourselves within social groups with which we identify (e.g., gender, race, nationality) and membership in these groups can motivate our beliefs and behaviors. New research published in Psychological Sciencesuggests that people are more likely to use social learning to copy members of their in-group compared to members of their out-group.

Read more at … https://www.psypost.org/2022/03/even-completely-arbitrary-group-membership-has-a-surprisingly-strong-influence-on-human-behavior-62771

SUPERNATURAL & Research finds mystical experiences may be a sign of a healthy mind. #PsychologyToday

by Mark Travers, Psychology Today Magazine, 3/8/22.

… A new study published in the academic journal Psychology of Consciousness explores a fascinating yet remote research corner of psychological science — examining what it is like to have a “mystical experience.” According to the researchers, having a mystical experience, such as feeling like you are part of a higher force and/or temporarily losing touch with time and space, can be a sign of healthy psychological functioning even though it is often thought to be associated with mental illness.

KEY POINTS
  • New research examines what it’s like to have a “mystical experience,” such as feeling like one is part of a higher force.
  • A mystical experience may be a sign of healthy psychological functioning, even though it is often thought to be associated with mental illness.
  • Mystical experiences may be more strongly connected with spiritual intelligence than with schizotypal traits and psychotic symptoms.

Read more at … https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-instincts/202203/how-come-terms-deeply-spiritual-experience?

SUFFERING & Few Americans Blame God or Say Faith Has Been Shaken Amid Pandemic, Other Tragedies. Most U.S. adults say bad things just happen, and that people are often the reason. #Pew #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

Pew Research, 11/23/21.

… The new survey finds that nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) say they believe in God as described in the Bible, and an additional one-third (32%) believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. The combined nine-in-ten Americans who believe in God or a higher power (91%) were asked a series of follow-up questions about the relationship between God and human suffering. (Those who do not believe in God or any higher power were not asked these questions.)

A large majority of U.S. adults (80%) are believers who say that most of the suffering in the world comes from people rather than from God. Relatedly, about seven-in-ten say that in general, human beings are free to act in ways that go against the plans of God or a higher power. At the same time, half of all U.S. adults (or 56% of believers) also endorse the idea that God chooses “not to stop the suffering in the world because it is part of a larger plan.”

Meanwhile, 44% of all U.S. adults (48% of believers) say the notion that “Satan is responsible for most of the suffering in the world” reflects their views either “very well” or “somewhat well,” with Protestants in the evangelical and historically Black traditions especially likely to take this position.

Most Americans say the suffering in the world comes from people – not God

By comparison, relatively few Americans seem to question their religious beliefs because human suffering exists. For instance, 14% of U.S. adults overall (or 15% of believers) affirm that “sometimes I think the suffering in the world is an indication that there is no God.” Results are similar on questions about whether suffering has caused Americans to doubt that God is all-powerful or entirely loving.

In addition, fewer than one-in-five U.S. adults are believers who say they often (3%) or sometimes (14%) get angry with God “for allowing so much suffering.” And relatively small numbers view the suffering in the world as a punishment from God: Just 4% of U.S. adults overall are believers who say “all or most” suffering is a punishment from God, and 18% say “some” of it is. The remainder say that “only a little” (22%) or “none at all” (46%) of the suffering in the world is punishment from God, or they don’t believe in God or any higher power (9%).

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2021/11/23/few-americans-blame-god-or-say-faith-has-been-shaken-amid-pandemic-other-tragedies/

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Stream your services so viewers can watch them on their TVs, not just on their computers.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Do you have a vision of people gathering around a computer screen and watching a church’s worship service? Have you tried it? It works, but some of the power and majesty can seem minimized by a minimal screen. Most would agree this experience would be enhanced by gathering around a larger screen such as a household TV.

Recently, an ice storm made the roads impassable in our area. We began watching our local church online, before realizing our FireTV device might make it easier to participate via a larger household TV. After searching on YouTube for our church, we found that among the (probably) hundreds of congregations with similar names as our church, only a dozen or so offered live streaming on YouTube.

Too often when choosing a streaming platform churches opt for computer-focused streaming options. Instead, to increase your outreach:

  1. Investigate and then use platforms (e.g. YouTube Live, etc.) that allow your services to be easily watched on viewers’ larger screen TVs.
  2. Explain on your webpage how to access the services on larger screen TVs.

WELCOME & # SundayChurchHacks: Don’t exaggerate for online viewers, the size of an onsite audience. Leaders can make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This creates dismay & disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Part of my ongoing research is to visit churches online before I visit them in person to evaluate the online perception versus the onsite reality. One of the greatest discrepancies is in the number in attendance.

