Introduction: Dr. Thom Rainer, in his book, Surprising Insights From The Unchurched,
discusses “What role does the pastor have in a growing church?” One of the
comments he shared from his research was a testimony from an interviewee, “I
needed meat and all I was getting was milk.”
He highlights the critical importance of pastoral leadership and preaching in the church’s success in reaching the unchurched.
NOTE – If the pastor has to meet all the perceived needs and demands of church
members, they will have little time to give to their primary calling of praying and
preaching in ministry of the Word of God.
Dr. Rainer’s research found that, “more than ninety percent of pastors in America spend only two hours per week in sermon preparation for each message they preach.”
NOTE – The only people who can survive in pastoral ministry are those with the
unmistakable call of God on their lives.
Pastors are among the hardest working and yet least respected people in America today.
Not only has the office of pastor lost much of its respect in the community, but also some of the hardest and most unloving critics of pastors can be found within their own congregations.
With all this said, Pastors have an enormous role in reaching the unchurched.
When asked about the role of the pastor in reaching the unchurched, Dr. Rainer discovered that 9 out of 10 times, the pastor was the key in reaching the unchurched.
In Dr. Rainer’s research on the role of the pastor in growing a church, there were 8 particular issues that were frequently mentioned that influenced the formerly unchurched to become part of the congregation.
FIRST ISSUE: Preaching that teaches individuals the Word of God.
When someone is faced with a crisis in their life, they are searching for some sense of hope and help during this time.
Illustration – Vera insisted that “the single issue that brought her to salvation was the
strong teaching/preaching ministry of the pastor.” (p58)
The unchurched told that they were attracted to strong biblical teaching and understanding Christian Doctrines.
NOTE – Pastors who understand this and who communicate clearly are among the
leaders whose churches are reaching the unchurched. (p59)
SECOND ISSUE: Preaching/ Teaching that applies to my life.
A challenge for pastor/teachers is to preach/teach both expositionally and with life application.
I want to leave them with a “so what” conclusion from the message. What can
they take away from the message and apply now to their life?
Illustration – Craig said what attracted him to the church was This guy is really willing
to share his own spiritual pilgrimage. (p59) He related the following four keys.
He not only teaches the Word of God well; he helps me understand how it applies to my life today.
NOTE – For the first time in my life I heard someone explain the Word of God in a way
that made sense. (p59)
Illustration – Doug Mulberry said: Preaching must first be biblical. We must
understand what God was saying at the time the biblical text took place. But
preaching does not end there. Preaching must change the lives of the listeners
as well. (p60)
THIRD ISSUE: The pastor is a real person.
We live in a world of artificial. It comes in the form of sugar or salt or intelligence. A good definition would be appearing or trying to be something it is not. The greatest challenge facing the church now is authenticity.
NOTE – Dr. Rainer writes, Many of the new Christians shared with us that inauthentic
pastors were among the stumbling blocks that kept them away from the church.
The world has their view of pastors: Two-faced hypocrites with a holier-than-thou attitude. The unchurched will be attracted to a pastor/shepherd who doesn’t pretend to be somebody he is not.
Here are 10 words or phrases that attract the unchurch:
NOTE – Dr. Rainer says: The authenticity of the pastor was mentioned as the most
positive character trait by the unchurched.
FOURTH ISSUE: A person of conviction.
Pastor/teachers who taught and preached out of deep convictions are a major factor in being able to get into the hearts of those outside the walls of the church building.
One comment made by an unchurched person was (p62), Why cant preachers LEARN that shallow, superficial (watered-down) preaching doesn’t help anybody, including people like us who weren’t Christians.
FIFTH ISSUE: Personal contact by the Pastor.
As we examine the key issues that attract the unchurched, we are focusing on the life and leadership of the pastor. Some of the words we mentioned earlier were: friendly, down-to-earth, real.
The fifth issue is where “the rubber meets the road” so-to-speak. We all have got the “Thank You for coming, let us know if you have any questions” letters. Some of the letters I have received are form letters. They say the same thing – just the letter head has changed. And some of these letters had the pastor’s signature stamped on them. Nothing personal about the letter at all.
