EP 151 – BRAIN SCIENCE AND CHANGE RESISTANCE
Why is change so difficult to accept? Especially by churches who are steeped in decline? We may need to consider how we’re wired up and what we think. In this episode the guys talk about brain science, group think and what we need to know about it all as Replanters. Dial it up, sit right down and let us know what you think.
What do we need to know about Brain
- Your experiences shape your brain and your reactions
- Habits and Responses become hardwired into your brain
- Your brain has a natural negativity (protective) bias
- Thinking is contagious
- Remapping a thought pattern is possible but difficult, time consuming
Church Application for Replanters/Revitalizers
- Some congregants are fearful
- Church traditions are hardwired in the congregations collective conscience and not easily disrupted
- Congregations are hyper vigilant regarding potential threats to their existence
- Remaining Members in a deeply declined church will likely have the same mindset
- Changing the existing group-think is possible but will be difficult and time consuming
It’s not too late to sign up for the Replant Summit in ATL, we’d love to see you there!
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp now in North Carolina at the beautiful campus of Southeastern Baptist, theological seminary Bible. I hope you’re ready for the next
Bob Bickford: episode. Jimbo. I am ready, but I’m play and hurt.
JimBo Stewart: Play and
Bob Bickford: hurt. Yeah. Talk to me about that Jim bar. I was walking Daisy P this morning. Okay.
With Barb. And I got stung by a B in the Achilles.
JimBo Stewart: Oh, in the Achilles heel, in the Achilles
Bob Bickford: heel. That’s rough. Um, so if, if you were watching you, would’ve had it. Would’ve been interesting. So. I am Daisy got the zoomies for those that if you have dogs or you don’t, do you, do you know what zoomies are? I have no idea what a zoomie is when a dog just decides I’m gonna expend a lot of energy right now by running about and being excited.
Okay. My kids
JimBo Stewart: get that. Okay.
Bob Bickford: So you don’t have ’em on a leash, do you? No. All right. Well good. So Daisy, P’s got the zoomies this morning at the end of our walk, which is kind of strange because she usually is kind of tired at the end of the walk. She gets the zoomies, so she’s just hauling around, just running around and she’s, she [00:01:00] evidently Jimbo stirred up a pocket of bees that were on some Clover.
Oh. And while she’s got zoomies, we’re laughing about it. And then I step in the pocket of bees. and so I get stung by one of them. So Daisy’s got zoomies, I start screaming and Barbara’s like, what, what what’s going on? What’s going on? So you got this dog, that’s going crazy. You got me screaming out agony, and then you got my wife.
Who’s saying what’s going on? So I’m playing a little bit hurt
JimBo Stewart: tonight. Yeah. I mean, I would’ve enjoyed watching it. I think from a. Oh, oh, the safe distance from the bees.
Bob Bickford: Yep. Yep. So here we are. Southeastern. Yeah. So what are we doing here at Southeastern? Well,
JimBo Stewart: we are speaking at the fourth annual AMS conference here at Southeastern Baptist, theological seminary at the invite of our great friend, the missiologist, the original, the original boot camp methodologist, ke yeah.
Dr. Keel and cook. And, uh, who’s now like the boss man of the whole mission center and so excited to get to hang out with. Uh, we [00:02:00] got to eat some good seafood tonight with our buddy Walker Armstrong. Who’s been on here, the velvet hammer and Josh Ellis, who, uh, painfully pointed out to us that he has yet to be a guest.
Well, he was on with Kelan. Yeah, he was on with Keele. He said that in count, cuz it was mostly Kela
Bob Bickford: talking, but well he was Keely’s boss at the time. So he could have told Kelan to shut up. He could
JimBo Stewart: have, he still could.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, he can. he’s at the union Baptist Associa. We really love Josh and. Had a great seafood time at, at, uh, what was it called?
JimBo Stewart: yeah. Yeah. And we had, uh, char grilled oysters, which I’ll tell you, man. I was, I was curious and, uh, I was let down, it was, I have to agree. Uh, charcoal, oysters. Once you had ’em in new Orleans, it’s really hard to have ’em anywhere else, but the shrimp and grits was
Bob Bickford: pretty fantastic. Yeah.
