Tag Archives: sermon

Is the Gap Between Pulpit and Pew Narrowing? Latest Research from LeTourneau University

Is the Gap Between Pulpit & Pew Narrowing? Read about the Latest Research

Dallas TX: New research conducted by the Barna Group for the Center for Faith & Work at​ LeTourneau University shows a substantial uptick in the number of pastors who say they preach on work. However, most church-goers still doubt the significance of their work to God.

“While American church-goers hear more sermons on work these days, there’s still a gap between what’s preached from the pulpit and what’s grasped by those in the pew,” says Bill Peel, Executive Director.

The research revealed that 70 percent of Christians do not see how their work serves God’s purposes, and 78 percent see their work as less important than the work of a pastor or priest.

Jim Mullins is a pastor who’s been pondering this breakdown of communication between the pulpit and the pew. In an insightful article, Mullins tells how one of his parishioners—a biomedical engineer who developed devices to help doctors detect early-stage cancer—was considering a career change to become a pastor or missionary. He told Mullins, “I don’t want to waste my life. I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.”

Mullins says this faulty perspective was not for lack of hearing sermons on God’s view of work. He writes,

At our church, we preach the lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, offer classes about the theology of work, and repeat our favorite phrase every Sunday: “All of life is all for Jesus.”

After mulling why the message about the broad scope of the gospel and its implications for work wasn’t getting through to the engineer, Mullins had a revelation.

I realized that the issue wasn’t with what he heard, but with what he saw. He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never saw anyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated.

Pastors are awakening to the importance of helping people integrate faith and work. But it’s going to take more than sermons and classes to inculcate a biblical theology of work. Like the engineer, most of us need not only to hear that our work is important to God, we need to see it honored and celebrated as well.

Over the past four years, Barna Group research commissioned by LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith & Work has uncovered some important trends.

In 2011 our research …

  • Nearly all (93 percent) of pastors said that helping people integrate faith into daily work is “very important.”
  • Two-thirds (68 percent) of those pastors questioned their understanding of workplace issues.
  • Only half (49 percent) of churchgoing, employed Christians “strongly agreed” that their church provided information, guidance, and support to live out faith at work.
  • One in four (26 percent) of pastors said their sermons addressed faith at work.
  • Fewer than one in ten (8 percent) of pastors said they provided prayer support for workplace issues.
  • Only a fraction (3 percent) of pastors reported visiting their members at work.

Fast forward three years and note increases our new research reveals.

In 2014 …

  • Over one-third (36 percent) of senior Protestant pastors say they preached a sermon on what the Bible says about God’s view of work within the past month.
  • An additional 36 percent say they have preached on work in the past six months.
  • In all, 86 percent of pastors have preached a sermon within the last year that focused on what the Bible says about God’s view of work, and specifically on how one’s faith should impact one’s work.

According to Peel, “These findings indicate a significant surge in the attention pastors are giving to the importance of faith and work—an encouraging trend indeed! However, there’s a still a gap between what parishioners are hearing about the importance of their work to God, and they are seeing.”

The new research shows that, apart from pastoral and missionary work, little attention has been paid to publicly celebrating the work most parishioners do between Sundays.

  • During the last year, fewer than one in five (18 percent) of churches publicly dedicated or commissioned their members to serve God in the places where they work.

“I believe that this gap between what is preached and what is celebrated continues to cloud how people assess the value of their work to God,” says Peel.

  • Over two-thirds (70 percent) of Christians still cannot envision how the work they do serves God.
  • Almost four out of five church-goers (78 percent) doubt that the work they do is equal in importance to the work of a pastor or priest.

“Clearly, increased preaching and teaching about faith and work is a positive, praiseworthy step, but much more is needed. Churches must become fully engaged in shaping people spiritually for the workplace. A powerful next step is to schedule time in worship services to publicly celebrate all kinds of work that advance God’s creation,” advises Peel. “This simple action can help people connect God’s truth with their work in life-changing ways.”

Find ideas for conducting a commissioning service by clicking here.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The 2014 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 602 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant churches from within the continental U.S. The telephone interviews were conducted from June 3 through June 13, 2014. The sampling error for PastorPollSM is +/-4 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. The cooperation rate in the PastorPollSM was 96%.

The 2014 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,036 online surveys conducted among a representative, nationwide sample of adults ages 18 and older.  The online interviews were conducted from September 2 through September 10, 2014. The sampling error for OmniPollSM is +/-3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The participation rate in the Fall 2014 OmniPollSM was 95%.

