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.