CNLP 405: Adam Grant Reinvents Preaching and Apologetics for the 21st Century, Explains How Conspiracy Theories Take Hold, and Shows You How to Get Out of Your Echo Chamber

Renowned organization psychologist Adam Grant and Carey Nieuwhof have a pivotal (and surprising) conversation about what’s wrong with preaching today, how to reinvent it and how to rethink apologetics for the 21st century in a way that connects with people who don’t go to church.

Adam also discusses the ideas behind his new book, Think Again, including why conspiracy theories are so popular and how to get out of your echo chamber.

Welcome to Episode 405 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey shares five shifts he thinks every leader needs to make when it comes to evangelism.

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Episode Links

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Conversation Links

Think Again by Adam Grant

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Originals by Adam Grant

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

Power Moves by Adam Grant

Adam Grant | TED2016: The surprising habits of original thinkers

Workism is Making Americans Miserable by Derek Thompson

Yuval Noah Harari | TED Dialogues: Nationalism vs. globalism: the new political divide

WorkLife with Adam Grant: A TED original podcast

Adam Grant: Writing

5 Important Ways Evangelism is Shifting in Our Post-Christian World by Carey Nieuwhof

Carey’s Daily Email

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Insights From Adam

1. Your personal character and professional competency are linked together

So many young professionals in Adam’s university classes say things like, “I’m going to go out and do whatever it takes to make a bunch of money, and then I’ll be generous once I’m rich.” Adam strongly disagrees with this belief.

Data is beginning to show that your character has a direct impact on how effective you are at work. If you have a terrible home life, you are more than likely going to have a rough work life, as well.

2. People are much more excited to learn with you than they are to learn from you

For too long, churches and religions in the West have had the reputation of beating people over the head with a specific set of beliefs that “you just need to believe or else.” But in his research, Adam has found that the best way to lead people into a certain set of beliefs is to ask them questions and actually listen thoughtfully to their answers.

Based on their conversation, Carey and Adam conclude that if you want to reach people in today’s world, you need to take their objections to Christianity very seriously and thoughtfully respond to them. You need to learn with them, rather than forcing them to learn from you.

3. Most of us should “think again” about our deeply-held positions more often

As more algorithms fight for our attention online, people will continue to be sucked deeper into their own echo chambers of belief. As a researcher (and a human), Adam is very concerned about this trend.

In his new book, Think Again, he encourages everyone to actively listen to people who think differently than us and confront their objections to our ideas and beliefs often. When you do this, even if you don’t change your mind, you are actively learning about the world around you.

Quotes from Episode 405

People are much more excited to learn with you than they are to learn from you. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet Learning is not about the knowledge I accumulate in my head, as much as it is the skills that I gain for how to learn. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet So many people think that knowledge is a weapon to wield when, in fact, it's a resource to share. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet You can't claim that people are the most important resource in your company, because people are your company. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet We should be quicker to rethink our beliefs than our values. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet If you want to change what someone believes, you almost always have to start with understanding what they want to believe. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet The truth has a way of standing up to scrutiny. Click To Tweet Leaders who started their careers during a recession actually pay their employees more generously, and they're less likely to cheat. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet You don't get to say, 'I have integrity at work, but I'm a terrible person at home.' @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet There was a study that came out recently showing that men who cheat on their wives are also more likely to cheat on their taxes. @AdamMGrant Click To Tweet If you want to repel anyone under 40, lead with arrogance, lead with smugness and lead with superiority. Click To Tweet Certainty and self-righteousness are often frequent companions. Click To Tweet Being open is more effective than being certain. Click To Tweet Embracing the question is as important as giving an answer. Click To Tweet Arrogance is only attractive to the arrogant. Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 405

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Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

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Next Episode: Steve Cuss

Steve Cuss returns to the podcast to discuss how to manage leadership anxiety. Steve talks about how anxiety spreads in a group, how to diffuse it, managing your personal stress during a prolonged crisis, and how to handle angry and critical voices so they don’t add to your long term anxiety.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 406.

CNLP 405: Adam Grant Reinvents Preaching and Apologetics for the 21st Century, Explains How Conspiracy Theories Take Hold, and Shows You How to Get Out of Your Echo Chamber


  1. Susanna on April 24, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Carey and guests so often accompany me on my country walks, and have to say the interaction with Adam Grant was among the best and most inspirational. Evangelism at its delicate, brilliant best! Will be praying Adam finds the Real Truth behind all he seeks and already knows (and doesn’t know) and I do know for a fact you, Carey, helped head him in heavenly directions.

