Is Church Growth All About the Pastor?

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With unlimited access to preaching, are churchgoers less willing to put up with boring, rambling or irrelevant preaching?

Common story: First ________ Church gets a new minister—Pastor Joe.

He’s not a very good communicator. People start leaving.

Within two years, attendance has dropped by half. Giving is down by a third. First Church descends into a malaise.

Eventually, Pastor Joe is fired and the search for his replacement begins.

A year later, First Church hires a new minister—Pastor Daniel.

He’s a great communicator. The church immediately starts growing. Happy days are here again. People love Pastor Daniel.

Why did this happen to First Church? Nothing else changed.

The building remained the same. The worship times remained the same. The ministry programs remained the same. The key staff remained the same.

The only thing that changed was the pastor.

Yet, First Church’s attendance and giving rose and fell in direct response to the quality of the preacher.

Can I be brutally honest?

When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons.

If a pastor is good at his job, the church grows.

If he’s bad at his job, the church shrinks.

Sounds unspiritual—but it’s true.

It shouldn’t be this way—but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon.

Admit it: You’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?”

What do you talk about?

The sermon.

Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them.

Nothing else comes close.

David Murrow David Murrow is director of Church for Men, an organization dedicated to restoring a healthy, life-giving masculine spirit in Christian congregations. He is the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, an inspirational bestseller with more than 100,000 copies in print.

More from David Murrow or visit David at http://churchformen.com/blog/

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  • Pastor Dan

    Not being fed is rarely the issue. In reality babies need to be fed and anyone else is responsible to not only eat on sundays and Wednesdays but feed themselves. The pastor has a duty to feed the sheep to the best of his ability but even the best meal on Sunday won’t keep you healthy for the rest of the week. As far as attendance goes I agree the pastors sermons have a lot with getting people to come back but what keeps them coming back is the love & fellowship of Gods people. People are looking for love-relationships snd they find that amongst the flock. I dont care how great the sermons are if the church people aren’t nice and loving people wont come back.

    • Gordon

      well said brother

      • ePHraimAg

        By The Very Spirit Of Christ… noty by the contents of a Sermon
        Truly Dan, I too endorse Your Reply… Judgement lies in the Heart of every Man and Women to Grow in Christ and that Passion Of getting to Know Him. Yes the Flock are they who ‘stir up that gift within You’ By The Very Spirit Of Christ amidst of The 2’s and 3’s assembled… not by the contents of a Sermon, yet a Good Sermon is rare to Be annointed and Hear to instill that Growth.

        • Abraham Biu

          But u must not also forget that the quality of sermon delivered affects the level of joy and love being experienced in a congregation. God is love, and if the preacher cannot radiate the love and power of God thru his sermon, then it cannot be manufactured from elsewhere. In Acts 2-4, the love experienced by the first church was as a result of the power and the presence of The Holy Spirit; which was as a result of the obedience of the apostles to stay in the place prayer and study of the word!
          Invariably, I believe the congregation has only 25% of the blame (ie to hear and obey), the pastor has 75%.

          • Welly

            Though I don’t understand the responsibility percentage distribution here, I second your response Abraham. The spirituality of the pastor affects that of the congregation.

        • Ryan

          I’ve been looking around at churches in my area on line, listening to downloaded sermons and believe me, I’ve ruled out a couple for the mediocer sermons where they ramble on about scratch the surface things. I personally prefer exogetical sermons over topical ones because they are much deeper and meatier. Many pastors don’t do exogetical ones because of the amount of study time and bible knowledge it takes to put those together. Yea, the pastors have a lot to do with church. The author of this artical is right on. It was nice to read some strait forward honesty. Pastors need to understand their importance and the value of good preaching/feeding. Don’t be half heartedly throwing sermons and series together or feel you have to fill the whole hour or more.

    • budoazores@live.com

      If the pastor is full of Manna he will share it he does not keep it for himself preach the word in season and out of season timothy or else the will not endure sound doctrine
      if you just preach the word it’s o.k? when the word comes with power of the Holy Spirit you have radical change , a church no power it dies because the pastor is dead,just going through the motions can wait to get out of there as soon as he shakes hands,i made another sunday. If he is dead on sunday, he must get burried on wednesday.

  • http://twitter.com/KarlIngersoll Karl Ingersoll

    Maybe church is dead and some new “thang” has taken it’s place. A dead elephant and a dead ant have one thing in common regardless of the body mass … death. Regardless of what church has become and what the Christian subculture supports, God determines what matters. Life is not determined by size. Paramedics don’t weigh or measure people when they check for vital signs. The Body of Christ is alive and well and it defies our efforts to measure it. There is only one Head in the Body and that is not the pastor.

    • sarahkp533

      I want to whistle in agreement, but you wouldn’t hear it. I love what you said!

  • Alvin

    Is getting spiritual food considered selfish? If so, then the 12 Disciples were selfish. Jesus’ message was provoking, yet assuring, blatant, yet enlightening, mysterious, yet simple. His message captured the audience, he knew how to relate to the agricultural and socio-economics of the community, he struck deep into the hearts of those seeking, and of those hating. Yes, preaching is important. Delivery is important. Content is important.

    • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

      1Jo 2 tells us that there are three stages of a christian life: little children, juveniles, and fathers.

      A baby is all about getting its own needs met, mainly being fed. It needs mainly a mother, just like Paul said: did I not nurture you like a mother? It needs the love and care of a family, a loving church.

      The juvenile is about “what can I do for God”, he needs an assignment and a father guiding him.

      But eventually we are to become fathers. We invest ourselves into others and feed ourselves, mostly.

      Good spiritual food is by no means selfish. It is selfish to depend on others for it for a lifetime. There is a time for everything, and we need to grow up. That is what the disciples did – look at them after Pentecost.

      • Alvin

        +1

  • al pedroche

    EPHESIANS 4:11 tells us that Chri
    stians are given respective ministries by God. Some are called to be Apostles, some prophets and others Pastors or Teachers. Christians not gifted to preach shouldn’t stand at the pulpit but find his own ability where he can contribute to the pursuit of God’s Kingdom. There are some who may not have the gift to preach but are good administrators.

  • MARTYN REAY UK

    MANY TRUTHS DAVID,i believe there is a right fellowship for every one.yes the way the word is delivered does make a difference. It is a matter of the delivery been set correct for the culture in that domain.your friend Roger did he seek God or just went on natural feelings and knowledge???it makes a difference,anyway David THAN YOU FOR YOUR TIME TO WRIITE THIS BLOG BLESSINGS FROM SCOTLAND UK PEACE MARTY

  • Jeff

    As one of those guys that has shared presentation each week with a congregation, I can tell you there have been really good sermons and really bad ones. There are moments when I have connected with a congregation. There have been moments when I felt the words I was speaking were dead and lifeless. An engaging presentation takes time, prayer, consideration, vulnerability and lots of energy (not necessarily in that order).

    This is a great article. Let’s be honest. Most pastors do an average job of presenting the truth, myself included. I am taking a fresh look at presentation and know I could do a much better job. After all, I am a called Man of God given the responsibility to present Truth in a way that is engaging. There is no higher calling.

  • Greg

    Can be true – but not always! Noah must have been a lousy preacher on this theory – started with 7 parishioners – ended with the same 7 parishioners 120 years later! IN other words, the growth or otherwise of a congregation depends on how they LIKE the preaching – not necessarily on how GOOD it is!

    • Josh

      Interestingly the bible never says that noah preached to the sinners. It says in Hebrews that he was a “herald of righteousness”. But never says in all the places he is mentioned that he actually preached to the sinners. I always kind of saw it like God gave him a command to follow which did not include putting other people on the boat. If he had put others on the boat, he would have been in direct disobedience to a detruction order by God. As you know Saul lost his kingdom over this type of disobedience to a destruction order. Noah obeyed it and his family flourished.

      • Greg

        To whom then did he preach? And why the 120 years, during which Gen 6:3 implies the Lord continued to strive with sinners? And what of 1 Peter 3:19+20 (admittedly not the easiest verses in the Bible!) which I understand to mean that Christ through Noah preached to the sinners of Noah’s day – though not with the flood of conversions (pun intended!) seemingly required by the counter-arguments I am receiving!

    • budoazores@live.com

      To many want to be pastor’s, just went into the minitry, instead of being sent by the Spirit(acts 13:2;3) before any minister goes into the ministry the test is do they have a passion for Jesus that he could say for me to live is Christ,another question to ask him have you won any body for Chris in past 3,4 days if not, we have a lot of those folks aound here so why should we hire you, instead of same old stuff message he should study the word for new fresh revelation from the word, He knows if he foold the sheep another week he knows if he is a true sheperd, he knows if he went or was sent,he knows if he is a mighty man in the word if not.he should quit(jh.ch.10)the hireling????

      • Greg

        Ouch!! Didn’t see that one coming! As I have replied elsewhere, where does this leave poor old Isaiah – told upfront that his ministry was largely going to be rejected? (Isa 6:8-11). For that matter, if I read you correctly, our Lord did well to avoid the sack in John 6:66 when He was losing followers in droves! And what about John 7:5 where we hear the sad and forlorn words that not even His brothers were believing in Him? And what too of 2 Timothy 4:2+3? I concur with Gary Gilley when he points out that there are seasons and cycles in church life, as in nature, and during the “down” cycles, do not expect to make many friends by faithful preaching!But by word of encouragement to Bigarm and other faithful brothers out there beavering away to the best of their ability – the Lord knows those who are His, and His Word never returns void. This fact alone (rather than blanket triumphalism) makes me ultimately an optimist! In all ages of the church, God’s elect shall savingly respond … and only they!

    • Peter Mahoney

      I would include Jeremiah with Noah… complete failures if we use the author’s theory.

      • Ryan

        Occasionally I hear some good uplifting verses out of Jeremiah in preaching but never a deep message out of Jeremiah. I had to read and study it for myself. This country is going the way of Israel in Jeremiah’s time and no one is giving warning of the ‘Babylon’ God is preparing for us here.

      • Greg

        Precisely! To which we could add Isaiah – told explicitly at the outset of his ministry that his message would not be warmly received (Isa 6:8-11). And the list goes on….

  • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

    For me this story has much more to do with most churches’ dependance on one man, the pastor, therefore church government structures than any thing else.

    In bible times, churches were founded by an apostle with his team, and given over to a team ministry. The apostle was not hired by a committee, and neither the elders taking over. They were appointed by the apostle.

    Giving a church the possibility to hire and even fire a pastor is awkward and leads to things like that. They do not know the man up front, or they have their list of preferences, of topics not to touch, and do not value the anointing or even the call of the pastor.

    Why did it work until 1950? Because until back then God gave grace to pastors and teachers leading the churches on their own. Or should I say mercy? But since then – 1948 to be exact in the Latter Rain Movement – the other ministers of the 5fold, especially the apostle, have been restored and God’s model for the church once again is one of team ministry.

    The same, in a different flavor, happened in your example.

    Let’s presume for the moment that your friends pastor was called an apostle. Then he failed on building a team or taking a team of ministers in the other offices with him such that they complement each other and touch all areas of need of their flock.