Illustration – What impressed unchurched “Sue” was “when the pastor himself came
by to visit me.” And she was further impressed when the pastor invited her to
lunch with he and his wife.
A personal contact from the pastor was instrumental in one’s acceptance of Christ Jesus and choosing a church.
SIXTH ISSUE: The Pastor is a good communicator.
This is not the ability to interpret a passage of Scripture. The unchurched are not impressed with the big words or how articulate one is in the pulpit in pronouncing Greek or Hebrew words.
For the unchurched, a good communicator is one who can be understood by a 40 year old or an 11 year old. A good communicator does not talk down to people and definitely does not scold the congregation.
Dr. Rainer (p64) puts a caveat in the margin that says, In our pursuit of the latest
church-growth fad or desire to emulate other churches, perhaps we overlooked
the importance of communication skills in the pulpit and in the interpersonal
A good communicator is a key ingredient in the ability to communicate across generations in successfully casting a vision for the church.
SEVENTH ISSUE: The pastor is a good leader.
There is no doubt – leadership is critical in any growing church.
In reaching the unchurched population it is amazing how quickly they can recognize leadership skills in a pastor.
Dr. Rainer (pp64-65) introduces us to Meg, who is a corporate vice president of a company. In her search for a church she came to a conclusion, “a sense that most churches don’t know what they are doing.” She was able to identify these churches that were “Just going through the motions.” The unchurched are looking for a church that knows their purpose and has a plan on how to get there.
NOTE – Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Church, says, “the clear articulation that a
church must have a purpose; it cannot wander aimlessly and hope to make a
difference in the Kingdom of God.
Both the congregation and the unchurched crowds are seeking a church that understands its purpose and a pastor that will lead the church to carry out that purpose. The pastor, as the leader, must articulate with passion the vision that the church must be purpose driven.
EIGHTH ISSUE: The Pastor’s class.
In Dr. Rainer’s survey, (p66) one issue that arose frequently was the interpersonal relationship skills of the pastor.
Illustration – Philip and his family had just relocated to a new area. They were ready
for a new start, including finding God and a church. They wanted to gain some
spiritual influence for their 9 year old daughter. They found a church that had an
AWANA program. This church also had a “Pastor’s Bible Study Class.” A month
later they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and joined the church.
One of the keys to their decision was that they developed a respect for the pastor who also taught their new member’s class. They were able to interact with the pastor.
The unchurched are desiring personal interaction. They don’t demand much. A telephone call, and opportunity to be in a group led by the pastor, a brief visit in almost any context is all they are seeking.
Note– for further understanding, please visit our web site at www.christiangrowthministries.org
July 8, 2019 was a day just like any other day. Only one thing was different. I had an appointment to keep that morning. I drove to the location and entered the building hoping to be done and back home in a couple of hours. However, that was not the case. I walked to the office and up to the desk. The gentleman behind the desk asked for my identification card but I did not have one. He handed me a piece of paper and told me to fill it out. I did and then he told me to take a number. My number was “77,” so I knew it was going to be a little while. Forget the couple of hours idea. I asked the gentleman about how long the wait would be, and he tells me that their computer system is down and it will be at least an hour before they start calling people back. I looked at my watch and begin to decide how to adjust my schedule. The office was crowded and I finally spotted a seat. I sat down and begin to read a book by Lynn Anderson, “They Smell Like Sheep” volume 2. As I was reading, the gentleman sitting next to me asked what the name of the book was and I told him. He just replied “uh.”
Finally the system was up and running and numbers were being called. An attendant called “36” and the person waited and watched for any sign of movement. As “36” made their way to the desk, the attendant spoke a kind word to the person. I notice the appearance of “36” and thought to myself about the kind of life this person might have had. One older gentleman made his way to the desk to get his number. I noticed his dress as well. It was a suit. The suit hung kinda limp on his small frame. A banker, or a lawyer, or maybe an educator in his early life. He was frail and kind of shaky as he walked. I started to offer him my seat but he found one that was closer to where he was.
