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