Carrell was part of an ongoing sermon communicating research study including the Lily-endowed Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership. She learned that many pastors do not believe that their preaching is of great significance to their congregation. Pastors pray over sermon preparation, grapple with the text, and preach with all boldness and passion from the pulpit and yet they do not believe that it makes that big of a difference. Carrell’s research proves just the opposite. After gathering responses from over 10,000 people, she lists what she believes to be the reasons that causes preaching to be of importance to the congregation. She writes from the view of a congregation member with the following reasons.
We listen to your preaching expecting inspiration.
The question was asked for a listener to list the element of the church service “most likely to have an impact on my spiritual journey” and the number one answer was “the sermon.” People need to hear something that will encourage their spiritual growth. Listeners were also asked if they would like to give advice to pastors. Some responded, “Recognize the power of your words.” Pastors should be encouraged to know that their listeners come to get food for spiritual growth.
We look to your preaching for spiritual leadership
In our world of technology, people still come to church for the face-to-face public speaking. Television preaching or preaching on the web might be more flashy or even better produced. However, something about listening to the local pastor and knowing that he knows his congregation resonates within people and they keep going back to hear their pastor preach a message from God.
We rely on your preaching for spiritual content.
Preaching is unique compared to other sources of advice. Listeners want the pastor’s sermons to contain biblically based content. It is not enough to just teach that people need to be moral. True life change comes from within. It is more than just a change of behavior. Listeners also hope that the sermon contains application that they can apply to their own walk with Christ.
We listen to your preaching expecting long-lasting impact.
People seriously listen to a sermon expecting to process it and think about it through the week? I would have never seriously considered that a real possibility. In the research study, a majority of listeners said that regardless of the subject matter or the preacher, they anticipate that the sermon will have a lasting impact on their life.
Preachers were surprised by the results of this study. The study reaffirmed some pastors and encouraged others. One pastor even reversed his retirement decision.
I can see how pastors could become discouraged. I used to be the same way. I always try to preach my next sermon like it is the last one that I will ever preach. I have been preaching to college students for three years. I was discouraged for a long time because I was looking for immediate results. I wanted to see instant life change. Then something struck me. I am not sure if I read it or heard another pastor say it but life change and spiritual growth is hardly ever instant. It is usually a process. Being that this is my third year of college ministry, I can start to see who is growing and desires to walk with Christ and who does not. The fruit is evident. I am fascinated by the results of this study. I used to doubt that my preaching made a difference. The results of this research study confirm that they do. Whether or not, someone comes up to me and tells me what the message meant to them or how it changed their life, I know that God is working through me and as long as I am obedient to what He has called me to do, that is all that matters.