The 2011 data about pastors originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The PastorPollSM included 646 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of senior pastors of Protestant and Catholic churches from within the 48 continental United States. The survey was conducted from May 26, 2011 through June 20, 2011. The sampling error for this PastorPollSM is +/-4% at the 95% confidence level.

The 2011 data about church-goers originated through research conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The questions were commissioned by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University. The OmniPollSM included 1,007 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 within the 48 continental states. The survey was conducted from August 1, 2011 through August 14, 2011. Only those adults who self-identified as Christian or Catholic, who attended church in the past six months, and who were employed full-time or part-time qualified to participate in the module of questions for LeTourneau University. In this study, a total of 350 adults qualified to participate. The sampling error for a sample of this size (n=350) is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

– See more at: http://www.centerforfaithandwork.com/node/804#sthash.ndE6cXFa.dpuf

Evangelical, worship?

For those who think that I’m being unreasonable in respect to “big-box, happy-clappy” “church”, I submit the following from John Stackhouse in Leadership Journal (Winter 2015 p 14). Leadership Journal is a great publication, all due respect to them and John Stackhouse, but neither are known for their support of “high-church/liturgical” worship.   

“As for reciting creeds, well, no: evangelicals normally do not recite creeds in our services. [help me out here, do you really believe that if you say Jesus a couple of times in a sermon and then make the rest of it about you, don’t do any of the things that Jesus told us to do or we do in order to strengthen ourselves in Jesus, that is being a Christian? Seriously how do you figure? We are told that we are supposed to take our relationships seriously and then we make the one with Jesus all about me? How does that work?] “Evangelicals that are not part of liturgical traditions – and that’s most of us – instead tend to worship in “hymn sandwich” [and what evangelicals sing are not hymns] services: lots of singing, with maybe a greeting and some announcements in the interstices, then a longish sermon, then more singing – with perhaps a collection and a closing prayer … No call to worship, no confession and absolution of sin, no series of Scripture readings (OT, Gospel, Epistles,) no congregational prayers, NO “OUR FATHER” [???], no Creed … And so on. It’s pretty bad – and it’s actually regressing…

…nowadays the trend-setting churches seem to have fallen back into two halves – singing and preaching – … that’s pretty much all there is to the service.” [pg 14 Leadership Journal]

Sorry folks that is not Christian worship! Throw Jesus’ Name around a couple of times and that’s Christian worship? Ya… No! Heavens, can’t mention sin! We have some sensitive souls here and anyway, we’re all basically good suburban-living people. None of that blood and gore stuff, the crucifixion? Just doesn’t work for us. There certainly won’t be a crucifix in any “Evangelical” sanctuary and ya, no cross either. Lord’s Supper? Body and Blood! Really? Confession? I refer you back to line 3 of this paragraph. And no Lord’s Prayer? What is the point? We were told to do these things, or at least we are honoring the Lord when we do this. The point of worship is to lift up and praise and worship God. One woman, from “evangelical” tradition, complained that I had my back to the audience most of the time. Ya, her words. No Creed? Really what do you believe? Ya, you, it’s all about you.

And gotta tell you, “sermons”? Pretty much Joel Osteen feel good, how can we have a better life, yada, yada. Hey there’s plenty of good Christian music out there. I have no problem with Christian music, I will sprinkle it into worship once in awhile to enhance the sermon. But, sorry, one reason why men do not get involved with Christian worship is because, when it’s singing, dancing around and a little gratuitous preaching, it’s hard to take it seriously. If guys really can’t see the point and have nothing to take seriously, they aren’t going to do it and this is alienating a lot of guys from Christ. The happy-clappy types will be called to account for the way that they don’t worship, that they make it too much about them and very little about Jesus.

This kind of worship is a travesty, it’s not worship. It’s self-gratification and mutual edification, but no room for God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sorry, but we continue to look ridiculous and irrelevant to the rest of the world. If we don’t take Christ seriously, why on earth would the world?

Some thoughts on thankfulness that you can share this coming Thanksgiving.

I reblogged Dr Hamilton’s post about why gratitude is good for you, certainly there are positive physical effects when we are grateful. Too often we are not just ungrateful, we are envious and resentful of what others have. The ninth commandment is quite specific about coveting what others have.