    If he was not an apostle, was his fathering pastor in the mother church or the one overseeing that church one? Then his spiritual father failed to build the team, to come by himself and help regularly, to appoint elders that were capable of bringing the word.

    Was the pastor even called to open a church? Was he trying to build that church? Building the church is none of our business, that is Jesus’ job. We are to build the kingdom. It’s not a numbers game, as you say yourself. If we put the kingdom first, everything else, even church attendees, will be given to us.

    And what about Roger? If I am called to a church, really called there, and the person talking into my life, my spiritual father, agrees, so it is clear, what choice do I have? Going back is abandoning my calling. Not being fed is neither met by leaving nor by sitting in the pew or by firing the pastor. It is met by stepping up to the plate, helping.

    In 1Co 12:28 we see what is necessary for a church: first apostle, second prophet, third teacher, then miracle workers, people with gifts of healing, and so on. But we blame it on the pastor. He is not even in the list!

    The only way to leave a church is when you are called some where else by God. Leaving really is not an option, but following your call of God is. Thus all these people will agree: your current pastor, your spiritual father, the leader of the church you will go to in the future. This is not done via letter. This is done in a process involving prayer and talk.

    If church-goers view their going to church as an investment into the church, something is truly wrong. Going to church is an investment into myself and others, church-goers and non-church-goers. It is to build myself up, and once I grow up, to build others up. And surely enough, if you sow, you reap. If you build up other people using the gift God gave you, you will be built up by others.

    Our society wants ROI and instant satisfaction. And what did the church do? It became seeker-friendly, trying to appease the culture. When in Europe the socialist governments started to take away the traditional assignments of the church, like caring for the poor, attendance started to drop. Why? Little children in faith were not in need of the church anymore. On the other hand, mature and maturing christians had nothing to do. Church became a one man show with one focus only: the sweet by-and-by. Some could help, like worship team and cleaners, treaters, ushers. But for the most people, there was no involvement. All they needed the government provided. All their work was given to them by their employers. And the church did not meet their assignment any longer, not even spiritually. The church is a training ground in exercising ones spiritual gifts and offices to bring answers to the world.

    A word about denominations and faith towards them. In the beginning of the church their was one church per city, meeting in different houses. Alliances were local, not denominational. It was not before administrators became the new pastor that denominations were founded, with central offices, hiring and firing processes etc. Why should I by faithful to such a model? I am faithful towards the call of God.

    This response is kind of lengthy, I know. But I pray for the church to become healthy again, find again their purpose and structure to fulfill its assignment.

    • SYoo

      Ralph Rickenbach, I especially liked this sentence from you, “The church is a training ground in exercising ones spiritual gifts and offices to bring answers to the world.” Yes! that is so true! (This is what I believe as well.) Great points in this response. Thank you for sharing.

  • Kirk

    David, this is a great article. The challenge we face today is that Pastors MUST keep the congregation entertained or lose them.More importan than entertaining them is to equip them to do the work of the Saints. The attention span in America 20 yrs ago was 20 minutes. Today it’s 9 SECONDS. The same a s a goldfish. So the Pastor’s Dilemma is to fascinate the goldfish while equiping him for a battle he does not want to fight.

  • peterhamm

    Admitting all this is admitting defeat… isn’t it…

    We want “church” to be about discipleship, but it’s about an exchange of spiritual services for a tithe, isn’t it… And most of those people aren’t really the disciples you want them to be, are they…

    I guess David is saying “deal with it”, but maybe that doesn’t mean pandering, maybe it means smaller more vital churches? Or maybe it means that you just deal with and work with what you have… Jesus said that only one out of four seeds that get scattered actually stick, so why are we surprised when a big growing church of 1000 has only about 250 really on-fire disciples? It’s what Jesus himself predicted, isn’t it?

    • Bandguy

      He is not merely acknowledging the way the world is without casting aspersions on the minister. Look what he says here: “If a pastor is good at his job, the church grows. If he’s bad at his job, the church shrinks.” This is not always true.

  • Billy Simmons

    I preached my first sermon in an army chapel in 1953. I was licensed to the gospel ministry in 1955. I was ordained in 1957, after leaving the army. I pastored a church in 1960 that had had 7 pastors in 6 years. No pastor had stayed more than 18 months since 1938. The problem was one family running the church. When they asked me to leave I refused. After they left the church began to grow, built a pastorium and was doing good when I left. I could have stayed longer but I had a Teaching job in another state and had to pay some doctor bills. When I feel like I have failed God completely is when I get the most compliments, (That is just what I needed.) Only God can grow a church where people worship Him and He is the center, not the pastor!

  • Asso. Pastor Derik Foster

    In my opinion, sermons should be Spirit led. Having said that if someone can go to church every Sunday for a month and not have a sermon speak to them in some way, they need to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship with Christ. Also, again, in my opinion sermons should hit you in such a way that makes you love God more and realize how much you truely need Him as the center of your life. Not to make you feel good.

    • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

      And even sermons should bring you on in fulfilling your own calling. No tickling of the ear. Not only making God great to you. But letting you grow to become a son of God. At least in part. And if they are spirit filled, everybody will be touched – if they have a teachable heart.

  • Olatunde Olawolu

    Church growth is not all about the pastor. Church growth is about the power of the Holy ghost in the church . When the Holy ghost moved in the early church, geometric growth occurred.
    Evangelism is crucial to the growth of the church but not necessarily numerical. Your convert , for one genuine reason or the other may choose a different assembly from yours.
    Despite significant church growth in the era of the early apostles, God’s presence among His people, i.e Christians , was guaranteed where ‘2 or 3′ people are present. The emphasis on numerical growth in the present dispensation is monetary.
    The content of most preaching these days are sensational and motivational deprived of the power of the Holy Ghost. Many unemployed christian youth take to preaching these days after 1 or 2 years in seminary when there is no calling into the ministry
    Let us go back to the God of Jesus in Holy Bible, then the preaching of pastors shall become evangelical.

  • Pastor Dave

    Pastor Dan is right about the people being a strong element in people coming and staying. If you have both a great preacher communicating God’s word and not just entertaining, and people who honestly care about welcoming and helping newcomers, then the church will grow exponentially.

    But my three elements begin with not the preacher or the attitude of the people– but with PRAYER. A praying church–praying for God’s will and direction will see the kind of growth that is Christ centered and not provided by man– remember– God gives the increase

  • gathrigh

    You hinted at something I feel is as important or maybe even more – the music. Also, pastors suffer even more when they don’t do the peripheral things of the church well, such as raising money, visiting, shaking hands, etc. Ask yourself this – what was the topic/ main points of the sermon last week? Two weeks ago? Pastors know this and try to do the other things to make up for this lack of connection in the sermon.

  • preacher ben

    What turns me off is the “church police”.

  • Fred

    Could you comment more on the church police?

  • Johan

    I cannot agree more with Kirk’s view. The church became an entertaining business these days. If the pastor does not entertain on the level some members of the congregation expect him to, they run to the next “entertainment center”. The matter of the fact however is that these entertainment/adventure-seekers will keep on running until such time they find what they are looking for – just don’t know what they are looking for. It is only when you have that intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, that you will turn your eyes upon Him and start praying for your pastor in stead of focusing on “killing” him with your negative thoughts. Take your eyes from people and look in His wonderful face and you will find enough reason to serve God and to support your pastor.

    • Ryan

      I was working a temp job and living in a motel and went to a rather large church with an exogetical style preacher. He wasn’t entertaining. He was just good and deep. I stopped going after 3 months because the volume of the music was so loud, it was deafening and I couldn’t take it.

  • CB

    An endorsement of the spiritual adolescence and narcissism of the American Church.

    The Word tells us the Spirit add to the numbers of the Church daily, as He will. Thanks for the healthy dose of discouragement. Ministry isn’t discouraging enough…thanks for putting it all on the backs of those charged with leadership.

    If we discipline, Americans leave. If we preach difficult topics, they leave. If we fail to entertain, they leave. When their collective ADD kicks in, they leave.

    The Word is not enough. Teaching is not enough. The Spirit is not enough. Nothing is enough. The American Christian, it seems will only remain for bread and circuses.

    There is a constant song-and-dance to entice selfish, spoiled, Gospel-resistant American Christians to be part of the congregation they’re called to be part of. And it kills us, and our families, and yields a harvest of bored, lukewarm Christians. God help us when the inevitable persecution comes.

    All the while, the American Church sleeps…and clergy leaves at unprecedented rates.

    This is exactly the reason why our hearts are broken.

    • Peter Mahoney

      This may be the single best response… thank you CB!

    • Ryan

      This dose of honesty fits right in with the article. You say, “God help us wen the inevitable persecution comes.” Who says there will be anyone around to persecute?

    • sarahkp533

      Thank you.

    • Hersh or is it Harsh

      CB, though I agree with most, if not all of your points, I will say when a person called by God speaks for God…things will change. My hope is that God’s words spoken through a godly person will either break Man’s heart and move him to true repentance or empty out the half-hearted pretenders. 12 serious men of God can get a lot done!!! Again thanks for your post.

      • CB

        Clearly you’re not reading your Bible…there are ample cases of God’s spokesmen delivering His message to unresponsive folks. This doesn’t make it any easier or less discouraging to the speaker, especially with the blame game that Murrow delivered here. Interestingly, he’s not a pastor or in parish leadership.

  • Cecille

    Christians jailed and tortured for Christ’s sake never had the chance of hearing a sermon while suffering for Jesus. Yet they stayed in love with Christ and true to His calling, till death. Please search your heart. We do not come to church to be pacified nor to receive but to give God what is due Him and that is to serve and worship as the body of Christ. Simply hearing the scriptures should move us if we ask the God’s Holy Spirit to quicken our ears, stir our hearts and open our spiritual understanding. Professing Christians come to church on Sundays seeking to get reconnected. True Christians connects with God every waking moment.

    • sarahkp533

      Beautifully said, Cecille.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lorenzo.abian Lorenzo Abian

        I strongly agree with you! Great.

        • budoazores@live.com

          Agree and??? a good healthy church has man and women who love Jesus ,and are gifted or saturated with Eph.4-11 gifts that glorify the giver
          Jesus, if the church is alive it will grow,if they have a man of GOD a pastor teacher who preacher’s the whole council of God, and is not ashmed to study, and proclaim the glorious gospel, did you ever see an excited sheep in a green pasture alone never. a question for you all did you ever feed a stray dog I wonder if he comes back the next day some thing to think about.
          Hey it’s all about jesus He is the first and last beging and the end and the great alpha and omega rev.22-13 it start’s with him and end’s with him , a good pastor that loves the sheep, that leaves 99 goes after the 1 is a man of GOD

  • ron coop

    when i go to church i take GOD with me,that way i know that GOD will be there,he says that where two or three are gathered he is in the mist. praise the LORD.

    • SearchingTheScriptures

      Lol. Sorry, I just read your typo. “where two are three are gathered he is in the mist.” I honestly hope you don’t believe that. But God is indeed in the midst of those who are gathered together in his name.

  • Lon Dean

    While I agree that poor preaching can drive people from a church, I have been to some large churches where the preaching is terrible and boring. Also, how do we explain large Catholic churches where the “preaching” is a 2 minute homily? One important factor is relationships. People will come for good preaching and stay for a while but if they don’t make solid relationships in a church they will leave in 2-3 years.

