Do Sermons Really Make A Difference…

I got the following from H.B. London about what people in the pew think of sermons.

Nearly 100 percent of churchgoers look forward to sermons, but only 17 percent think preaching changes the way they live,” according to a recent study from the CODEC Research Center at St. Johns College in Durham, U.K. The CODEC report, “The View from the Pew,” is based on interviews with 193 Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists and Baptists from 16 different churches.

The research also discovered that:

  • Many Anglicans wanted the sermon to last less than 10 minutes, but up to 20 minutes was fine if there was no “waffle.”
  • Baptists were happy to sit through a 75-minute sermon.  (Me: 75 minutes?!)
  • Catholics wanted the sermon to be completed within 10 minutes.
  • Sermons were seen as being very good at teaching about God, the Bible and “being comforting,” but needed to do more to “motivate and challenge” people to look at the world differently.
  • Sermons seem to encourage Christian reflection, but not Christian action.
  • Evangelical Christians looked forward most to sermons, with Roman Catholics wanting to be educated, Baptists converted, and Anglicans entertained.  (Me: Hmmm)
  • Nearly 17 percent felt sermons did actually change the way they lived.  (Me: Really?  Only 17%?!)

You can click here to read the article.  As I read, many things came to my mind… more than I have time to mention.  So here are a few for consideration.  Keep in mind I am one of those called to proclaim (preach) The Gospel if you continue reading.

Thought #1: It is a sin for a preacher to allow anyone tell him what to preach or how long to preach.

Thought #2: It is a sin for a preacher to bore God’s people through the act of preaching.

Thought #3: It is a sin for a preacher to exchange the Gospel message for anything else!  A sermon doesn’t change anyone… that is the work of the Holy Spirit alone!

Thought #4: It is a sin for a preacher not to prepare diligently through prayer, reading, and study before he delivers God’s message to His people.

Thought #5: It is wise for those who come to hear God’s Word proclaimed to prepare themselves before they hear the message.  Click here for a previous post I did on this thought.

Thought #6: It is interesting to me that it was never mentioned that the message was an opportunity to encounter The transcendent God of the universe.

Thought #7: My guess is that if preachers sought to glorify God in the message and God’s people came to hear from God through “the folly of the message preached,” the results of the study would have been different.  Or maybe the study revealed that there is a problem in both the pew and pulpit!

The results of a survey conducted by LifeWay Research show that, by a large margin, Protestant pastors see Billy Graham as the most influential living preacher.

Pastors who represented both liberal and conservative Protestant churches were asked to name three living preachers that have most influenced them.  Billy Graham, who has preached to more than 200 million people in 185 countries since 1949, was mentioned by 21 percent of those surveyed — three times more than any other.  The other nine preachers that made up the top ten were:

  • Charles Swindoll, senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and founder of Insight for Living Ministries.
  • Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, and founder of In Touch Ministries.
  • Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
  • John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.
  • Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, religion professor at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia and author of 12 books.
  • David Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, Calif., and founder of Turning Point Ministries.
  • Max Lucado, minister of writing and preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas.
  • John Piper, pastor of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, and Browns Bridge Community Church — all in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

The list was compiled from telephone interviews with 1,002 pastors in November of 2009.

Any thoughts?


3 comments on “Do Sermons Really Make A Difference…

  1. JP says:


    Interesting stats. The scary thing is that I doubt there would be much difference if that study was done in the US–except for that 75-minute part, if Whitley ever goes that long, I’m out 🙂

    As for the LifeWay study, it also would be interesting to see who the people in the pew see as influential preachers. I would be willing to bet that 95% of average folk only listen to their preacher each week and get nothing from anyone else.

    I do listen to Piper, Chan, McManus, Chandler, and others on a regular basis, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a full Graham sermon. I’ve heard MacArthur, Warren, and Andy Stanley preach at one point or another, but none of the others on that list.

  2. Peter Park says:

    As far as “thought #1” goes I don’t think it’s a sin. I do think it’s necessary to give feedback. If you listen carefully to what the congregation, then you’ll be able to encourage them more effectively.

  3. Keith Davis says:

    I wonder if any of us can find the real purposes for “pulpit” preaching by reading the Bible since the scriptures don’t really instruct. How can they when what we’ve created as “church” “services” didn’t exist when the word was written?

    I think that my views about preaching and listening were shaped by my up-bringing to a large degree. Proclaiming the message called the “gospel” in my younger days could have meant any topic that had to do with “church,” which in turn meant any topic about our view of church. I’ve heard sermons on “modest apparel,” for example and it be called “the gospel.” I would argue that, where it might be important at some point to deal with, modest apparel sermons are NOT what Paul meant by proclaiming the gospel.

    In the New Testament, the preaching of the gospel was telling the story of Christ. Paul said, “I preach Christ crucified.” The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the ONLY focus of New Testament preaching. It is the central focus of all of time. If it’s not connected with Jesus, it’s not really “THE” good news.

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