Charles (Chip) Arn, a writer, colleague and friend, told me about his experience attending a megachurch with a famous TV ministry that had now shrunk to a few hundred attendees. He noted, “They acted like they were still on TV with thousands in attendance. It not only made me uncomfortable and it gave the impression that they were untrustworthy. They should be themselves.” I noted that, “honesty is what will grow a church, not deception.”

Don’t exaggerate the size of an onsite audience for online viewers. Some leaders make it seem that there are hundreds in attendance, when there may be dozens. This will create dismay and disappointment when an online viewer visits in person.

Sunday Church Hack: When you are streaming, there are hundreds and could be thousands watching. Accept it, pray for them … but don’t hype it.

#SundayChurchHacks

SMALL WINS & “A good many are kept out of service for Christ because they are trying to do some great thing. Let us be willing to do little things. And let us remember that nothing is small in which God is the source.” Attributed to D. L. Moody

“A good many are kept out of service for Christ because they are trying to do some great thing. Let us be willing to do little things. And let us remember that nothing is small in which God is the source.” D. L. Moody, quoted in The Berean Call, Bend, Oregon, March, 1997.

Find more quotes by D. L. Moody at https://moodycenter.org/the-quotable-moody-d-l-moody-quotes/

STRATEGY & Every pastor should learn about these cognitive biases to better assess your situation & to be a better planner. www.ChurchLeadership.Consulting www.Leadership.church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Having read most likely thousands of student papers, the most reoccurring error may be when people attribute the wrong “cause” to an “effect.”

This tendency, to misdiagnose the reason behind something, has been built into our brains because of our many experiences. Such biases to make wrong conclusions about the cause of something are called mental or “cognitive” biases. For an introduction to the 50 most prevalent see this article about Elon Musk.

Elon Musk Thinks Every Child Should Learn About These 50 Cognitive Biases

Would the world be more rational if we did as Musk recently suggested and taught kids about cognitive biases in school?

BY JESSICA STILLMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, INC.COM, 1/2/21.