    • Ryan

      Relationships is the second great influence on people and as an intorvert, clicking with someone, anyone, the older I get is farther and fewer between. A person can put up with mediocer preaching if they have good friends to hang with before and after church.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lorenzo.abian Lorenzo Abian

      If the heart of the hearer is not right even the good sermon become poor because the hearer’s heart is not a good soil but even the sermon is terrible as long it is base on God’s word a good heart receive it as good sermon. One truth receive from God’s word and applied can radically change a person.

  • RAMJR

    While I do agree with some of this post, I disagree that it is based on the pastor, preacher to tug on the hearts that God is a part of…or not a part of. I have seen a church fall a part, not because of a bad preacher, but a lack of stand from the pulpit and pews.
    The church I grew up in, was very conservative in its standing, all through my youth, but as the neighborhood around it turned more and more liberal, the forces that clergy and staff were faced with changed the mindset. Now, God didn’t change…but mans values on God Word did. The excuses, compromise and taking of words out of content and context, to the point blasphemy was being slowly accepted, turned the church to mush, much like silent ‘christians’, who don’t want to be vocal.
    Jesus said in following Him, in would cost us. I learned that out, when a church I went to with my mom, turned the car ride to take her home, from the fact of her age, surgeries and wanting to make sure she was okay, into arguments that took focus off what God said, and more what the people around her said.
    I like listening to many Bible studies on the radio, and when she is with me her comment is always, “You must be living a wrong life, if you have to listen to so many sermons.”
    To her, listening to what the Lord is telling me, and we are warned in simple words like, “My people parish from lack of knowledge”, well, I want to have more knowledge…and that can lead to many churches losing members. Not because the pastor can be entertaining, funny and tell a good story, but that God is the reason we are there. To learn to the point we are sitting uncomfortably. listening to words that make us uncomfortable in the lives we live.
    If we focused, just alone, on the value of the Ten Commandments, the WHOLE TRUTH that God was trying to tell us, would show just how far off the mark we all are.
    Our flesh, and hearts, have to match up. Our flesh, and hearts, are part of sin God, Jesus, Apostles and good clergy giving guidance shares…and if we are all honest here, most of our churches could use a ‘spring cleaning’, to get rid of cobwebs, cleaning out the dark and dank places that sin and lies hide.
    Pride, is a focus many churches have these days, over God. “How many were at your church?”,many times replaces what the goal should be. Focused on those that are there, rather than mans values of make the sermon in mans values.
    The church I use to go to, since a child, has now become apostate in accepting homosexuality. Even weeks before I left, many straight couples were counting the day for state law to allow homosexual marriage, and many times the hand holding and kissing that went on, during the sermon of substance, made a mockery of the silence and handshakes after the last ‘Amen’.
    In order for immorality to survive, the church has to invite it in…and while Jesus sat with prostitutes and sinners, he didn’t compromise, He publically called for repentance in, “Go and sin no more.”

  • Pastor Sharoon Bhatti

    It is a good point. Yes sermon is the most integral part of the service. A pastor should preach a spirit led sermon which would help the church to get mature spiritually.

  • Pt

    Pastors need to be consistently improving. Good preacher or not a pastor has never made a church grow. It helps if they have some charisma but a pastor who is constantly growing and striving to be like Christ will grow – in turn the church will grow. Not always in numbers but occasionally that happens. Accept the fact that people are shallow – preach with that in mind. “Boring” pastors are shallow because they don’t try to improve their craft.

  • Yvon Prehn

    I agree the senior pastor is important–but not only in the quality of the sermon. If he or she (and yes, some women are great preachers) has good sermons, but no vision, no follow up–if the senior pastor preaches well, but nothing else gets done, the church will also have problems.

    Also, a senior pastor may be a great preacher, but excessively proud of it, arrogant and abusive of people in private. Great preaching cannot cover up personal sins for long.

    • Stuart

      they may be great speakers, but God determines a great preacher and if they fail #1 at being obedient to the word then I would say He may not think they are so great, unless they are preaching to women. ;-)

  • Wayric

    I think it has to do more with people falling and being in love with Jesus. When you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, and mind, sermons become a very small part of your life with Christ.

    • Ryan

      Yea, a person spends about 1 to 2 percent of their time each week in church which is why it’s so important to encourage people to have a real relationship with their Father in heaven the other 98% of the time.

  • Easy

    People treat places of worship like restaurants who have buffets. They pick what they like.
    Some will love the place and others will not. No matter how well the food and service is to others.

  • csverret

    It is sad that this discussion even needs to be had. The problem is that we are in a consumerism society and the “church” has become a reflection of that consumerism. It would seem that just like today where we have a society that instead of asking what they can do for their country, they ask what their country can do for them; in the same way the church has become just like society around it. What might things be like if every Christian asked what they could do for the church, instead of what the church can do for them. The problem with erecting a building is that you then have to start thinking about how to pay for that building which then leads to figuring out how to get people into the church which then leads to entertaining which is not what Christianity is about. What happened to the Word of God being enough??? Will any of this change? Not likely until we lose the freedom to choose and are forced to return to house churches where a group of commited Christians meet to rejoice in the God they serve.

    • Ryan

      Churches are finacially costly and when indebted, the focus is on getting more people to pay the bills and there is a big push on the ‘10% God tax’ along with guilting to separate people from their money to pay for it all.

  • Zack Martin

    “I came to know Christ in a Free Methodist Church.” – Do you remember what Free Methodist Church it was? I’m from that denomination, and rarely do people know who we are.

    Great writing. Preaching with authority and power were calling cards of Christ’s ministry. People were consistently amazed at his teaching. I’ve heard many preachers who might be less flashy (boring, at times), but their command of Scripture and the power of transforming grace they preached won me over. Being a great communicator comes in many forms. I’ve also been bored to death by shallow, albeit charismatic, preaching that lost me due to the ineffectual mishandling of God’s word.

  • http://www.facebook.com/antny.brdsth Antny Brdsth

    James 1:22-25 (ESV) 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away
    and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be
    blessed in his doing.

    Are we deceiving ourselves? Is the church ONLY about preaching? Normally I would agree with David Murrow. But this is off the deep end. There is so much more at stake.

  • Tod Thompson

    I think it’s more than just the sermon. As some have noted, there are very famous pastors who draw huge crowds and their content is flawed and in some cases downright blasphemous. It is true that personal magnetism and leadership are good assets to have, whether for good or ill. Likeability is also a huge factor. Some people just draw people to themselves. I do agree with the author, though. Often times we want to think that Christians attend their church for lofty spiritual reasons and not shallow ones, but if that is the case why are we so focused on the mundane as a means to draw people?

  • Jim

    I believe that in Gods word there are answers for all situations of our lives. Jesus quoted scripture in Mtt. 4 when satan came against Him, because He was filled with the Word and was the Word. Many times in our busy lives we don’t take the time to get into the Word and feed upon it to strengthen our inner man. Exodus 16 Moses tells the people to go six days a week to gather the bread that would sustain them. Our spiritual strength depends on how much we go to the table of The Lord to eat spiritually. Once a week at church will make us weak Christians. Again maybe this brother wasn’t called to go to the daughter church, as we all need to listen what God has to say and where he wants us to be and in His timing.

  • TheGOV

    Pastor Dan,
    Some years ago my home church was going through tough times and inconsistent preaching. I struggled with stay or go for months.
    I woke up one morning and the answer was clear as I have ever had, stay and grow the parts of the church that I could influence to help others that were frustrated.
    Those that felt as I did and encourage the fellowship and love that truly defines a Christian Church.
    We, the congregation, have an obligation to help others in the church that have needs not
    met by senior pastor.

  • Bandguy

    David,

    I bet I could find some really entertaining, heretical Churches led by wolves that are filled to the brim with goats. And yet, Isaiah found a stump which was the Holy Seed of God. What you are promoting is nothing more than the post-Christian heresy of the modern day Church Growth Movement which is more concerned with butts in the pews and money in the plates than they are with Disciples who are Spirit Led, disciplined Christians who love God and others more than they love themselves, and who have more passion for the lost than they do the financial stability of their church building. The number of butts in the pews, the amount of money in the plate, and the length of time a pastor is able to keep his job at a Church is not a Biblical indication of success or failure and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for saying it is. Most God called pastors in the world are actually dying for their faithfulness. They aren’t building their retirement plan on this planet. They are storing their treasures in heaven.

  • Paul Trogen

    This article rings true!
    We do search across denominational lines. When I worked as an institutional chaplain, I too visited the churches of various denominations in my area. I was eventually drawn to a growing church. I attend one church on Sunday morning, and then play guitar and sing at a different church of another denomination on Sunday evening. The question where to attend (whether to feed or to be fed) depends on several factors.
    FIrst: we have a responsibility to grow in our walk with God. Being saved is not the end, it is only the beginning. People who made a committment to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade were usually told to find a church where the Gospel is preached. So what is preached would make a difference.
    Responsibilities to your family are another factor. I have responsibilities as a father. I have a teenager at home. Hymns do not reach my teenager. No matter what I like, I realise my eternal destiny is set, while my teenager’s walk with God is still in the formative stage. So I need a church where the music will turn my teeager on instead of off. I found a church where my teenager would like both the sermon (this visual learner like powerpoints) and the music (Christian Contemporary). As a result, the same teenager who can’t get up before noon on Saturday, is eager to get up for Church on Sunday morning.
    Third I have a responsibility to the broader community, I should invest my “seed money” where I believe it will produce the biggest crop. In business, a company that takes valuable resources and makes them into something less valuable will lose customers and go out of business. On the other hand, a business that takes precious resources and make them into something people value even more, will get more customers and expand. In business school they call that the invisible hand. Are the contributions to God’s kingdom worth less than that of stockholders? If contributions are going to produce services that fail to reach people for the Kingdom, is it not better for Christians to get up and invest their contributions in another church which is reaching people for Christ?
    You and I are investors in the Kingdom of God. We have a responsibility to invest those things which God has entrusted to us in a way that will build God’s kingdom, not only in our own lives, but in that of our family and our community.

    • SYoo

      Thank you for addressing the ‘feed or be fed’ question and providing your thoughts. I too attend two different churches, one to be fed and the other to help feed others. However, with my young children I have been thinking about their salvation … and I am torn as to what to do. I do understand the questions posed by the author about church loyalty, when do you cut sling exactly, how do you do that (say nothing at all, a letter detailing why, what?), how do you know when you should just hang in there a bit longer? So many questions. You seem to have it all set – you go where your daughter seems to be fed. Getting to that point of KNOWING what to do is difficult when there are so many factors at work. You mentioned investing in churches where the message is reaching people for Christ. Does that mean where the message is reaching a LOT of people? How about if only a handful are being really really ‘life-changing’ reached? Is that enough or too-little? That is the hard part of this question (to me). I believe God is always at work. The question is then, where does He want ME to be?

