Leadership Matters, but So Does Preaching

God uses pastors in many diferent 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 dechurched. 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 that 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 say that the church was not helping them to develop spiritually. Of the dropouts 8 percent stated bluntly that the pastor was not a good preacher and 7 percent said that 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 powerfully. 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.

Adapted from Essential Church (B&H Publishing Group, 2008).

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Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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