..,

  1. Foundational Attribution Error. When someone else is late, it’s because they’re lazy. When you’re late, it was the traffic.
  2. Self-Serving Bias.Attributing all your successes to skill or effect and all your screw ups to bad luck or a bad situation.
  3. In-Group Favoritism. We tend to favor those in our in-group versus those who are more different than us.
  4. Bandwagon Effect. Everyone likes to jump on a trendy bandwagon.
  5. Groupthink. Also just what it sounds like. Going along with the group to avoid conflict. The downfall of many a large organization.
  6. Halo Effect. Assuming a person has other positive traits because you observed they have one. Just because someone is confident or beautiful, doesn’t mean they are also smart or kind, for example.
  7. Moral Luck. Assuming winners are morally superior.
  8. False Consensus. Thinking most people agree with you even when that’s not the case.
  9. Curse of Knowledge. Assuming everyone else knows what you know once you’ve learned something.
  10. Spotlight Effect.Overestimating how much other people are thinking about you.
  11. Availability Heuristic.Why we worry more about rare airplane crashes than objectively much deadlier road accidents. People make judgments based on how easy it is to call an example to mind (and plane crashes are memorable).
  12. Defensive Attribution.Getting more upset at someone who commits a crime we feel we could have fallen victim to ourselves.
  13. Just-World Hypothesis. The tendency to believe the world is just, so any observed injustice was really deserved.
  14. Naive Realism. Thinking we have a better grasp of reality than everyone else.
  15. Naive Cynicism. Thinking everyone else is just selfishly out for themselves.
  16. Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect). The bias behind the appeal of astrology. We see vague statements as applying specifically to us even when they apply to most everybody.
  17. Dunning Kruger Effect. One of my personal favorites. This principle states that the less competent you are, the more confident you’re likely to be because you’re too incompetent to understand exactly how bad you are. The opposite is also true — those with greater skills are often plagued with doubt.
  18. Anchoring. The way in which the first piece of information we hear tends to influence the terms or framing of an entire discussion.
  19. Automation Bias. Over relying on automated systems like GPS or autocorrect.
  20. Google Effect (aka Digital Amnesia). You’re more likely to forget it if you can just Google it.
  21. Reactance. Doing the opposite of what you’re told when you feel bullied or backed into a corner. Very topical.
  22. Confirmation Bias. We tend to look for and be more easily convinced by information that confirms our existing beliefs. A big one in politics.
  23. Backfire Effect. Repeatedly mentioning a false belief to disprove it sometimes ends up just making people believe it more.
  24. Third-Person Effect. The belief that others are more affected by a common phenomenon than you are.
  25. Belief Bias. Judging an argument not on its own merits but by how plausible we think its conclusion is.
  26. Availability Cascade. The more people believe (and talk about) something the more likely we are to think it’s true.
  27. Declinism. Romanticizing the past and thinking we live in an age of decline.
  28. Status Quo Bias. People tend to like things to stay the same, even if change would be beneficial.
  29. Sunk Cost Fallacy (AKA Escalation of Commitment). Throwing good money (or effort) after bad to avoid facing up to a loss.
  30. Gambler’s Fallacy. Thinking future probabilities are affected by past events. In sports, the hot hand.
  31. Zero-Risk Bias. We prefer to reduce small risks to zero rather than reduce risks by a larger amount that doesn’t get them to zero.
  32. Framing Effect. Drawing different conclusions from the same information depending on how it’s framed.
  33. Stereotyping. Just what it sounds like — having general beliefs about entire groups of people (and applying them to individuals whether you know them or not).
  34. Outgroup Homogeneity Bias. Seeing the diversity within the groups to which you belong but imagining people in groups to which you don’t belong are all alike.
  35. Authority Bias. Putting too much stock in authority figures.
  36. Placebo Effect. This isn’t strictly a cognitive bias according to Musk’s graphic, but still useful to know. If you think something will work, you’re likely to experience a small positive effect whether it really does or not.
  37. Survivorship Bias. We remember the winners and forget about the many, invisible losers. Big in startups.
  38. Tachypsychia. How exhaustion, drugs, or trauma mess with our sense of time.
  39. Law of Triviality (AKA Bike-Shedding). Giving excessive weight to trivial issues while ignoring more important ones.
  40. Zeigarnik Effect. Uncompleted tasks haunt our brains until we finish them.
  41. IKEA Effect. We tend to overvalue things we had a hand in creating. (In my experience not true of Billy bookcases but still…)
  42. Ben Franklin Effect. We tend to think more positively about people once we’ve done a favor for them.
  43. Bystander Effect. Again, not strictly a cognitive bias but important. Describes how people are less likely to take responsibility to act if they’re in a crowd.
  44. Suggestibility. Seen most often in children, this is when we mistake an idea or question someone else said for your own memory.
  45. False Memory. Mistaking something you imagined for a memory.
  46. Cryptomnesia. The opposite of the one above. Thinking a true memory is something you imagined.
  47. Clustering Illusion. The tendency to “see” patterns in random data.
  48. Pessimism Bias. Always seeing the glass as half empty.
  49. Optimism Bias. Always seeing the glass as half full.
  50. Blind Spot Bias. The bias that makes us think we don’t have as many biases as other people. You do.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/elon-musk-cognitive-biases.html

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & #SundayChurchHacks: As a staff, review together the previous weekend’s streamed service. When all leaders are involved, corrections can be made quickly. Remember, missteps can inadvertently give online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As part of most consultations I analyze the online and onsite services. I then provide a confidential report to the senior leader or executive leadership team. On many occasions I find that online services have become an afterthought, inadvertently giving online attendees a less than fulfilling experience.

Solution:

Each week as a staff, review the previous weekend’s streamed service. Often churches use videos to augment the sermon and worship. Unfortunately, many times the videos are not viewable online. This inadvertently gives online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class. Such missteps can easily be overcome by a weekly staff review of the streamed service. And if all leaders are involved in the review, corrections can be made quickly.

For more Sunday Church Hacks:

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & A short video churches can embed online to share the “4 Steps to Peace with God”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Over 30 years of consulting has taught me that churches whose congregants know how to share their conversion story and Biblical Scriptures that accompany it, I’m much more likely to grow. This to me is because, as Donald McGavran and John Wesleyboth emphasized, that spiritual transformation or “conversion” must be at the center of every congregant’s explanation of the Good News.

I’ve suggested in the book “Cure for the common church” and the book “The healthy church,” that church planning should include that every congregant  understand the basic scriptures regarding spiritual transformation. I’ve also suggested that pastors preach a 5 week series before Easter, during which each of the four weeks before Easter covers a different one of the so-called “Four steps to peace with God” or “Four spiritual laws.”

Also, check out these tools:

Another helpful idea is to embed on the first page of every church website this video the following video.

http://downloads.cbn.com/widgets/stepstopeace.swf

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 4 waypoints I use to explain salvation & conversion

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/22/18.