  • Rodney

    David, I tried to contact you privately, but my computer would not work with your email system. Thus, this will have to be public which I regret because I will appear vain, but I do not think that is the case. Exceptionally good preaching ALONE will NOT grow the church. If it did I would pastor one of the larger churches in my city (Lord, help me be humble). Gifted, in the know people I have pastored have told me that I am one of the best communicators they have ever heard. Yet, I pastor a church that runs about 180 in attendance. I love to preach. I am in my element when I am preaching. Also, I am not a poor pastor or administrator But if preaching was the panacea you say it is, it is not working for me. All that said, I am nothing apart from Jesus. He is the ground of my being and the basis of my life’s meaning. So, how does this factor into your point. I love your point. I wish it were so, but after 40 years of pastoring I have not found your hypothesis to be as sound as you state it.

  • Guest

    I don’t usually respond to these kinds of articles, and I might regret doing it this time. There are many of us out here pastoring small, struggling churches, battling the multitude of voices in our heads screaming our inadequacies. Some of us are barely hanging on in what seems like impossible situations. Trying to be faithful to what we believe God had called us to do while seeing little if any fruit. We are preparing the best sermons we can, and doing all we know to feed the flock. We preach and teach our hearts out, pray, lead and prepare the best we can, and then look out and see sleepy closed eyes, texting, and blank and indifferent looks.

    I’m not trying to be mean spirited, but until you walk in a senior pastor’s shoes in a church that is gasping and hanging on the edge, you ought not point fingers. Life kicks our butts enough without needing any help from guys like you. Maybe consider writing and article that attempts to inspire and build pastors up… just a thought.

    • SYoo

      Hi Bigarm, I enjoyed this article and the discussion (comments) and I really can relate to the questions at the end posed by the author although I am not a pastor. I do agree with you that it is easier to critique leadership than to do it. That is why I try not to talk about my leaders because I do understand that it takes a lot to keep a lot of folks happy (at minimum). Anyway… something about your post made me want to be sure to respond. I believe that pastors have their responsibilities- which you have listed them in your post (pray, lead, preach, teach, prepare…) but you pastors are not the only ones with responsibilities. If you look out and notice folks not paying attention- well they are the ones missing out. Personally, I know that I come to church to hear the Word and if needed, I intentionally refocus my attention and my thoughts on you, the pastor, in order to not miss a thing in case something or someone distracting catches my eye. Don’t give up.You never know who God is working on through you and your faithfulness and dedication. You may never know. Would you want to be pastor of a church full of “pew warmers” as someone else put it or pastor of a small few dedicated, “on- fire” individuals who are impacting their family and friends’ lives by living out what they learn through you? Again these are things that you may never know your impact on in this lifetime. … Also, I just wanted to share that other reasons why I come to church are to be an example to my family, to help out in areas that need attention within the church so that other (new) attendees will feel welcomed, or will have a place to put their children etc. There are many areas where others may go unnoticed while helping you to run your church service smoothly. You are not alone in this fight. Maybe it is okay to hear and consider other’s point of views on this. Perhaps this particular article doesn’t apply to you, even though you are a pastor, but it applies and is an eye-opener for someone else. Just a thought. … All will end up well and just as God intended it to be- that is what I believe. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • sarahkp533

      God bless you, Bigarm. I agree with you. Many hard-working pastors in small congregations do not need to see this discouragement. And many who have large growing congregations do not need to see if either because they may become bigheaded and really believe it is all about them, that they did this.

    • Hersh or is it Harsh

      Bigarm, I recently mentioned to my Pastor that his teaching seems to be/maybe falling on deaf ears. I see very little efforts from the pew-polishers other than “paying their dues.” I believe they show up for their weekly guilt relief and leave. We have no outreach, no community interaction, minimal amount of fellowship between ourselves except on POTLUCK SUNDAYS….

      After passionately serving in any area asked and then some, I feel compelled to leave…. I asked, no begged my Pastor to “break our hearts” and move us in our walks. Though we have been greatly blessed being taught deep theological truths we have not been inspired at the heart level to reach the Lost/Unsaved. My Pastor’s point/answer was to keep on keeping on… which from my perspective is not working.

      I asked a very good friend of mine who pastors in another city what the matter might be he said, “Teaching is information, Preaching is inspiration, maybe you need to be inspired more.”

      So Bigarm, I love my Pastor, I pray for him but I don’t think he is seeing the problem or is ignoring it. I believe God breaks the hearts of Man through the mouth(preaching) and hands(writings) of Man. If my Pastor won’t speak it ie. break our hearts by preaching sermons that call us on the carpet so to speak, then I don’t know what else to do but leave.

      Lastly…. not to be mean-spirited I will say this… maybe it’s time to thin out the herd?????

      • Ben

        Harsh, the reason people are leaving there is to much legality and too much sin conscience being preached. The whole truth and nothing but the truth so help us God, How many times have you felt the presence of God in your church. what do you mean to break our hearts? do you like hell and damnation preaching? what are you looking for. Ben

    • Ben

      Bigarm, i am sorry you are struggling and being beaten and trying to be faith full. have you asked for prayer, I would be very glad to intercede for you. Father i pray for my brother who is struggling with his ministry, He needs your help and encouragement, heal his wounded heart allow Him to feel your love through Jesus, may the Holy Spirit comforts you and lead you, and may your faith in our Lord grow stronger. my brother Be strong in the Lord Jesus no matter what the dark time is coming as you very well know, and is almost upon us, question will our Lord Jesus find faith when he returns, or a bunch of good works. Your in Christ Jesus Ben

  • ariel

    In our church people come for bread and wine.. ..preaching secondary…relationship with pastor is the key.

  • Yemi

    I agree. Every pastor needs to admit this fact

  • Peter Mahoney

    Here’s my thought. Do we accept the way things are and work in the reality, or do we fight to change?

    I stepped into a congregation that lacked any missional culture at all. Everything was rooted in a “feel-good” worship gathering centered on Joel Osteen styled messages… funny and felt needs. I began with preaching through books of the Bible (specifically the Gospel of John), introducing ministry and mission (local and international) opportunities, and working toward restoring proper governance and covenant church membership among other things. In my naivety, I thought we would begin to grow within 2 to 3 years… wrong.

    We’ve lost about 20% in 5 years and have yet to turn the corner. I hurt that we aren’t growing and deal with discouragement nearly everyday. Yes, I’ve had other pastor comrades evaluate my sermons and the consensus is they are not the problem.

    Some churches (i.e. people) don’t want to grow or don’t care. They have no urgency to see those they love reached with the Gospel. They don’t follow no matter who the leaders are. They embody the narcissism the article purports (and yet doesn’t). At some point, pastors have to shake the dust off and move on.

  • Fernando Villegas

    I wrote a pretty detailed response earlier today, which apparently was not seen as fit to be published, because I don’t see it on here. It’s pretty frustrating to put in all that effort and not see it posted.

    So, here is the abbreviated version. If anyone would like more details, please feel free to comment:

    Church growth is not inherently good, nor is it inherently bad. It is a symptom of an underlying condition, which can be either good or bad.

    If my child grows, that is good. It means my child is healthy. If a malignant tumor inside me grows, that is bad. It means I’m sick.

    When a healthy church grows, that is a good thing. And a healthy church will, by definition, include pastoral quality, but it will include so much more.

    If a church grows *solely* because of the pastor, I suggest that that is not a healthy church, and such growth is, in fact, bad. The last thing we need is an unhealthy church growing.

    So my main idea is: our focus on “growth” misses the point. Our focus should be on health, instead. A healthy church will grow, just like healthy children grow.

    I hope this goes through, this time.

    • Peter Mahoney

      Great thoughts Fernando!!! Thanks!!!

    • R. Timothy Jones

      Thanks for your insight.

    • Bing

      Well said Fernando. Very well said. Its all about CHURCH HEALTH and not CHURCH ATTENDANCE.

  • Monica Smith

    >Many have personally found Buddhist Teachings to be very helpful.
    These teachings are very similar to Christian principles, yet provide
    more practical advice. For example, Mindfulness Meditation has helped
    many, many people cope with anxiety and panic attacks. Even pain and
    post traumatic stress. There are many books on happiness written by
    Buddhist Monks. They define happiness as having a peaceful state of
    mind and being content and provide a lot of very practical advice on how
    to achieve a peaceful state of mind. Buddhist Teachings also emphasize
    compassion which is the same and Christian benevolent love.

    Some even think Jesus traveled to the east and learned Buddhist
    teachings before he began his ministry – because his teachings are so
    similar. 400 years before the birth of Jesus – the Buddha taught the
    Golden Rule in other words: “Do not do to others what you don’t want
    them to do to you.”

    It’s wonderful when Christians find comfort in God. But it’s wrong
    to assume all non-Christians are on the “wrong” path. Just look at the
    Tibetan people who have suffered violence when China attacked Tibet in
    the 1950s. They (including the Dalai Lama) found a way to cope and are
    some of the happiest, peaceful and most content people on earth.

  • Max

    Great article! I have worked with all denomination pastors for years. I have found many are not qualified to be a pastor. Leading and preaching is lacking.
    Thank you again for such a great article. All pastors should read this article.
    Keep up this great ministry.

  • Ps Edwin

    The Apostle Paul himself said that it is not by eloquent speech but with the testimony of God that he comes to the people (1 Cor 2:1) The Pastor, AND everyone else who serves in any capacity in church, including the members, are but INSTRUMENTS of God. It is not about how “good” or how “bad” the pastor preaches. It is all about the ANOINTING of the Holy Spirit, and the depth and intimacy of the preacher with the Holy Spirit. YES, the Pastor who is called by God to preach is responsible for the flock, and the problem with churches you described here will NOT even get an inch where the pastor AND the congregation ALL live a life LIKE JESUS did, consistently hearing the voice of God, praying, interceding and filled with the Holy Spirit! A church that is consciously looking unto any man, human strengths & failures – especially upon the leader/pastor/preacher will never grow, for the main reason that their eyes are not set right on the reason for it all – GOD HIMSELF. It is not about the pastor or whoever preaches, it is about the anointing and presence of the Holy Spirit, that is wrought in fervent prayer and communion with God just like Jesus Christ always taught and exemplified. All glory be to God!

  • Lenny

    what kind of sermons should a pastor preach to keep the interest of the people, when you have to write a sermon every week it can become challenging and when you are a new pastor it is even more of a challenging.
    People should study the word of God on they own and not depend on they pastor for all they growth in God’s word.

    • Fernando Villegas

      “People should study the word of God on they own and not depend on they pastor for all they growth in God’s word.” I agree one hundred percent!

      May I suggest an additional solution to the problem. Why not share the preaching ministry with gifted and trained elders and lay members in the congregation? That takes off the pressure of having to prepare a sermon every week, giving each preacher plenty of time to internalize the message more deeply.

  • Steven Leapley

    Reading through theses comments……only heightens Davids’ point…. Telling him “thanks for the discouragement” while others like and agree with it? Church becoming a pony show and then still others talk about ‘why is it the leaders fault.’ …. EXACTLY to his point…. Maybe we should all take a step back and instead of bashing this article (which I am finding is happening in every article from this site) maybe we should say ‘hmmm…I wonder what validity this has….does it happen in my church..am I guilty….are we one of the lucky ones… how can I relate this to my situation” but…no we (as leaders) bash on our other leaders.. Hey if your church is not thriving…it is most likely a LEADERSHIP thing….. when the team fails to meet the playoffs do they fire the guys on the field who are not playing well….no they fire the coach…. when a business goes south do they fire the workers…no they fire the boss….