One of the attendants came out and said in his Bob Barker voice of The Price is Right, “Number ’41’ come on down!” It brought a chuckle to the crowd. Of the attendants, I thought to myself, is he the one who will be calling my number.? That was a pleasant thought. As I sat there, I begin to say a prayer for God to lead me to the attendant that He had for me. As each one came out, I thought “Is this the one?”
Now we had reached “54.” Again, I glanced at my number “77” to make sure it had not changed in my pocket. I continued to read my book. But I could not help but watch the individuals who were assigned a certain number. My mind thought about them and the difficulties they had endured. For some, just getting ready for this appointment was a monumental task. I begin to say a prayer for these ‘assigned number’ individuals as they were being called back. “Number “59,” come on down. How are you today Mr. Smith? Come on back with me.”
"Excuse me, I am “56” and you just called ’59.’ Did you call my number and I not hear?” The gentleman handing out the numbers said, “No sir, but this person needed to go ahead of you." Then I noticed the 8x11 sign on the counter. It said that because of some medical reasons, numbers may be called out of order. I looked again at my number “77” and wondered if my counting down was going to be interrupted. I decided that if that was the case, I would be glad to give up my place in line.
As I was continue to watch, I noticed the staff behind the desk. Some were busy repairing something. A nice lady was reloading the paper in her machine and doing her job at the same time. She was multitasking so-to-speak.
I determine to make the best of this time and that is the reason I brought my book. But the LORD had other plans for me. He wanted me to be a prayer warrior for each person who I witnessed being called for their appointment. "Number ’70,’ Ms Clark?” Waiting for a movement. Second call for Ms Clark, number “70.” Still no response. She made a note on the paper and handed it back to the lady at the desk.
They had the old fashioned way of keeping the numbers current. Each time the attendant would take the front number, they would move the other numbers closer to the front while they were waiting on the individuals to make their way to the counter. Sometimes the old fashioned way is better. This was definitely different than the way it was done at the front desk. There you signed in and took a number that was printed on a slip of paper as well. But the difference was that when your number came up, it was printed on the monitor and you could see it. Back at my appointment, the manual system seemed to be working because everyone was following script. The reason for the hour delay was because the computer system was down. The manual system doesn’t fail unless someone doesn’t do their part.
As I sat there, “73” was called. Again I noticed my number and then watched as my number moved closer to the front of the list. Who would it be? The Bob Barker guy? The Lady with the fancy hair do? Maybe the older “business only” guy. The LORD knew so I simply trusted His leading. He knew who I was to give an encouraging word to and hand them a small cross. “76” yeah, I am next, unless there is a medical condition individual that needs attention before me.
Then this lady came out and picked up number “77” and called my name. I recognized her. As I was coming into he building earlier, I almost bumped into her. She said, “I remember you.” I am not sure if made that kind of impression on her or was it my clumsiness. I am going to trust that it was the first. As she escorted me back to her cubby hole she wanted to know how my day was going. I told her that I was having a great day. It was a day the LORD had designed for me. “How is your day going for you?” I asked. She responded that it was a Monday. I told her that I had already prayed for her this morning and that her day was going to be great as well. After the testing, she ask me what I did in my work life. I gladly told her that I was a shepherd of God’s flock. Her response was, “I knew that. I knew that you were serving God in some way.” I told her that I had been doing that for over 49 years and it was hard for me to hold down a job. She laughed. Before I left I handed her one of the small crosses that I carry to share and give a word of encouragement. She took the cross and told me how grateful she was that God would send someone to give her that little bit of encouragement.
As I walked out of the office, I heard Bob Barker call out, “’86,’ come on down!” Thank you LORD for the day and the number I was given. It was a pleasure to take a seat and have the opportunity of praying for these individuals as they made their way back. It was a good day.