Stuff. Mahi was good. So for those of you, uh, foodies, uh, north Carolinian, pastors and, and, uh, SES guys, just check out uh shuckers. Yeah, give it a shot, not
JimBo Stewart: the charcoal [00:03:00] oysters, but go for everything else. yeah. And if you get a waiter named vent or Ben. Tell him, we said, Hey, , Hey, one of the things that, uh, we’re gonna talk to these guys about that, or you’re gonna talk to these guys about at this conference that I think connects to our previous episodes.
So our previous episode, we talked about how revitalization is always possible because with God, all things for possible, but it’s not always probable mm-hmm . Um, and there are a lot of factors as to why. Is is a true thing, but one of the things I think that makes it not always as probable. Is an ingrained mindset that happens with us over time in kind of mission drift.
And, uh, there are things that happen in our brain, even with that in, in group think and how we, we all end up kind of aligning together. And as the mission drift happens, it becomes a corporate thing. And, and so there’s kind of a mindset that has to happen. If, if a church is going to really see [00:04:00] any kind of significant renewal that’s missing in a lot of churches.
Bob Bickford: absolutely. So this is part of the talk I’m actually giving tomorrow. So this podcast comes out on Wednesday. So, uh, tomorrow, Tuesday here I’ll be talking. How do you have a leadership mindset or developing a leadership mindset towards revitalization or replanting? Now we’ll be primarily talking to AMS leaders doms, but I think this really would be helpful for pastors as well to understand.
So, um, this all comes from, uh, originally what spurred this idea on, uh, from me Jimbo and thinking about change in brain science is one. I was doing a consultation for a church about five people. and, uh, bottom line, they, they loved our advice. They said, thank you. They said, we’re gonna meet about it and pray about it.
and then they sent us an email back that said, thank you for explaining all of the courses of options and how difficult, uh, revitalization would be. We feel led after having a discussion on Sunday night that we’re just gonna. Stay the course mm-hmm [00:05:00] right. So you have five members all over 75 plus. Yeah.
They’re just Jimbo. They’re just gonna stay after it. Yeah. And so I left that going. That’s not the first time I’ve had that conversation, but what is it about the thinking of those church members and then what is it about the way I present, you know, future options that seems to be disconnecting
JimBo Stewart: well, and I think an important thing is for our listeners.
So many of our listeners, when we talk to ’em will share. It frustrations in the churches they’re leading like this mm-hmm and they’ll feel like they’re all alone. Yep. So I think one thing is understand it’s not unique to your situation. You’re not alone in this. Uh, this is, this is a pretty prevalent problem in dying churches.
When you share this story, amongst people who are revitalizing churches, replanting churches, and people who are helping those people through cons consulting and coaching men, you could start to share war stories and spend all. Share sharing more stories from this. So what is it, what is it about the brain [00:06:00] that makes this so difficult?
Bob Bickford: Yeah, so I, I started doing some research and read a book that, uh, was super helpful book that you read and recommended. Uh, it’s called the other half of church talking about how brain science and stagnation, uh, gets set into a congregation. And so doing that, doing some online research team, there’s, there’s about five things that I came up with in terms.
these are things that we need to know about how people think, and we need to know about what they do in terms of just brain and brain science. So the first one is this is not gonna be, this is not gonna be earth shattering, but I think it’s gonna be said in ways that will be helpful for the application, for the leader, uh, in a replant or a revitalization.
The first thing is your experiences shape your brain and your reactions, right? So Jimbo, you and I both have things that we’re afraid of. Mm-hmm and that we’re fearful, fearful about, or we’re hesitant. Around. So whatever that is for me, it’s snakes jumbo. I can’t stand snakes. I had a bad experience when I was a young kid fishing with my dad and [00:07:00] we were fishing off a, a rock dam and there were tons of water BNS around.
