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God uses pastors in many different ways. He uses them to cast vision. He works through pastors to set the tone in churches and to be examples for others to follow. Unfortunately some churches won’t follow good leaders no matter what. They would rather die than change. And they usually get the former for forsaking the latter.

Still, leadership matters. Leadership is critical. And the most visible aspect of leadership for the pastor takes place in the pulpit. For better or worse, the people in the church are watching and listening. Most of them do not expect the pastor to have the oratory skills of a well-known pastor. They do not expect him to have the exegetical insights of some of the most brilliant preachers in the land.

But they do have expectations.

They expect pastors to be prepared in the pulpit. They know, for the most part, who’s winging it and who has prepared. They expect the pastor to teach them about God’s Word. In many ways the preaching event is sacred. The people want to hear from God and His Word. They expect the pastor to open the Bible and teach them what God says.

And they expect him to make the Bible relevant to their lives. While they may be fascinated by some esoteric doctrine, they ultimately want to know how God would have them apply His truths to their lives.

One of the most common complaints I hear about the beleaguered pastors from church members is, “I’m just not getting fed.” Now I realize that some of those complaints are self-centered. I also realize that some people will complain about everything and anything. And some people would find fault if the apostle Paul himself were preaching.

But the comment is telling.

“I’m just not getting fed.” That means they are hungry. They are hungry for God’s Word for their lives today.

That’s what I’ve seen in my research of the de-churched. They were hungry, and they were not being fed. Sure, they could have and should have found a church where they could be fed, but the reality is they are dropouts. And it is clear how important the role of the pastor is in stemming the tide of church dropouts. 

In the research for Essential Church, we found one out of every seven dropouts said the sermons did not capture their attention, and about the same number said the church was not helping them develop spiritually. Of the dropouts, eight percent stated bluntly the pastor was not a good preacher, and seven percent said the sermons were not relevant to their lives.

Taken individually, none of the responses was overwhelming; but taken in the aggregate, they are saying something powerful. Preaching matters. The content of the sermons matters. And the life application of the sermons matters.

Any church or pastor who does not take seriously the role of preaching in his church is missing it. Just look at the dropouts as at least part of the evidence.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources and the co-author of Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.
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Talk about it...

John Gullick

commented on May 12, 2015

Good word a timely reminder/ John Gullick //

Charles Bavier

commented on May 12, 2015

I believe if a message doesn't challenge me. It is not going to challenge my listeners or congregation. Of course not every message will challenge me but many of them should. As the only pastor/preacher in our church I preach approximately 95 or 96 times a year.

Doug Lapointe

commented on May 12, 2015

A good word. Often we as preachers try to let ourselves off the hook by saying something like, "If they are not listening, it is their fault." But, maybe it is ours... our poor preaching, our lack of attention to making the word compelling and relevant. We can take the challenge and create messages that compel them to listen by how we craft them, illustrate them, and present them. Then we have accomplished what we are called to do in the pulpit.

Steve Harman

commented on May 12, 2015

OK, couldn't agree with you more about the necessity of good, powerful, relevant preaching. i am sure there are many times the preacher is to blame, lack of preparation, etc. I too have heard the comments about not being fed, by one and at the same time another has had just the opposite response. This is something i have witnessed not just in our church. After years of preaching and musings I have come to the conclusion it is not always the lack of good preaching that is at fault. Jesus shares a little insight that I think will help us all to understand another side to this overused excuse. You might remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. Well..., the disciples returned and asked Him if he was hungry and wanted some food. Do you remember His response? In short, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and finish His work." There are many who receive a healthy diet of meat from the pulpit every Sunday who continue to complain about not being fed. My observation has been they are the same ones who want to be spoon fed and and are not about doing the Father's will or work. Were they doing so, in many cases, I believe they would recognize the relevance of the Word being preached and connect. Again, I know there are exceptions to every rule.

Sandra Jackson Gaddy

commented on May 12, 2015

Just what I needed to remind me to always, be mindful of those who are in need of God's word to live daily, as I apply his word to my life, so I shall be mindful to help the congregation apply his word to theirs, we sometime forget that when we preach and teach, we are also preaching and teaching ourselves, Thank God for the Holy Spirit, who leads and guidance and brings us into remembrance of all things Jesus has said, he also gives us other leads to help us with our daily walk. Thank you for the words I shall share with the Ministers in my area.

Brenda Phillips

commented on May 12, 2015

People loves Sermons that makes them laugh they don't want to hear the truth, people love Sermons about how God will bless them money wise.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on May 13, 2015

Brother Thom, I always enjoy your articles and I appreciate your incite. Preaching an interesting, relevant sermon takes a lot of preparation time and that is something I don't think most people realize. Have a blessed day and keep on writing. Thanks, Mitch

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