    If we are to truly become a church that is different from the world then we should act a little different….. Maybe we should take responsibility for those charged under us instead of shirking behind the blame game……failure to take responsibility is creating an excuse…and we all have heard the analogy about excuses…..

    I don’t always agree (This time I do) and I need to make sure I check myself before replying.. I am just sad sad sad with all the people (prominent) in ministry who fall into public sin (adultry, drugs, etc…) and what do we as ‘leaders’ do……blast them to the ground…. no wonder church has become what it has become….

    • Fernando Villegas

      You make some valid points; and certainly the vast majority of articles contain at least something of merit that one can use to improve one’s ministry.

      By the same token, I think you should recognize that while there is a fair amount of people who simply “bash” the article, others offer valid critiques that also should be considered seriously.

      My primary critique posted above was simply to challenge an underlying premise of the article and to suggest that church health, rather than church growth, should be our primary concern. If a church is healthy (which includes healthy leadership), growth will happen naturally, just as healthy children grow naturally. I can’t *make* my children grow, but I can do my best to make sure they are healthy.

      On the other hand, simply because a church grows does not mean that a church is healthy, as illustrated by a growing tumor inside a sick person.

      And speaking of church health, I agree that pastoral leadership is very important. But the emphasis of this article seemed to limit pastoral leadership simply to preaching. Which is interesting because, while preaching is certainly a part of pastoral leadership, it is not the primary responsibility. According to Ephesians 4, the only passage in the NT that refers specifically to the pastoral office, the primary responsibility of the pastor is equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

      Mr. Murrow writes: “When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is good at
      his job, the church grows. If he’s bad at his job, the church shrinks.” In the second and third sentences, he’s actually right to a point. What he fails to realize in the first sentence is that delivering a good sermon is *not* the pastor’s job. The pastor’s job is equipping the saints for the work of ministry. And if he is good at *that* job, that will promote a healthy church. There is, of course, much more to church health than simply good leadership. But there is not less.

      The fact that the pastoral ministry in contemporary Western Christianity is defined more by preaching than it is by equipping the saints, along with Mr. Murrow’s argument that church growth rises or falls on the pastor’s ability to deliver a good sermon, as well as the over-emphasis on church growth in the first place–all of this indicates the need to be quite concerned about the overall health of the Church.

      I do agree that knee-jerk, reactionary bashing adds nothing of value to the conversation. And Mr. Murrow does make some good points as far as they go. But I think it is important to point out that any good points Mr. Murrow makes are made in the context of a premise which, in the end, misses the big point overall.

  • dannyb

    I sometimes think that the more we debate these points, the more confused I feel but in the end we are only human. I am a fairly new Christian and I just thank God that I have been led to a great church with a wonderful teacher who is very insightful and always puts Christ at the centre. I never had to struggle with this issue and I praise God for that but at the end of the day I’m there to learn and learn I do! So I’M just want to say thank you Jesus for a wonderful pastor who has also become a dear friend and some of the most loving people I have ever had in my life, Amen. Don’t get me wrong, these discussions are very valid and make us challenge our thinking so many thanks to the writers of these articales, I really enjoy reading them and I learn a lot from this site. Godbless you all, your brother in Christ…Danny Burton in Oz

  • Pastor Samuel

    YOU NO WHY THEY FIRED THE FIRST PASTOR?BECAUSE HE WAS PROBERLY THE TRUTH AND THE CHURCHES TODAY DONT WANT THE TRUTH THEY WANT A FEEL GOOD MESSEGE TO FEEL COMFORTABLE IN THERE SIN CHURCH PEOPLE NEED THE TRITH NOT A KEEP LIVING IN SIN MESSEGE!!!THAT WHY THEY PREACH TOLARANCE LIVE HOW U WANT,BECAUSE THEY WANT THE BIGGEST CHURCH,MONEYAND WHAT HAPPENS WITH THAT THE PEOPLE GO TO HELL.IF JESUS HAD A CHURCH TODAY HE WOULDNT HAVE A JOEL OSTIEN CHURCH IT BE EMPTY,WHY? BECAUSE JESUS PREACHED THE TRUTH AND WHAT HAPPENED WHEN HE PREACHED THE TRUTH HE GOT FIRED!!!!! SO REALLY CHURCH OR WHO EVER WROTE THIS FEEL GOOD AD REPENT!!!!!!!!!!GOD IS COMING

    • Fernando Villegas

      Just in case you’re not aware, writing in all-caps is the equivalent of shouting. Regular typing is appropriate.

  • bgjax

    You have touched upon an aspect of the brokeness of the expression of the church in the US. The sermon is part of it…. the issue of the Iconic Senior Pastor Syndrome… the church focus is upon the senior pastor….the church is the community of believers …. The church was never intended to be so focused upon a single individual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracy.e.crawford.7 Tracy E Crawford Jr

    I totally disagree with this article. While a preacher should be able to preach, his ability to serve Gid and his leadership skills are far more vital than his ability to preach. I know plenty of preachers who can speak well as have small congregations that won’t grow. I also know plenty of preachers that can’t preach that have thriving and growing congregations.

  • czp15

    It’s truly scary to see how much hinges on the senior minister! In my opinion, I think the personality out weighs the content of the sermon. People don’t want to be preached to. We don’t want a commentary being read to us. We want to hear from a “real” person going through “real” life issues that is “really” searching after God. Personally, I wish more preachers would practice self-disclosure. Stop trying to impress us with your Greek and unzip your heart a little more (not that I’m saying research is bad)!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.macias1 Jeff Macias

    The vision of God is what pulls a church together. If the Church has no vision no purpose no direction it will perish.

  • Firespeaks

    This post starts off asking the question ” Is Church Growth All About the Pastor?” yet it never answers the question. To me it says that God word is impotent and the charisma of the pastor is king. (Isaiah 42:8)

    Sadly, the question is answered in the size of many of the mega churches, few of which have any sound content, in the preaching or is preaching people lust over God words. yet they continuously grow in members size. ( Matthew 7:13-14)

    Not that I have anything against a Mega-Church, I just feel that number for the sake of number prostitutes the word of God. Maybe the problem with not growing or losing members has to do with failing to teach the members what it needs to make the church grown.

    I am over 50 years old and I can honestly say between attending church, watching TV evangelist and reading article I seldom get anything new, I don’t expect anyone to feed the meat of the gospel, that’s my job because its about my salvation.

  • John

    Good thought provoking article. I believe for the most part the article is true. It is hard for a church to rise above the level of it preaching. However I have seen great preachers struggle with church growth and have seen mediocre preachers experience amazing church growth. Ultimately it is all in the hands of God.

  • R. Timothy Jones

    I don’t know if there is anything I regret more than seeing a time when there are preachers who are more popular than the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is people are attacked to “priests” with no appreciation for “prophets.” While priests make us feel better it’s the prophet who challenges us to be better. Unfortunately many people attend churches where they are made to “feel” better even when their lives are deeply sinful. We should also be reminded that America’s churches average about 60 members. These churches are not on international television but are enriching the lives of their parishioners. Their pastors are not superstars with private jets but they are shepherds who love and feed their flocks in warm intimate settings. We never talk about the trade offs of the mega churches but it was never God’s intent for people to simply be numbers without names and identities. This is why with upwards of 2,000 members I make it a point to learn names and be relational. I want to encourage the pastors who are faithful to the Word of God and the people they lead who won’t ever make it into the Outreach 100. Continue to preach and teach even if your church doesn’t attract thousands. You are as significant to the kingdom as those who pack stadiums across America.

  • Raybern

    Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ, not with a pastor. As a child of God we are called to go and make disciples. The pastor’s job is to train and equip. Consumerism in the church is a counterfeit and fickle religion and should never be used to evaluate, elevate or reduce God’s call on a person’s life.

  • Rev Mike

    Depends on what you call good preaching or a good sermon. I was raised Methodist and pastor a Pentecostal Holiness church, and IPHC, holiness. Over the past 20 years I have seen people “moved” by preachers that “run and gun, yell and tell.” I have also seen people moved by “teaching preachers.” It all comes down to personal preference most of the time. I agree, a preacher has no excuse today not to preach good sermons with all the information available to us today. Many have itching ears as well and want to here sermons that place no responsibility on them personally to carry out their duty to Christ as Christians. I will continue to preach and teach what I feel the Lord would have me communicate from His word each service. I will do it as best I can with the abilities I have learned as a communicator, but nothing will replace the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart and in the hearts of those who really want to know what it is God has to say to them.

  • Preacherman

    I totally disagree with this what ever you want to call this!!! It is totally out of line with the scripture. And such contradicts God Himself. I personally know of several churches with large attendance, big buildings and large cash flow. And the preachers can’t spell PREACH!!! The success of the church is not based on A’s=attendance B’s Building & C= Cash flow!!! David i’m praying for you brother but u missed God on this one!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.williams.3133 Gregory Williams

    I am sorry people are so caught with what they want, they do not think about anyone but themselves, its me. Its about what I need, just maybe God planted you in that congregation to teach you something about yourself, we are so caught up with exogetical messages! think about this just maybe the pastor is saying what the Spirit of God is saying through him or her, just maybe it is what the congregation needs, and just maybe you keep hearing it because you are not living it, thats the problem I see, I am so glad the Disciples, were not selfish like we are today. Sunday morning is when we have most people who are not saved attend church and the message of salvation need to be preached,instead of complaining it seems a lot of people need to get the heart of Christ. Church is not Entertainment, if you would like to be entertained and have a lot of programs church is not the place for you! The Presence of the Lord Makes the Difference in any Church, not the pastor

    • Preacherman

      WELL SAID!!!! I COULDN’T AGREE MORE!!!! WE ARE NOT ENTERTAINERS!!!! THIS GOSPEL MESSAGE WE PREACH IS SOMETIMES UNPOPULAR!!!! U MIGHT BE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS!!!!

  • Richard

    Our church is an exception. Our church has a gifted pastor who preaches the Word very effectively with a mission to reach the lost and hurting. Unfortunately, when he came the congregation suffered from Burger Kingitis – I want it my way and serve me. I will never forget talking with one Church member complaining about the Pastor before he left pointing to a group of people who were not members of the Church saying, “Pastor ________ is more concerned about them than he is about us.” While this clearly was not true, it was indicative of a congregation that had become inward and self-focused, not God and other-focused. Before our Pastor came, the Church had already been shrinking and when he came with a vision to reach the lost, it hastened the exodus, which was a good thing. We are smaller, like Gideon’s army, but we are now healthy, unified and on fire. We are slowly growing and we are reaching people with our weekly food minsitry, through which people have accepted Christ. Our youth group is growing and people are stepping up and creating new ministries, such as a Single Parents’ Group. Sometimes it’s a good thing to shrink and never forget Christ did his greatest work when everyone deserted him.

    • Preacherman

      AMEN RICHARD!!!! BIG DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN GROWTH COULD MEAN SWELLING!!! (INFLAMMATION) SICK!!! AGAIN DAVID U MISSED GOD ON THIS ONE!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.williams.3133 Gregory Williams

    More and More Churches are becoming like the Laodiceans (Lukewarm) we do not even know that we have become wretched and misreable and poor,blind and naked. Jesus is knocking at our doors and we cannot even hear him knocking, because it is all about us!