So I have always been fearful of snakes. It probably didn’t help that my dad said like run. So I’m afraid of snakes, but there’s a lot of things that I’m not afraid of. Right. And, uh, and people in churches are fearful. Of a lot of things. And so if you’re working with senior adults, they’re going to have had experiences, maybe previous revitalization or replant pastors mm-hmm
Some experiences they had with them, maybe a, a Dom or an AMS leader, maybe a church consultant that had brought some, you know, new ideas and it created a, a sense of fear for them. Right. So they’re, they’re afraid. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: The, the church that I, I pastored, uh, was really scared of. Some sort of like charismatic takeover.
Oh. And it took me a while to figure out. And so one of them was telling me from, from their version of reality, from their perception of reality, one [00:08:00] of their pastors had grown the church and it had started to grow and it’s heyday and really become a, a pre sizeable church. And then he went off to some conference and he came back and went full blown, charismatic.
That was their, but tambourines and banners in the field. Well, that’s all they. So I did all they said is he went full blown charismatics. I was like, oh wow, what kind of conference did he go to? That would change him so quickly. Not an am conference. well, so I started to ask people who were there during that time, and here’s all that happened.
He went to a purpose driven life conference and he came back and he rose, he raised his hands, oh my gosh. In worship. And he encouraged others to raise their hands in worship. And, but here’s the deal, their interpretation to that was like that this was a really bad thing. Well, and here’s, I had no idea. So I come in and I’m like super expressive Jimbo and I’m like raising my hands and swaying back and forth and clapping every once in a while.
And I’m probably giving him an aneurysm. Like they’re scared to death. What is [00:09:00] this guy gonna do? And so their experiences had given them great fear and I didn’t even know what I was walking into.
Bob Bickford: There you go. So, perfect example of the challenge that we face when we don’t know the experience, so good dialogue, good conversation.
Here’s another one, uh, that we need to know about how people process things, how the brain works, habits and responses become hardwired into your. Right. So Jimbo, we, we do a certain set of actions or we have a certain. Response. And we have that over and over it, it creates a groove or a neural pathway in your brain.
So you do it all the time, right? Mm-hmm , if you have a door at your house that sticks a certain way, and the first time you try to open it, you know, that you don’t realize what’s going on. And, and so finally you realize, oh, I’ve gotta push down on the doorknob to open. Right. Yeah. And that gets said in your brain.
And so when you walk over to that door, you don’t even think about it anymore. You just push down on the doorknob [00:10:00] and open that up. Like, for me, when I’m visiting my mom, which I did recently, she has a, a small car. And so I have to, because I’m a taller guy, there’s a certain way they have to hold my head when I get in that car.
Mm-hmm right. So here’s the deal. Churches have the same people in churches have the same kind of response. To, uh, Sunday morning or worship or guest preachers or the Dom who comes to visit them and have a meeting with them, they have a certain response that just becomes part of their history. So the, the challenge is that your repeated habits and thoughts just get set in your mind.
And so it’s really hard to break out of those things. There was
JimBo Stewart: an article. Uh, I was just remember, as you were saying, Uh, they came out several years ago called change your die. And it was a medical research study on when people had major heart issues and had bypasses and they went to the doctor and the doctor [00:11:00] said, look, your is bypassed.
But if you don’t change your behavior, you’re gonna die. Mm-hmm . If, if you don’t change your eating habits, things like that, you’re gonna die. So they started to study. How many of them actually changed their behavior? 90% did not. Yeah. 90% said how to bypass. This has gotten serious. I, I hear you clearly. If I don’t change my habits, I will.
and they just kept eating the way that they were eating.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Before people like them some long John silvers. Yes, sir. .
JimBo Stewart: Yes, sir. And, and so it just, it stays with, I mean, it’s really, really hard mm-hmm to, to break habits and, and
Bob Bickford: rhythms. Here’s the next one? Your brain has a natural negativity bias or a protective bias.
So we want things to be stable. We want things to be predictable, even those who like a lot of change, want it within a certain amount of parameters. Yeah. There’s every, there’s something about us that when there’s a new stimulus, [00:12:00] there’s a new idea, a new thought, a new way of doing something. We go, I don’t know, man.