As my clients, colleagues and mentees know … I believe every person should be ready to explain the Good News at any time. I’ve created a short version based upon the most popular presentations (such as the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws and the Four Steps to Peace with God). The 4 Waypoint presentation is a work in progress, but here it is:

(intro.) Think of life as a journey, it’s easy to do. You are going from Point A to Point B, etc. These are called “waypoints.” Here are the 4 waypoints God wants you to encounter.

1. God loves you & wants to give you eternal life.

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. But our poor choices have wrecked our relationship with Him and doomed us.

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3. Only Jesus can get us back in a right relationship w/ God.

(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(John 14:6) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

4. Accept His forgiveness & start living a full and eternal life. 

(Acts 16:31) Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

(John 10:10) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

For other Good News presentation tools: CLICK HERE.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

SOCIAL MEDIA & Going to church in virtual reality: examples, ideas & cautions

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D.,  I once was skeptical about the depth of community that could be created online. But having taught graduate courses online (as well as onsite) for over 20 years, I’ve come to believe online community can be very personable and deep.

And so, I’ve come to see online churches as another campus or venuethrough which to spread the Good News. Granted, it still has its weaknesses as does every type of venue, but it also has a potentiality that the strategic leader must not overlook.

7 weaknesses I have identified of online venues include (but also often occur in live venues):

  1. Hubris that comes from being personality-driven
  2. Focus on receiving and not giving
  3. Accountability eclipsed by entertainment
  4. Technology drives expenditures
  5. Disenfranchised continue to be marginalized/ignored
  6. Reconciliation takes more effort
  7. Spiritual transformation is downplayed

Recently I had the opportunity to pull together speakers for the annual conference of the Great Commission Research Network. These were speakers who had experience leading online churches. You can find more information from the conference at these links:

SOCIAL MEDIA & Questions to stimulate discussion on how churches can more effectively utilize social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA & #NathanClark the leader of one of the nation’s first online communities tells the best thing a small church can do to connect & minister online

In addition one of my students from Kingswood University in Canada has started a church with her husband that includes an online service. Find more info about their multiplication strategy here: SOCIAL MEDIA & How a Toronto church plant uses gaming site Twitch to create online bible studies & community

Finally, here is a good video from CNN that gives a introduction to online churches.//fave.api.cnn.io/v1/fav/?video=us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme&customer=cnn&edition=domestic&env=prod

You can also view the CNN video here: https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme

SERMONS & Here’s the average length of sermons & keywords used according to Pew Research’s analysis of 50,000 sermons.

“The Digital Pulpit: A Nationwide Analysis of Online Sermons” by Pew Research, 12/16/19.

… This process produced a database containing the transcribed texts of 49,719 sermons shared online by 6,431 churches and delivered between April 7 and June 1, 2019, a period that included Easter.2 These churches are notrepresentative of all houses of worship or even of all Christian churches in the U.S.; they make up just a small percentage of the estimated350,000-plus religious congregations nationwide. Compared with U.S. congregations as a whole, the churches with sermons includein the dataset are more likely to be in urban areas and tend to have larger-than-average congregations (see the Methodologyfor full details).

The median sermon scraped from congregational websites is 37 minutes long. But there are striking differences in the typical length of a sermon in each of the four major Christian traditions analyzed in this report: Catholic, evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant and historically black Protestant.3

Catholic sermons are the shortest, at a median of just 14 minutes, compared with 25 minutes for sermons in mainline Protestant congregations and 39 minutes in evangelical Protestant congregations. Historically black Protestant churches have the longest sermons by far: a median of 54 minutes, more than triple the length of the median Catholic homily posted online during the Easter study period.

Researchers also conducted a basic exploration of sermons’ vocabulary. Several words frequently appear in sermons at many different types of churches – for instance, words such as “know,” “God” and “Jesus” were used in sermons at 98% or more of churches in all four major Christian traditions included in this analysis.4

Christian traditions share common language, but also possess their own distinctive phrases

This computational text analysis also found many words and phrases that are used more frequently in the sermons of some Christian groups than others.

For instance, the distinctive words (or sequences of words) that often appear in sermons delivered at historically black Protestant congregations include “powerful hand” and “hallelujah … come.” The latter phrase (which appears online in actual sentences such as “Hallelujah! Come on … let your praises loose!”) appeared in some form in the sermons of 22% of all historically black Protestant churches across the study period. And these congregations were eight times more likely than others to hear that phrase or a close variant. Although the word “hallelujah” is by no means unique to historically black Protestant services, this analysis indicates that it is a hallmark of black Protestant churches.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2019/12/16/the-digital-pulpit-a-nationwide-analysis-of-online-sermons/