Dr. Thom Rainer had an interesting episode today, June 12, 2019 at 7:16. The episode was titled “How can a church without kids reach Millennial Families with Kids?” Here are some of the points that he brought out.
Dr. Rainer gives eight keys for reaching younger generations.
In my experience as a Church Growth Consultant, it is the desire of every older generation that they reach the younger adults and their children. They will often say “they are our future.” However, when it comes to doing the things that appeal to these younger folks, they balk at the direction needed to be taken. They want the younger generation but they want the younger generation to become like them. That is just not going to happen. I read an article the other day that says, “the Millennials are more open to attending a worship service than the senior adults.”
When our guest come to worship with us for the first time, they are doing a ton of evaluations. They are looking around to see who is there and because they have children they are paying close attention to what is offered for the children. They want their children to have a spiritual influence. Also, they are paying attention to the congregation to determine if there are other children there. They want their children to be associated with other children who can learn together. Parents are very protective of their children, especially in a strange place.
The congregation should take this responsibility seriously and make the millennial guest feel comfortable and assure them that their children are a priority. I was in one church and a six year old boy ran across the lobby. An elderly gentleman yelled at the top of his voice to stop running or go home. If I were a parent with small children seeking a church and heard that, I would take the gentleman’s advice and gather up my family and leave.
When searching for a pastor or staff person, the congregation usually will desire some one with children the age of their target group. Just because that minister has children, does not mean that families will be attracted to the church. Again, how we prepare for children each week determines how they will be received in the fellowship. The millennials are willing to take the first step. But many churches are not prepared for these children. In one of my church growth seminars I was told that the number of chairs is important. For example: If you only have 4 chairs set around the table that means you are only expecting 3 children and one worker. The number of chairs is the mindset that we have portrayed to our guest. Don’t over do it. If the room only seats 10 comfortably don’t put 20 chairs out.
Also, the preparation is key for the leader in the children’s department. Have you been to an elementary classroom lately? These children are working on computers. They are no longer writing on their Big Chief tablets but their iPad tablets. These children are being challenged to extend themselves. Color sheets, cotton balls, and pop sickle sticks are of old. Sure, you can pull out the old flannel-graph board and entertain them for a while. I was in one church that had a children’s church program. One of the parents told me that they would not be sending their children back to that class. I asked why and the parent told me that their child told them that all the leader did was to read a story from the Bible. There was no activity that supported the lesson. When first time guests
walk to their car after worship, they are asking their children, ”How was your class, what did you do, what was your lesson on today?" Parents continue to evaluate the attractiveness of the church and it’s appeal in the car as they drive off the campus parking lot.
I have found that the Millennials are mission-minded. They want to see the church out side the walls. What are the ministries to the community? They will be attracted to the church that shows it cares about the community and families like themselves. They want their family to be involved in making a difference. The millennials want to be appreciated. Don’t waste their time on trivial things. They are not going to be attending your “Business Meetings.” But they will attend the group that goes to the park to do a back-yard Bible School. They are going to be attracted to a congregation that is more interested in going than coming. For them, the church takes place outside the walls of the building. So if you want to reach these younger families, then become the church that will invest time and energy in and around the community.
The church that wants to reach the Millennial generation must understand the Millennial generation. They do not think like others. What interests you is a boring time for them. A study of their lifestyle is vital to understand them. For the older generation, you are already introduced to their lifestyle through your grandchildren. As these grandchildren reach the teenage years, they have developed their own set of values, and I can assure you they are not going to be the same as their parents or grandparents. So, the responsibility falls on the senior adults to begin to think like them so that they will have a better understanding of what appeals to this generation. We will not make the Millennials think like us, but we must become as a little child and think like them. Don’t get carried away here.