  • RichinHisgrace

    The Church is a force in the world sin. We don’t act very much like it, but we are one vast army. The overwhelming number of local churches are platoon-sized units (think Band of Brothers here). Your “platoon” has an assignment in the line. It’s not big, not always exciting, but if you don’t do your assignment it’s a bad thing. Seek The Lord to grow in understanding the value of your assignment – whether you’re a pastor, a leader or the newest recruit in the platoon. You’re not the regimental commander or the general of the army. Stay put, clean your weapons, help the folks next to you and learn. Be a faithful sergeant. Complaining does not help. (Pastor for 25 years. 2 church plants. Pastor of pastors. One wife).

  • Mar Komus

    Hitler was a great communicator, too. Followed and admired by millions. Perhaps we should gauge the success of the church by other measures.

    • Bromly Egerton

      That’s true. The church has turned into a “big business” on a large scale. It’s about time for the church to start standing up for CHRIST and His word, rather than trying to “grow” the church. It’s a question of focus. Is your focus on advancing His kingdom, or on building your church? An easy way to tell is, if you lead someone to Christ, how do you feel if they start going to a church down the street that has similar doctrine to yours? Annoyed? Upset? Or just glad that they will learn the Word of God at that church?

      That wasn’t directed at you specifically. I’m just putting this on for the world to see.

      • Mar Komus

        Love it! Absolutely! I recently got ejected from leadership (typical story: charge a thousand things till one sticks), but am always glad to hear when people are growing in Christ through the ministry offered at the big business church. Phil 1:15-18. Of course, I do pray that in due time things change or those whom I care about dearly leave, but it is the Lord’s Kingdom; HIS will be done!

        • John Peters

          Wow, Mar! I love your spirit. Yes, indeed, HIS will be done. And if it means taking me out of the way, take me home, Lord!

        • Bromly Egerton

          Sorry, only just now got arround to answering, but I agree with John Peters. Your spirit is truly one of love and understanding. May God bless you even more abundantly, as it is clear He has already blessed you with a kingdom-centered mind-set.

  • JESUS WEPT

    John 6:65-71(KJV)

    65 And he (JESUS) said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me,
    except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

    I John 2:18-19
    18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have
    continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

    People are free, responsible and accountable. They want to be free, but they don’t
    want to be held responsible and accountable for their freedom. So, they live in
    any ungodly way they please and when the fruit of that behavior begins to drop
    from the trees onto the ground, they say, “Why did God do this?” God had nothing to do with this. They are reaping the harvest for which they have been sowing and working. Many will want the freedom to come in and out of churches, doing as they please, and when things do not go their way, they blame the Pastors.

    “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We all need to be saved. We all need a new heart, the kind only available from a life-transforming experience with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”) These troubled individuals latch on to God’s people and devote themselves to controlling their lives, playing on their guilt and making demands on their time. Their mantra is, “It’s pastors like you who cause people to quit going to church.” That being said, It basically means that, Pastors who preach the
    unadulterated gospel of JESUS CHRIST, who stand for truth, whose life reflects
    Holiness and who refuse to be manipulated by them are responsible for that
    person and/or people leaving the church. But…..the devil is a lie.

    Plenty of people believe this lie from hell. Some who swallow that poison are Pastors
    and true worshippers of God with a heart for ministry and a love for people. They are fearful that someone somewhere might be offended if they did this thing or that thing—or did not do this or that—or say this or that and the result is they fall short of the glory of God. They worry and grieve themselves to death.

    But I say to all Pastors, Missionaries, Evangelists, Worshippers of the One and Only True God, “Stay Upon the Wall and Don’t Come Down!” Watch JESUS!!!

    You see, JESUS did not beat Himself up when an audience walked out on Him. After all the people who called themselves His disciples got up and left in John 6, the Lord turned to the twelve and said: “Well, how about you? Will you go away, too?” Simon Peter, gifted with the ability to say precisely the wrong thing, said it right this time. “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” And… “That’s not all. JESUS even drove some of them away when He cleansed the temple.” So, you see, even our Lord knows that some people must leave in order for the true mission of God to be accomplished.

    Some people are in the way of what God has called THE CHURCH to do, they do not share the values of the Lord, and are not remotely interested in living Holy (which is our reasonable service). They are not praying for the mission of THE CHURCH to come to fruition and for souls to be saved (which is the mission of THE CHURCH – by way of the Great Commission found in Matt 18-20:; they are totally opposed to God’s plan. They have been deceived by the enemy. They believe as long as I go to church, pay my tithes and offerings and don’t cause harm to people, I’m going to heaven anyhow, because it don’t take all of that…

    BUT THE DEVIL IS A LIE AND THE FATHER OF LIES.

    They should leave! Pastor(s) this is not your doing but God is putting in the sickle in these last days and separating the wheat from the chaff (Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Matt 3:12) so this is by the hand of the Almighty GOD. When they do leave, it will signal a NEW birth of freedom for THE church.

    So, be encouraged Brethern and know that God is well pleased with your obedience, sacrifice and LOVE for Him! Continue to preach the TRUTH of God, even if you are the only person left in the church. For the road to salvation is a lonely one but HOLD ON YOU CAN MAKE IT!!! Praise God, In JESUS Holy Name!!!

  • J Dale

    I think this article fails to recognize the importance of the rest of the team. It does not matter how good a quarterback is if he is not protected by offense linemen. Great biblical sermons are essential as the starting point in the development of the ministry, but to be effective over a long period a pastor must develop a good support team.

    • Yinka Ologunsua

      Thanks for this. We must learn to face the reality, no matter how good or ‘bad’ a particular church or pastor is, some people would come in while some others would exit. Some may even remain physically but are elsewhere in spirit. It is just appropriate that the leadership ensures that those going out are helped even in finding an alternative that keeps them heaven bound, no unsettled quarrels. Jesus says “I build my church”, let us keep doing our part.

  • Pastor Sloan

    We teach a section on How To Leave A Church during Membership Orientation. We suggest that people meet (face to face) to discuss their reasons for leaving. Three benefits are made possible. 1. The pastor is made aware of problems. 2. Misunderstandings can be cleared up. (Common!) 3. No hard feelings or guilt are carried into the new church.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SF43OW4DZFVVAHLQ4KBR6LBSPM Fresh Start

    The preaching is only a small part of the church growth issue. Have you listened to some of the pablum that passes for sermons where the church is in the thousands???????…SOME, not all, some of these guys are preaching milk, milk, milk. They are NOT good messages. Besides..what’s a “good” sermon? Isn’t that too subjective? Is liver delicious? It’s all according to who you ask. I wouldn’t care of Emeril Lagasse himself made my liver, I am not going to eat it… I mean Jesus preached GREAT messages and MANY walked away…. I could go on, but I won’t. I

  • Jac

    I’ve always found that in the churches I have observed the congregation is pretty forgiving when it comes to bad preaching, provided they know their pastor cares about them/visits them etc.

    However those are faithful Christians, I agree that getting/keeping new people a lot depends on the sermon and whether it is interesting and relevant. A pretty good light show helps too!

  • Ptr. Eric

    We come to church not just to received but also to give, to received instruction from God for our daily lives, but also to give out time, talents, spiritual gifts, resources for the good of others. Maybe Roger is just doing the former, just waiting for a lightning struck from God, and not concern to minister to others. This is real church, the only organization that lives for others. I believed in relevant sermons, but this is just a piece of a pie.

    We also encounter this kind of a problem here in our church, and the man after complaining about the sermons move to another church and stay as a hearer and not as a doer of the word until today, what a waste.

  • Pastor’s Wife

    It’s not always about the feeding, but sometimes it’s about the eating. I can feed my children tasty, healthy meals, but if they refuse to chew and swallow, and grow thereby, then they will starve to death. The same is true in church. Pastors can teach/preach amazing sermons, but if the congregants refuse to chew and swallow, insisting they don’t like this or that (I believe the Bible calls that “itching ears”), then they will spiritually starve to death. There will be those in the church under the same teaching who will grow and flourish, so maybe it isn’t always the feeder, but the eater. A wise pastor will eventually learn how to get the pickiest of eaters to eat, but it can be an exhausting task. One thing that the American church has forgotten is that it is God who places us in the body as he sees fit, not only to grow ourselves, but to strengthen it and bless it.

  • chris

    Its not just about having great sermons and having a great communicator in a pastor at all.
    Its about the growth of each individual in the congregation and those people serving God as he chooses and their obedience, their relationship with Jesus and going out into the community and inviting people into Church.

    Its not all the pastors job.

  • steve ascension

    This is the worst article I have ever en counted on this web site. The writer is unfortuantly trying to justify idol worship, 2014 style. Sad!

  • preacher j

    I feel compelled to respond to your article. First, thank
    you for writing it. I believe your intent is to encourage us pastors and
    preachers. There is no doubt that preachers and preaching are important
    factors that impact church growth. I think your article, however overstates the
    point. From what I have read and experienced after 25 years of full time pulpit
    ministry, there are multiple factors that lead to the numerical growth of a
    church. Some are beyond the influence of the pastor (such as a declining neighborhood or city.) The relational factors seem to be key. Also, the research of experts in church growth, such Charles Arn and Christian Schwarz, affirm that preaching is only one of a number of key factors.

    You make the statement that, “And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison.” I am curious if there is any empirical research that supports that assertion. As a trained scientist, when measuring the impact of multiple factors it may be possible to weigh the relative impact of those factors.

    There is no question that leaders make a difference. Your quarterback analogy makes that point. However, there are different dynamics at work with a quarterback who calls plays to players who are paid millions of dollars to follow his call as compared to a pastor who leads a volunteer group with multiple sources of influence.

    Something that would really help me as a preacher who seeks to grow in my preaching and who desires to see the church to grow, would be to share some observations about the elements of preaching that may impact growth. For example, John MacArthur’s sermons differ from Joel Osteen’s. Both have churches that are large and are growing. I find it challenging to find many similarities in their preaching in both content and style.

    Finally, if taken to the extreme, your point would suggest that the 85% of churches in America that are not growing have poor preachers or poor preaching. I doubt if that it the case.

  • D.

    hard to overstate how unhelpful this article is

    • D.

      And the unhelpfulness extends to many levels–biblical, practical, theological, etc

  • JD3

    What grows the church? Simple, Jesus grows the church, Grace grows the church, His presence grows the church. John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” When Gods presence is present and His name lifted up His house fills up. The number that truly matters is how many people are turning from their ways, submitting their life to Christ, walking in His ways, and becoming loving, fully devoted, followers of Christ.