Like, I, I just want things to be the way they are because we crave stability. Right. And it represents something for us. And so I, I think one of the things that is very true about a declined church is there it’s the same. It’s been the same for years and years and years. And so if a new pastor’s listening, a new, a new boot camper is trying to bring some change in.
He’s just gotta. That, that change, whatever it is, it could be something very positive. It could be viewed as something negative. And then here’s the next one thinking is contagious. So one of the research articles that I read said that if we are around happy people, we tend to be happy for around depressed people.
We tend to be depressed and it went into health habits. If you are a person who struggles with eating and you hang around with people who struggle with eating, then you’re all gonna struggle with eating because our thinking is contagious. And I’ve sat in a, in a [00:13:00] meeting with, uh, folks in, in this meeting with this church that I, I had spoke about when we were asking this simple question of, Hey, how would your church, if it had kept up.
The times and the community and the changing face of the community. If you were reaching young people today, how would your church look different? Hmm. The majority of those folks could say how they thought the church would look different if they had stayed, you know, initially active and were reaching young people and kids and families.
But when they listed out all of those things, they didn’t like. Yeah, they didn’t, that’s not the way they wanted the church to be. Yeah. Right. And so that thinking had become contagious within that church.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think it’s so difficult and we don’t need to underestimate how hard that is for them. I, I would reference back to, we did the episode on the emotional cycle of change.
I think that would apply to this part of the conversation that we’re having. Um, [00:14:00] and so I, I would go back and listen to that and think about that. But even something I said a lot of episodes ago, Think about little things in your life as they change and how they frustrate you and think about how that, that grows exponentially as you get older.
And I was telling you recently, Bob, there’s a, there’s a monthly pastoral cohort. I go to in a, in a church in our city and, uh, it’s a life giving moment for me every month and I love it. And I have this pattern of there’s a local coffee shop right across the street from this church. So I usually go about an hour, two hours.
Go sit down and read and do some work and just have a little time to myself with a good cup of coffee. And then I walk over to the church. Well, a couple months ago, I go for my cohort meeting and the local coffee shop is closed. And I was surprised at how much that upset me. Like that really frustrated me that my coffee shop was like, did they not know the rhythm that I have monthly?
I mean, surely my monthly business was enough to keep this [00:15:00] place open and, and they. Did not care. They disregarded all my needs and they shut down. Absolutely. And it really frustrated me, but I try to hold onto moments like that on purpose and think. I was kind of frustrated with that, but what if every store I love has closed or changed and every process of how you do anything has changed.
And the only thing constant in my life were Sunday mornings. And it was like a refuge for me. Like it was like my safe place, the one place where everything stayed the same and all of a sudden, some guys coming in here and telling me we gotta change everything. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: That’s definitely hard. Absolutely.
Absolutely. Jim Jimbo, was this after you turned 40 or was this before you turned 40? This
JimBo Stewart: was before, shortly before 40.
Bob Bickford: Okay. Yeah. All right. Well, it just gets worse when you get older
and I have to turn the radio down while I’m trying to find the directions. So from the
JimBo Stewart: GPS, [00:16:00] all knows my shoulder’s been hurting since the day I turned 40, but .
Bob Bickford: Yes, I hear it. Here’s the last one, uh, in thinking about what do we need to know about the. uh, we talked about the neural pathways. We talked about ingrained thoughts that just are repetitive.
Uh, and they just get stuck in our minds. Here’s the, here’s the truth. Remapping, a thought patterns PO is possible, but it’s very difficult and it’s time consuming. Mm. Right. So if you’ve ever tried to change a habit, if you’ve ever tried to form a good habit, you’ll know that that if you have an ingrained habit, like let’s just say, you know, um, Jimbo years ago, Um, when I was very young, I used to enjoy a good nacho plate at the end of the day.
Right. Okay. Now, um, you know, just get some cheese, some shredded cheese, get some jalapenos on there, get some good tortilla chips and I would watch, you know, the news and then Seinfeld and I would enjoy. What my kids affectionately termed as the nightly nacho, the nightly nacho nightly nacho . [00:17:00] I loved it, but Jimbo, the nightly nacho started not loving me.