Some churches have missionary teams that would come and work on a short term basis to assist in reaching these Millennial families. If the church is serious about reaching these families, they could invite the parents to a round-table discussion to determine what the Millennial families desire in a church. Read every article on the life style of the Millennial generation. See what makes them tick and what ticks them off. The senior adults and church leaders need to listen to these things. There are going to be things discussed that some of the older generation will not like or agree with, but if you are serious about wanting the church to reach these families, then pay attention. One senior gentleman said that the testimony that we have never had to paint the walls in the lobby is a stark reminder that we don’t really want young families in our building. We need to get away from the idea that our church plant is a Museum for the saints (we have their plaques and pictures on the wall) but it is to be a hospital for the sinners.
The advertising for the church should be attractive and inviting. The Millennial generation will not get the telephone book down and look for a church. They will go to the Website and get their information. How it is designed and what information it contains will be a great asset to these seeking-families. Information about the church, the pastor and staff, the ministries for them and their children, the calendar of events, and directions to get there plus what they can expect when the arrive will give a great invitation to these families. The church should invest in the cutting edge technology. Don’t short-change these individuals. They are well-versed in presentation and preparation for the worship. Always present the best. Anything less will not be appealing to these high-tech generations. Remember their children are working on the computer in the first grade. If you have problem, maybe you can get a second grader to come and fix the problem.
The most important aspect of reaching the Millennials, or any generation for that matter, is to be a prayer warrior. The church as a whole and individual should commit to praying for God to reveal His will in reaching all people with the Gospel of Christ Jesus. The Millennials want their family to know and accept Christ as their Spiritual guide and Savior. When someone ask you to pray for their family member – stop right then and there and pray for them. Prayer should not be an after thought. It should be the only thought. Every ministry and minister should be saturated with our prayers. Put these families on your daily prayer list and begin now to seek God on behalf of each of these moms and dads who are trying to do the best they can to introduce and include their family in a family of faith. The Word of God tells us that we are “to put on each piece of armor and buckle it with prayer” and that is what I would say about reaching the Millennial generation. Pray Pray Pray and then Pray some more.
The bottom line is this, if you want the church to reach these young Millennial families, then you are going to have to make some changes (oh that is a dirty word for the older generation). But that is exactly what their parents did 40 years ago to get them involved in serving the LORD in His church. “Behold, old things have passed away, all things have become new” is more than just speaking about our coming to faith in Christ Jesus. Please remember, the message never changes and we should never water down the Word of God. We are to lift Him up and He will draw all people (including Millennials) to Him. But unless we make the necessary adjustments we will never reach this seeking generation. So there is hope for every church. That is because Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her that He may present her to His Heavenly Father as a bride, adorned in the beauty and glory of God. We are the problem that our churches are not reaching this generation. I am reminded that God is the architect of our generations and If He didn’t think they could be reached and work together He would have never created ages. God knows how to do this and we are to trust and follow His plan. It is not His will that any should perish.
In Paul’s writing to the church in Ephesus, he concluded in chapter 6 with an important thought that we should take very seriously when trying to determine who the real enemy is for the pastor and people of a congregation. He writes: “ Finally, be strengthened by the LORD and His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers of thesis darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
As church leaders we are constantly facing obstacle and challenges in our efforts to lead God’s congregation to find and fulfill the perfect will of God. We we were given the Great Commission to carry into the world. However, there are plenty of challenges for us to accomplish this. Martin Luther said, “For where God built a church, there the devil would also build his chapel” Many times these problems are being identified as people who oppose the process. The devil will use individuals to distract and at times even derail the process. These individuals can discourage and deter God’s people from being all they can be in Christ Jesus. When this happens then God’s kingdom purpose for the congregation is squelched.
We are going to face challenges when we are following God’s plan. We need to constantly remember who our true enemy is and who we are fighting against. Remember people are not our enemy. As we face the challenges in our ministry, we can take encouragement fro David Nixon’s seven key advices. (Leading the Comeback Church pages 97-98). They are: 1. Know what you believe. Don’t try to undermine the faith and practice of others who may differ from you. 2. Understand that conflict cant always be avoided. You may prefer to be perceived as helpful and friendly and to have everyone like you, bu correction is part of a leader’s job … confrontation is often necessary and may lead to positive results. 3. Acting right is a important as being right. Other this is as simple as staying calm in the midst of the storm of controversy … being like Jesus is the goal. 4. Refuse to demonize believer who differ from you. 5. Never attempt to Chang another denomination’s theology. Find one that fits what you believe. 6. Clarify only what is essential. Don’t try to answer ever criticism. And 7. Do no harm. If you cant put out the fire, at least don’t fan the fire.