  • Randy Jay Rance

    Where is God. Being a Pastor is Not a job; that is what churches maybe in the drifts. Being a Pastor is a calling; where Jesus has spoken to a man through His Spirit and then that person goes forward with the presence of God in their lives. They minister as God leads them and not on a whim. I prefer expository preaching out of God’ s word, THAT is what people long to hear. To many people get out there with their topical trilogy of what they can think of for a sermon or perhaps how they sense God is leading for that sunday.
    Teaching out of the bible removes all doubt, you have His Message in your hands. God gives grace to those who depend upon his truth; even with occasional topical sermons here or there. God is always glorified in all things. A job is just that a job. A calling is the work of God. The origional church was there to help and support others in their walk. Not seeking so much to be fed. AKA Roger should have been at the daughter or son church to support and encourage others with his background. The godly person should know how to feed themselves. If that Pastor is struggling ? Lend them a hand since Roger seem’s to know where to get the right feeding. God bless you all in Jesus name.

  • Rob Hurt

    YES, YES, YES, people should feed themselves and spiritual shallowness is a real problem in the American church today. But you can’t argue with this…people left Jesus’ teaching because it made them angry, because it challenged them to more than they were willing to give or it made them uncomfortable. They did not leave because Jesus bored them! It seems to me the longer we are in ministry, the quicker we are to point out our congregations spiritual immaturity and the slower we are to look at ourselves to see how we can better reach them. Talking to myself here, too. Been youth pastor and associate pastor at my church for 22 years. Think of your most boring professor in seminary. Now imagine being in seminary for 10 years. Would you take their class every semester for 10 years, or would you make an effort to find other professors? Jesus didn’t bore even godless people.

  • Pastor James

    I think the church today is full of consumers…”Entertain me or I go where I can be!” The church does not grow or fail based on the preaching. I think that is trying to point the blame and ignoring the “elephant in the room”…spiritual immaturity on the peoples part. If the church would be what it is supposed to be and everyone does their part for the right reasons (to glorify God)…the church should grow. How can we blame just one person for the failure of the church? I think what needs to be asked also is, “Why am I trying to grow my church?” “Am I growing it just to have the biggest church?” “Or am I trying to grow disciples?” Jesus had the smallest church…he had 12 and one of those betrayed Him! Does that make Him a failure? Yes I understand numbers are souls, but too often I think we get into the mindset that if “my church isn’t running (insert number here) then we have failed.” How about we focus on prayer and on Jesus and let Him grow the church? Just a side note, Paul preached must of been boring at times, he preached a sermon in Acts 20 and a man by the name of Eutychus fell asleep and fell out a window!

  • BB

    I have been senior pastor of a church plant that we grew to a mid size church. Now on staff at a mega church. The staff here for the most part are good people. Yet let there be no one mistaken – the church is a machine. I have seen it from every angle for 25 years. I have longed to just focus on loving Jesus and loving people – but that is not what grows a church. In todays world more conversation in staff meetings is around building momentum then waiting on the Holy Spirit. People love to say that the evidence of God at work in a church is in it’s growth. I am sorry to say, nothing is further from the truth. In a mid size or small church the pastor and staff are quickly known for who they really are, good or bad. In a mega church pastors and staff can hide behind the machine and give an illusion of what people think they want to see. Just ask yourself this, think of pastors that are (or have been) famous and have a large following, yet you have little resect for. Can you name more than a handful? I know i can. These pastors figured out that if they have raw talent they can live a dualistic life. No different then a popular TV sitcom, if you can deliver your lines well, people will laugh and follow you. As long as you avoid making stupid mistakes, high level talent covers a multitude of sins

  • Pastjoe

    If you come to the table hungry, most any food will taste good. If you come expecting only dessert, nothing will taste good unless it is the dessert your were expecting. The only time that you should not be fed at a worship service is if what is offered is spiritually burned (Scripturally unsound).

  • rick

    nonsense

  • Carl
  • Ugh!

    I really try not to negatively comment on articles, but this one rubbed me the wrong way.

    Mr. Murrow, you keep depending on you, I will keep depending on Jesus. Perhaps my congregation will never be as large as yours, but at least they will know who they are following.

  • Mike

    I’m sorry, but this is one of the most ignorant articles I have ever read.

  • In Pain

    with this article and two slices of bread you can make a bologna sandwich….yep you’re right everything is ALWAYS the pastors fault…members NEVER do wrong :(

  • Dan Martin

    I personally know of a one pastor who after having pastored a congregation of 125 or so for quite some time, moved to another church and grew from 250-300 to well over 900 in attendance. Same pastor. Same sermons. Same preaching style…. By the way, after he left that congregation, he never saw that level of “success” again. I guess maybe it’s not “all about the pastor.”

  • Dad

    So sad to read all of the comments by people who appear to have taken what I read to be a condemnation on our modern church culture so far out of context.
    I think the author was giving less of his opinion and more of his real-life experience of the sad reality that we all are in the midst of; a consumer culture that wants to be entertained more than enlightened.
    Don’t hate on the author for presenting what is for many western culture Christians the hard truth. Instead, be challenged by the data, ponder the questions, seek God and then go forth and do the ministry that you’ve been called to do.
    If we want to stop breeding consumers, maybe we ourselves have to stop being consumers.

  • archie pennington

    I am an extremely over weight, crippled preacher with a heavy Alabama accent. Not much going from the world’s point of view. I was youth pastor for decades and now am senior pastor. Our little church is growing both spiritually and numerically because the elders of the church are bathing the church in prayer and the congregation is motivated to reach out with the love of Christ. In other words I am the weakest link, Christ is the strongest and the people are following Him.

    I understand that the author’s intent was to call pastor’s to better study, preparation and delivery of the Word, but it did not come across that way. It came across as let’s out manipulate Madison Avenue and the people will come. I would love to see him re-write the article with more about the pastor needing to pastor (lead the flock) and how to dive into the Word and preach it so that you are faithful to its intent and context.

  • Kim

    What I got from this article is that today’s “Christian in name only” is only focused on themselves & what the church can do for them. Too many of today’s Christian are so shallow in their spiritual life…I hate to say this but you have to get them in the door & good preaching helps! Then the Church has to help people learn about prayer, discipleship, stewardship, etc….that’s where so many churches drop the ball, it’s the rest of the story that is forgotten. Good Preachers & relevant sermons are important, but that’s 1 hour out of 168 a week.

  • Are you serious?

    A COMMENT OF A DIFFERENT NATURE:

    I’ve read most of the 100+ comments.
    This article by David Murrow is about people leaving churches for whatever reason
    and of course it’s point is they leave because they aren’t being fed. A lot of
    your comments hit home with me. I related to so many things that were posted. The
    article itself caused me to “examine myself” which is a very healthy and
    Biblical personal activity.

    But now I want to express my impatience with most pastors in America.
    Especially all of you pastors that have slammed this article (and in
    weeks past are critical of many things shared here). Let me ask each of you an honest
    question: HAVE YOU CHANGED CHURCHES? YES YOU HAVE! Of course when you did leave it was “the will of God”. But truth be known it was money problems, staff
    problems, church board problems or maybe even family problems. AND YOU LEFT
    BECAUSE OF A PROBLEM NOT BECAUSE GOD WAS CALLING YOU SOMEWHERE ELSE. (I know this isn’t the case in every situation, but please hear what I’m saying.)

    Church members have as much right to seek God for what’s best for their families as we do. AND WE HAVE GIVEN THEM THAT RIGHT BECAUSE TOO MANY OF US PASTORS ARE CHURCH HOPPERS. (I do know “a soft answer turns away
    wrath” but some of us here are so arrogant we’ve lost our love for one
    another. The only people some of you like are those that agree with you.)

    ONE MORE PAINFUL QUESTION: Have you as a pastor willingly taken these
    people from other churches? YES YOU HAVE! If you’ve been critical of David
    Murrow for this article or critical of people leaving your church, let me address
    what you are in the words of our Savior, “scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites.”

    PS: This wasn’t written in anger or bitterness, it was posted in sadness that as pastors
    we have lifted ourselves above the position of “servant”, we’ve allowed our
    title to go to our head so we’ve ceased leading and loving from the heart. This
    means a shallow, self serving, conditional commitment is made to the people God
    has called us to serve. (Again I know what I’ve described isn’t the details of every situation but for too many times I hear of these undedicated men among us and it seems they want their voice heard.)

    • Food For Thought

      You have a valid point. Yet we all must remember One Body One Lord One Spirit. it’s not about the pastor or what he can build. Remember Jesus directing the disciples to feed the multitude in 50’s 100’s exct. It is exactly that a body as such a healthy body has movement that should not only be accepted but accepted. We are going to see change as God himself orchestrates a church without spot or blemish. We also need to remember it is not just the ministers who have a part but the layman. Sons are led of the Spirit not just ministers. If you actually take all the scriptures concerning every office and Gods usage of them. Well no one was called a masterbuilder under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit except paul who started out after years in the wilderness as prophet/teacher and then stepped into the apostles office when God willed. This jack of all trades concerning those with just the pastoral office is killing the body. Thank God for pastors but It is written Christ gifted five ministries to the Body for the equipping and maturing of the saints. This is clear in Gods usage of the offices according to scripture and yes one man may hold and be created for more than one office but the reality is many have one office and many more by conduct and action are claiming offices they do not have. This affects the Body and those with the office needed. If the Body has five main joints and one expands locking up the other four leaving them motionless without provision it is deadly to the body. Israel became a nation the branch is tender and mans days shall be 120 years. A generation shall not pass before the Son of man comes. When He comes it is written there will be a people free of spot or blemish for that to happen God must create change and will judge to do it. Even Jesus said before He comes He will lose angels to gather out of His kingdom all things that offend. He also stated if His kingdom where of this World His servants would have fought to prevent Him from going to calavary. Discerning the voice of the Spirit is crucial because the traditions of men will grind on yet God will have His people regardless.

  • Pastor Mike

    Maybe another article on what constitutes “good preaching.” Popularity, politically correct, all accepting sermonettes, can grow a church where people wanting to “hear” how good they are if they give and do good works. More people rejected Jesus than followed Him; not because He condemned them, but because they were not willing to change in order to confess that they needed a Savior; pride was the culprit. Pride has killed the Christian movement in America today; from the pulpit to the pew, pride reigns.
    Preach the Word, in season and out of season; rebuke and correct, teach with humility and love, but do not compromise just to get a crowd. There is no reason today that a Spirit filled preacher cannot be educated, information is available, but changing people’s lives and motivating them is not what Christ called me to do; He called me to preach about Him; if they are willing to come to Him, then the Holy Spirit will take over. Thanks for the article.

    • Michael pastor

      Well said pastor,our mandate is to make Christ known to the people,the change and the increase belong to God.

  • ArchieWho

    My…haven’t we touched a sensitive nerve. I do understand what the author was trying to say and there is some merit to his article. However, we must remember that the followers of Jesus left Him one time because the miracles ceased. Are we not living in the time of “itching ears.” Is that not the real problem here. The words I share on Sunday and other times are beyond me. I pray for that and welcome that. How many pastors have prepared diligently a polished message only to have someone come by and say that God spoke to them through the message in an area totally outside of our focus area. Praise the Lord, I love it when that happens. It reminds me that it’s not about me, it’s about Him. Not only should pastors keep that principle in focus but parishioners as well. Again, it’s not about us…it’s about Him.