Yeah. I started, I, I, I crossed that threshold of when there the length size of your pants and the way size when, when they’re the same, you’re still okay. But when the way size. Larger than your length in your pants, you might need to reduce the nightly nacho. I don’t know. I don’t
JimBo Stewart: know that my waist size has ever been
I dunno if that just means I’m fat or I have long legs or both,
Bob Bickford: but you’re just sturdy, Jim, but you’re. Hey, so here’s, here’s some research in London, they did, uh, a research paper and they said this and this, this might not encourage our boot camp listeners who are working with, uh, churches, but it said this, that it takes on average, about 66 days.
Of repetition to form a habit, right? Which changes a neural pathway. Uh, but that can vary from person to person. And so some people [00:18:00] Jimbo can change habits in little as 18 days. And others may, may take as long as 254 days of repetition right
JimBo Stewart: now in pastoring. And this sounds like a joke. This is a legitimate question.
Those 254 days, is that 254 Sundays? Or is that 254 consecutive? Cause I feel like changing the habit requires some consecutive things. And so like, I, I hear that. I think that’s four years worth of Sundays. I mean, and if you think about it, sometimes that’s how long it takes for some people. I wonder, I mean, I, I say that it sounds kind of funny, but legitimately is that like 250 Sundays?
Like it’s gonna take you yeah. 250 Sundays to get people to change.
Bob Bickford: Well, possibly if you only use the pulpit as the, there you go. The prime motivator. So there you go. And we’re talking about table ministry and platform ministry, right. So you’ve gotta have both, right? Yeah. And so this is, this is really key.
So, um, man, it’s [00:19:00] just gonna take a long time. So I wanna say this in, in. To, to our boot campers one, it’s gonna take a long time. So you should be posi like, feel like, okay, like that’s good news. It’s TA it takes a long time to change, which is, which is good news, but it’s also bad news, especially if you’re impatient and your pace preferred pace of change is, is, uh, a lot faster.
So. How do we make church application of all this brain stuff? Well, let’s look at a couple simple things. First is you just need to know that some congregations are fearful, bad experiences get stuck in the mind. And so they may be feeling frustrated. And I think your illustration about being charismatic, being afraid of charismatic takeover and yeah.
They just perceived your exuberance in worship as something that could be what they did not want to experience again. Yeah. Another thing is church traditions are hardwired in the congregation’s collective conscience. And they’re not easily disrupted mm-hmm, so tradition, whether that’s a Christmas thing [00:20:00] or an Easter thing or an outreach thing.
Um, maybe they have a, a pastor who preaches a, uh, a particular way and so, or does a particular kind of ministry. And so they just think, well, You’re a pastor. You should probably do that too. And it may something that’s not in your skill set or something you’re not passionate about. And it may be an expectation.
That’s just, there’s a hardwired thought. Yeah. So that can be a challenging thing. Another thing is that the congregations are often hypervigilant regarding potential threats to their existence. Right. So man, every time Jimbo, again, going back to the, the, one of the fears that I’ve had lifelong is snakes.
Like whenever we’re out in the woods, whenever it’s fall and the leaves are on the ground, whenever I’m taking wood out of the, the place where I stack it to burn it in my fire pit, I’m always hyper vigilant. I’m like, you know, moving CLO, moving, careful looking and just being very cautious churches the same way.
They’re, they’re gonna be hyper vigilant to, [00:21:00] to something. Disrupts a preferred status quo, which they don’t sense necessarily as a status quo, but they, they see it as something that is stable in their mind. They.
JimBo Stewart: A lot of ’em I’ve seen in their mind are they feel like they’re protecting the church. Mm-hmm they like, they’re protecting the church from you coming in and changing everything.
And then, and then leaving, like they’re part of their fear is that you’re gonna come in, do things just because it’s new and, and cool in your mind. And there’s not real deep strategy or, and, and conviction behind it. And then you’re gonna. Move to something else new once they get used to that. Yeah. And so they feel like they’re protecting the church by going, no, I’m not gonna let you do this.
Mm-hmm and I’m gonna, I’m gonna be the gatekeeper and protect this church.