These seven points are key to how we approach and handle the obstacles and challenges we face as we fulfill the ministry God has called us to do with Him. (2 Timothy 2:14-19)
As we continue to take a tour of the life of turn-around churches, we note that these turn-around churches need new pastors. That doesn’t mean necessarily a change of address but a change in attitude. I have met some individuals that say they have found their niche in life and that you take what you get. They give off the attitude that they have reached their climax and that there is no need to make any changes in their commitment to ministry. I could not disagree more with that attitude. We are all in need of improvement and that means especially those who shepherd God’s sheep. God is not looking for any CEO’s or prima donnas. He is looking for individuals who are like David, a man after God’s own heart.
Dr. Stetzer, in his book, Comeback Churches, says that 40 percent of these churches did not change pastors but the pastors changed to lead the churches from declining to growing. But this is going to be more challenging. He writes (p178) “It means changing yourself while you transform the congregation.” He goes on to write, “All pastors will have to ask themselves if they are willing to do whatever it takes to be used of God to be the kind of leaders needed to lead churches to be comeback churches.”
It is my conviction that we as shepherds/teachers of the Word of God should never settle for just getting by. God holds us accountable for the life of the congregation. I hear many say, “If they don’t like it then they can just leave.” And that is exactly what they do. Thus the decline in attendance. Pastor, you are held accountable for the entire congregation, not just the chosen few who are your “running buddies.” When God assigned you to this congregation, He assigned you to minister to the entire congregation.
God has boldly said that it is not His will that a church die. God is not the one who is killing off the congregations. It must be laid at the feet of the leadership.
“Our Church Needs A New Pastor”
April 29, 2019
It is reported that 80 percent of our Southern Baptist Churches are plateaued or declining. We have approximately 430,000 churches. I believe this represents a large problem for our convention. When a church begins to lose members, surveys revealed that it was because they were unhappy with the leadership or had been hurt by fellow members. Also, these churches grow more concern with what is happening and they begin to look for a quick fix. That quick fix usually focuses on the pastor. He needs to go. Pastors find themselves caught in the middle of this and they loose their focus because of fear. They are more concerned about their x than they are depending on our LORD.
I believe that leadership is the key to getting a church off the slippery slopes of decline. Usually a pastor says that it is time for him to look for another church so he puts his resume out hoping that some church will give him a look-see. The only problem is that he is the same person that was leading this declining church. What has changed other than his address?
Dr. Ed Stetzer, in his book, “Comeback Churches” says that if a church is going to get out of the rut of decline and become a comeback church they do need a new pastor. However, that doesn’t not mean a “new” pastor necessarily. It does mean that they need a “RENEWED” pastor. Just because you change addresses doesn’t mean your ministry will be any different. Unless the pastor desires to re-align himself with the plan God has for His church, then the honeymoon of the next church will follow in the same foot steps. The Word of God reminds us to (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV) “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a worker that does not need to be ashamed, correctly handling the Word of Truth.” You, as a pastor, have been called and commissioned to present the Word of God in such a way that it will change the hearts and lives of people God has put under your care.
Yes, it is absolutely true – our churches need new pastors. Some need a change in address but all need a change in attitude about their role and work as God’s shepherd for God’s flock. It was King David, in his confessional prayer (Psalms 51) who asked God to “Renew a right Spirit in his life.” This would not be a bad daily prayer for all pastors/staff.
And let me recommend Dr. Stetzer’s book, “Comeback Churches.” If you find yourself or the church God has assigned to you in a declining mode, this book is for you. If you would do just 10 percent of all these suggested ideas, God will bless and give life back into the “dry bones,” but it must start with you, pastor.