  2. Alan Johnson on March 31, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Hi Carey,
    Great conversation. I like the emphasis on curiousity in your work and it is something I try to build into my life and ministry. Your podcast always adds books and authors to my reading list faster than I can cross them off, and Adam Grant is now on my list!
    Part of your conversation was about replacement religions and referenced the Derek Thompson piece. David Zahl wrote a book called Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It. It is great and something you would enjoy. Zahl does a great job bridging the gap between secular and religious spaces and inserting grace into both.

  3. Kyle on March 24, 2021 at 11:15 am

    Absolute must watch that echoes the points about thinking with an open mind.

    Julia Galef – “Scout Mindset Is Crucial To Good Judgement”

  4. Mukui Howser on March 24, 2021 at 1:57 am

    I re- read your book in 2020,”Didn’t see it coming ” and bought a number of copies as gifts.
    Adam Grant added to what you shared about growing wise and robust not simply growing old and entrenched- Thanks for having him on and engaging so well with him, it was a mental delight!

    Can you invite , Dan Mauro( also from Wharton) to your show?I picked his book up, titled “2030”mainly because of Adam Grant’s endorsement on the cover.
    Every chapter reminded me of you Carey.
    99% of the book was researched and written before Feb 2020.Dan, an economist takes a historical and global look at the tectonic shifts happening in the world that would reshape the world by 2030.
    By the time I read the book this year I could see most of them coming to pass.
    I think he would add to your “calls to change” that you frequently talk about and help leaders see that they need to not just make covid adaptations but see the seismic shifts that are reshaping the world and the customers and congregations of tomorrow.

    Thanks for the way you warmly welcome diverse and insightful people to teach us.

    Blessing to you & Toni( I am a fan of their podcast too!)

  5. Mark Shaffer on March 23, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for this important work. I have been following Jesus since I was five, worked as a student ministries pastor for 15 years, and then chose to do a PhD in Hebrew Bible and it’s interpretation in the Greco Roman. That included Second Temple Judaism, Dead Sea Scrolls, New Testament and a whole lot of classical context. What I found is that the more I have pursued curiosity in the ethos of scholarship the more meaningful conversations about my Christian faith I have had with people that would never step into a church. At the same time in many ways I have felt cast outside by many pastors. The irony is, I land where Carrie does— I’m orthodox in all things essential and love early Christianity (like I participate in present and super nerdy patristic conference s every year… yep im that dorky 👊🏼). I always try to be gentle but maintain that people are going to continue to walk away from church so long as we are trying to argue then into doctrinal consent and reverence for a Scripture that they don’t actually believe in. Instead we have to be conversational and curious. I love the idea that when we teach we ought to surprise with the text and admit when objections are good, but then come in the side door with a couple things to think about. This is just such fantastic work and I wish I could beam this mentality into everyone representing Jesus and his church. Thank you so much.

  6. Sean Morton on March 23, 2021 at 8:16 am

    I found this podcast absolutely fantastic!!! Great job with the interview Carey and great job with choosing the interviewee! All of it was fantastic. A book that I have been reading that may dovetail with this podcast is “Leading with Questions” by Michael J Marquardt. I have found many of the concepts in the book reinforcing to this podcast and helping my own leadership. In addition, the section on our current extremism climate.. (conspiracy theories, erratic fiscal decisions) inspired me with hope. It points to a society that desperately wants to impose meaning and control to support random events. (if you accept there is no higher power, you have to come to the conclusion that everything dissolves into entropy) And yet, it seems that the mind and soul is unwilling to stand on the foundation of this conclusion. People crave a need to give meaning to life that secularism and consumerism lack. It gives me hope, that faith and aligning myself with Christ’s path is the true answer that I desperately needed. It reminded me of my true passion to help people consider a better way of wholistic thought and living. Thank you again!

  7. Bec on March 23, 2021 at 7:36 am

    Wow – there were so many goodies in this conversation that I’ll have to listen again to really take them all in! Thanks so much to both Carey and Adam for your openness and considered dialogue, which didn’t seem to have any hint of judgement. Such a rare thing in the current online world! So many applications for all my relationships, ministry and occasional preaching. Again, thank you!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 23, 2021 at 8:34 am

      Bec…thanks for the encouragement. it was refreshing. Easily one of my fave ever episodes.

      Just making sure you know we have transcripts for you above for free in the show notes…just in case you want to keyword search a favorite part. Enjoy!

      • Chris Dixon on March 26, 2021 at 1:11 pm

        Thank you both. What an inspiring conversation. The importance of asking good questions reminds me of the book, “Inductive Preaching” by Ralph and Gregg Lewis (recommended read).

        So I don’t have to be right, but I do need to listen more. I think my wife, kids, and friends will appreciate this. Thanks for helping me be better.

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