Bob Bickford: I think that’s a, and, and some there’s some of that mindset’s not bad. No. Right. If you’re just trying the new flavor of this and that. Yeah. And trying to, to, you know, just shake things up. Yeah. If that’s not just perception,
JimBo Stewart: if that’s reality.
Then that’s, that’s not a good
Bob Bickford: [00:22:00] move. No, no. So you do need to have thought and strategy and you need to thought carefully and critically about any changes that you introduce, not just change for change state. Um, here’s another one. The remaining members in a deeply declined church will likely have the same mindset.
You know, churches, families start to think alike. Mm-hmm churches start to think alike. And so here’s a reality that makes this one very D. Most of the folks who are willing to try new things and try to cover some new ground in terms of ministry application, they may not be in the church any longer. They may have grown frustrated and they may have tried, and they may have realized I we’re just not gonna change our mind collectively as a church.
And so they may have left. So what you’re left with is a group of people who think alike just alike. Mm-hmm about whatever it is that is. That could be happening in the church. So the last one I would share is changing the existing group think is possible, but it’s gonna be really [00:23:00] difficult and it’s gonna be time consuming.
Here’s something that I struggle with Jim. As a person who spends time around the table with churches that are considering their future. One of the things I wanna do is I, I just want to go in and say, you know what, like here’s the charts and graphs. Here’s your trend lines. Here’s your history. I did some surveys here.
Here’s some of the things that you guys talked about in your history that are painful. Here’s some opportunities that are ahead of you in terms of the demographics. And there are people to reach around, you know, uh, in your community, all those sorts of things. And I just wanna lay all that before them in a meeting.
Maybe two meetings, Jimbo. Yeah. And I’m ready for them to go. Oh my gosh. Thank you. Right. Thanks for showing up, like thank you so much for giving us all that helpful information. We are ready to do whatever it takes to help this church move forward. It’s not usually how that goes. Uh, no, it’s not how that goes at all.
so . So you gotta ask yourself, you know, what do you do? And, and I’ll just share this one, [00:24:00]one final application, um, with, with everybody, when you are spending time having a conversation with a church, or if you are spending time with your members, trying to lead them to a new direction. Here’s what you’ve gotta understand that a transformational leadership approach to a stuck mindset has to be informational, right?
Just like the things that I said a, a few minutes. but it also has to be relational. Mm-hmm , mm-hmm, informational and relational help a process become transformational because most of us that’s good. Most of us will process information through relationship. And so I think this goes back to the, uh, the, you know, change or die article that you wrote.
Yeah. It takes somebody. who is close to you to simply say, man, I love you so much. And I care about you so much that I really want you to consider making these [00:25:00] changes because in a health situation, somebody say like, we don’t wanna lose you. Yeah. Too early. Yeah. Right. And they probably don’t just have to say that once.
Yeah. They have to say that more than once and it can’t be, Hey, don’t eat that fried. Lay off the cheese there a little bit, buddy. Hey, eliminate the nightly nacho. it’s gotta be some conversation or some multiple conversations that connect with them relationally and say, man, I love you. And I don’t think we’re done.
And I think the same thing with churches, we’ve got to be able to say that, Hey, we love you guys. Yeah. And we don’t think you’re done. And so let’s have a conversation about what God has in store for your church’s. Amen.
JimBo Stewart: That’s a good word. Um, man, we’d love to hear how you guys are applying that and working through that as well.
Uh, hit us back up and give us some feedback on that. As we all continue to learn together, there’s another couple of weeks that you could sign up for the replant summit. [00:26:00] Uh, August 29th and 30th in Alpharetta, Athena headquarters, Bob and I will be there, uh, as well as some other, really, really great speakers this year.
Uh, Bob and I aren’t speaking, but we’re, we’ll be there hanging out and we we’d love to meet you if you’re there. Uh, come introduce yourself to us. We’d love, love to know that you’ve been listening and that it’s been helpful. And as you process, uh, man, just this wealth of wisdom that Bob has dropped on us today.
Uh, let us know your thoughts. Thanks.