  • Allen Mitchell

    At 81 and spending most of my life working with churches that could not afford me while making my living outside of working for the church, I think I have some input on this. I think we first of all have to look at our society today. Our people sit at the TV to be entertained, they vote for the political person who is the most interesting or promises them the most of what they want, etc. etc. This has a lot to do with church growth in the reality of Christianity today. Many people who go to church have no idea what the Bible is all about and the Holy Spirit is put in the same realm as ghosts and extra out of this world experiences. Most I talk to have never really studied or read the Old Testament and have no idea how important it is to understand what Jesus came to say.
    I know of a minister in one of our larger cities that can preach a fantastic sermon, I have always admired how he can paint pictures that seem so real about Life and how the Christian gospel fits in. He is very entertaining as is any popular public speaker. The thing that is really true about this man is his everyday experience with his people. Even though he has a large staff with capable ministers under him, when there is a real problem in the congregation on a personal basis he takes an interest and works on it with the others.
    I watch the TV where some ministers brag about spending 30 to 40 hours a week on their sermon but it is not the sermon that is so great but their delivery that keep the people and the money flowing in. People come to be entertained and want to call themselves Christian by doing so.
    I am not being critical but rather I feel I am being more real about the real happening in the church today. As we see major denominations so hungry for money that they are willing to leave the Bible and go to popular secular groups to improve attendance I see a definite movement toward worship of the institution and the almighty dollar than I do movement toward spiritual maturity in the Holy Spirit.
    We are told in scripture that if we cannot pray as we feel we should that the Holy Spirit will pray for us. Are we then going to say that we can preach and reach people without the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our sermons.
    My favorite motto is that if God is God, God can do anything God wants to do. That includes inspiring scripture, causing virgin birth, bring about salvation for His followers through the Holy Spirit, and keeping the church alive for over 2000 years. If we do not accept that and totally worship Him then we become a secular institution, growing or not growing. Allen D. Mitchell, Ph.D. CLU, FLMI Author of second edition of “The Prophets Dollar”.

  • Ben Dau

    I think the longer we confuse “church growth” with “congregaton size” and/or “service attendance” the more dysfunctional we will be as ministers of the Gospel.

    I have no doubt that the big name preacher would draw a larger crowd than I would to any particular church, does that mean the church has grown?

    A congregation might increase in size when a new preacher comes, but where are those extra people coming from? If they haven’t come from the lost, then the Church hasn’t grown, a particular congregation has.

    I’m not opposed to pastors being the absolute best communicators that they can be, but we would be foolish to assume the 15-45 minute homily is THE deciding factor for people choosing “a long obedience in the same direction.” After all, if someone is saved into the Kingdom in a congregation where the preaching is sub-par, they wouldn’t have any idea that things could be different. What is more, they may not have the desire for anything different even if they knew – after all, it was that particular group of people (complete with the crappy preaching) that awakened them to the love that God has for them.

    So, is church growth all about the pastor – more specifically, all about the sermon? Not if we are talking about the lost being saved, how many sermons do they really hear ayway? But if we are talking about a particular preacher’s ability to draw a loyal and consitent crowd, then yes, I agree with Mr. Murrow, the preacher’s charisma, style and reputation is parmount.

    I think I’ll leave off with some great words of wisdom from my friend Karl Vaters “My church IS growing, it just isn’t getting bigger.”

  • Servanthodge

    This is the first time I have responded to many of the articles that I have read over the last several months. Many have been thought provoking and some not. This one falls somewhere in between. I heard Evangelist Robby Mitchell preach a message just a few days ago that has riveted my soul as a preacher. I will try to recap it as quick as possible because I feel it applies to the age pastors find themselves in today. We all are faced with the choice of choosing being a Pastor as a calling of God and following Him in it or allow our calling to be our career and build it on the stepping stones of small churches and congregations until our career is fulfilling. I am a Pastor by calling.
    My point of encouragement: Preacher pick up your hammer. Moses had a hammer and an unction (do we preachers remember what this is) to build an ark. 6am, he flung the hammer. 10am, Moses slung the hammer. 2pm, he held the hammer and kept sounding the message. 6pm, 8pm, 11pm…Moses pounded the message. Day after day, month after month, and year after year. He held his hand to the hammer. The Bible (we all are supposed to hold dear to our hearts) compares the Word to a hammer. Moses kept sounding the alarm of his message, all the while people mocked him and slandered him, and called him names. Many probably taught their kids to laugh at the village idiot. Moses kept his hand to the hammer. 120 years and God told him to lay down the hammer, can you imagine what a scary noise that must have been? The noise that kept them annoyed and awake for so long is now silent. God then closes a door that no man can open. AND ALL THAT HEARD THE MESSAGE AND RECEIVED IT INTO THEIR HEART CAME ONTO THE ARK. We cannot choose who will receive our words that God has put in our heart, we just have to hold onto the hammer and sound the message. Preachers, pick up the hammer and sound the alarm, isn’t that the foolish of preaching that God choose for us who are called?

    P.S. I KNOW I USED MOSES INSTEAD OF NOAH. Is it really our name that makes the story, or is it the story of Christ that should be of the most importance to our lives of service under Him? I wish preacher could get beyond the competition of one another and even some of our movements or denominations and remember why we picked up the hammer for in the first place. I just lost my mentor and spiritual father last Feb and I can still hear him pounding the hammer of the Gospel of Christ in my heart. Don’t put our names in the place where Jesus belongs. Come on preachers, there is a lost world out there and we are forgetting that because we worry about numbers. If we take care of God’s business, then He will surely takes care of ours.

  • Dean

    Hi, this article is so timely. I am pastor of a church that has gone from 60 members down to 30 members in the past 3 1/2 years of my wife and I being here. The big problem was that this wonderful body of believers wanted to see a youth movement as they were all older with the majority of them being in their 60’s. What was great was their attitude as they wanted to know that the church will live on well after they had all moved on to be with the Lord. However, the thing they lacked was the desire to change, they wanted growth but were not willing to do anything different. They sang the same songs they sang in the 80’s and 90’s. They would los have services that would go on and on for hours well after the service time had ended.
    The first thing I did was start and finish on time (there are exceptions, but I give a heads up by way of making an announcement on the calendar that we were have a guest. Our congregation is then prepared for that Sunday to go over). The reason we dropped so many people is that I joined the music ministry and started bringing in songs that were less than ten years old, I also added a projector and motorized screen as well as adding a PC to the sanctuary. Some complained that my changes were too hard. I told our congregation that we are creating an atmosphere for the younger generation so that they would feel comfortable when they came to visit. I was asked by a few in the church if we could just wait until they came? I of course said no. That is when we slowly started to lose people.
    So we, like I mentioned earlier went from 60-30, but in the last year have brought it back up to 50, so we are growing. And the biggest thing that is causing our growth is not the music, the preaching the videos or anything else but something else that I believe the author is missing. Someone down below talked about the five fold ministry equips the saints for the work of the ministry. We have gotten people involved. The other thing, which I believe is just as important is that we have built a community. My wife was shocked when she, at a women’s meeting had the ladies tell each other something about themselves. One dear lady said that she had two kids. A close friend of hers for 30 years said I didn’t realize that you had children. That was when we realized that their relationships outside the four walls of the church were shallow and I was now on a mission to change the culture and build a community.
    I’ll end with this. I have a friend who move from the Northwest to the D.C. area and couldn’t find a church. He kept talking about the preaching and the ministries. I encouraged him to put all of that aside and see what their philosophy is as well as to find out what is going on within the community during the week. Are the following Acts 2:42-47 and sharing all things in common? Are they meeting I the temple (church) and house to house? He was encouraged.
    BTW, I got saved and went to that church until being sent out to Bible College 10 years later. I then went home and was sent out from that same church a few years later to take on this work. So, it it is an assumption that we all church hop and go from church to church. Just saying.

  • http://www.200churches.com/ Jeff Keady

    The opening salvo story by the author, David, was fairly direct and narrow. Bad preacher shrinks church, good preacher revives attendance. Okay. True enough. But that is a very narrow slice of what happens in churches.

    The reality might be more like – there are about 70% of churches in America around 100, who have stable, capable pastors that preach and teach weekly in ways that feed their sheep consistently. These “200church” pastors are faithful, reliable, capable, and quite good at pastoring a church of 50-200. There are few attendance plummets, or attendances spikes, and churches this size rely less on the silver tongued orator and more on the relationality of a pastor who is there, who cares, and preaches messages that are just fine.

    David wrote a very good, very interesting article – but that is happening in a very narrow slice of all of the churches in America. This just does not happen as much as the alternative reality I shared.

    So, pastors, keep it up! Love the people, be with them, feed them. People – love your pastors back. Listen, learn, grow, and serve. There are a lot of great small churches out there!

  • Roger

    Great article. He’s 100% right, but this seems kind of obvious to me when you take away the smoke screen and see church for what it is. Church for the most part is a religious business where a financial transaction takes place on a weekly basis. The pastor delivers religious material packaged in a sermon in exchange for the tithe which is the source of his income, the wages for his religious work. The whole thing works by importing the American business model into Christianity, and voila, you get a religious company. If you don’t like your religious product, you find another vendor. If you’re selling a product, what is so strange about the idea of consumption? I think this may sound crude and shocking to people only because we don’t accept things for what they really are, but only what we are willing to say about them. Very few feel comfortable calling church a business.

    The only way to completely eradicate consumerism is to eliminate career, professional Christianity and replace it with 1 Cor 14 style gatherings, where the Holy Spirit is allowed free reign and nobody gets a paycheck for preaching the gospel. As long as you have a product and a paycheck, you will always have a price for that product and paycheck, and therefore you will always have consumers. Consumers will always look for the best product at the lowest price.

  • RJ

    I think a bad preacher in a good church can downsize the church. I think a great preacher in a church where people are unfriendly will make little difference. I’ve been in a couple of churches where the sermon was very good and theologically sound that I will never return to. No one said a word to me or my family. When we asked where the restroom was for my son, they pointed in the general direction and gave us a lengthy list of directions through various hallways. I am not going to a church where I am unwelcome no matter how good the pastor is.

  • Roger

    David Murrow is addressing a problem that is a direct consequence of the fact that American church has been overrun by the American business model.

    Part of this has to do with the fact we have redefined so many biblical terms, including “pastor”, “elders” and “church,” to mean something entirely different from their original meaning in the New Testament. We have even invented our own concepts, like “office” of pastor and read it right back into the Bible even though the Bible never describes any of this as an “office”. The five fold ministry has been supplanted by a one-man show. This encourages long term dependency on one individual’s public speaking abilities instead of seeking maturity and inter-dependency as Paul speaks of in Eph 4.

    If you study history, you can begin to trace where things went wrong.
    Consider the fact that elders/pastors were never paid a formal salary until Constantine legalized Christianity in the 4th century. Furthermore, at that time they were paid with tax dollars, not tithes. The Church didn’t start tithing until around the 8th century. We never even had seminaries until the Catholics invented them in the Counter Reformation in the 16th century. When Paul wrote much of the New Testament, church leadership was made up of godly men in the community, not career professionals. Only when we do away with this paid clergy / paying laity dynamic and reinvigorate ordinary, godly men as the true leaders of our churches will we be truly freed from this crisis in church consumerism.

    So until then I would expect people to continue to church hop for the newest trendiest rock bands and funniest, wittiest, and coolest pastors for the foreseeable future.