With just a few days before Thanksgiving we should also discuss being thankful and also how we are blessed. Henry Blackaby gives a good definition as to how a Christian should be thankful: “Thankfulness is foundational to the Christian life. Thankfulness is a conscious response that comes from looking beyond our blessings to their source. As Christians, we have been forgiven, saved from death and adopted as God’s children. There could be no better reason for a grateful heart!” (Henry and Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Day by Day” p 324). I might add that not only are we saved to eternity which is huge by itself, this gives us the hope that we are living for a purpose, that even in suffering we know that God sustains us, He provides for us, He is watching over us and even in the “worse case”, death, for those who are saved in Jesus, death delivers us to be in His presence. But we shouldn’t just skim over what God does provide for us, that we are kept safe. Sure there are times where we have less than others, there are times when we are sick, injured and even seriously incapacitated. But when you think of the possibilities it is remarkable that for the most part we are kept so healthy and capable.

I often point out that the Book of Revelation tells us that at some point in the end times, God does remove His protective hand. If we think there is evil now, just imagine what it will be like when God takes His restraining hand away and the evil that is unleashed. Blackabys write: “We, too, have been healed and made whole by the Savior. We are free to enjoy the abundant life the Savior has graciously given us. Could we, like the nine lepers, rush off so quickly to glory in our blessings without stopping to thank our Redeemer. … Our worship, prayers, service and daily life ought to be saturated with thanksgiving to God (Phil 4:6) (Ibid p 324)

Blackaby goes on to point out that we should also remember our blessings and I couldn’t agree more. I’d like to say that I faithfully recount my blessings and remember what God did for me. I’d like to say that … One way I try to be pro-active is to record in my journal the circumstances that brought on my need, the way God responded and the way that my situation is worked out by God. Even now I have a tough time thinking of specific incidents, but I know that there have been so many times and each time I often sit back in amazement and I always think “wow, I would never have seen this working out that way. Glory to God for His greatness, His wisdom and His mercy.” Even when things don’t play the way  I think they should or that does cause me loss, I still always understand what God is doing and that it is ultimately for my own good.

The Blackabys point out that our blessings often come in what seem to be “ordinary” ways and our attitude is “gee, that was nice, glad things worked out” and don’t really take time to see God’s hand. Our Gospel reading for Thanksgiving this year is about the ten lepers. Jesus healed them all, how many came to tell Jesus how grateful they were? One, one out of ten. Today, even for us in the church, even ten percent is probably a high percentage. Appreciation in the form of telling others  how much you appreciate them and offering them encouragement. I get encouragement once in awhile and often won’t really appreciate what was done. I know that I need to show more appreciation, encouragement and blessing for those around me, that I minister to. But I too often fail to do that. It does not seem hard to understand that when we bless others we show gratitude to what God does for us, and what others do for us, but most importantly be grateful to God.

We need to show gratitude, we need to show it in public, grateful to God and to those that God has put in our life. In addition, yea, we should break out that journal and write about how God has blessed us, what happened and what God did in response. We should take some time to be in wonder of what God did, what He does, and the promises of what He will do. We should go back through our journals and re-remember what God did, I should be a lot better about relating in my sermons how God has blessed me. Too often we skim over the blessings and spend too much time whining and complaining about what we think we should have, what we feel we’re entitled to.  In this time of Thanksgiving let’s focus on being grateful for the things that we often take for granted and let go of what we think we are entitled to.

Happy Thanksgiving (again don’t call it Turkey Day or I will snap). Have a great time with family and friends and take some real time to tell them what you are grateful for, especially our Lord and the family and friends He’s given us.

God’s minister or the people’s minister?

Yes, for the second day in a row I am ripping off Dr Dale Meyer, but for good reason, because it brought up an issue that is important regarding worship. Dr Meyer’s commentary is first and then my slant  on the reasons why I preach from the pulpit.

Meyer Minute for November 21

Here’s a question I’m often asked. “Does the Seminary teach students to preach in or out of the pulpit?” This ranks right up there with the other great questions of the universe. Why does God hide Himself from us? Why does God permit suffering? How can Christianity claim to be the only true religion and only way to heaven? Catch my sarcasm?

We have chapel services on campus every weekday. Most chapel sermons are delivered from the pulpit but it’s not unusual for the preacher to stand in the center of the chancel or even down in the aisle. I teach preaching and always get the question, “What about preaching out of the pulpit?” There are, I answer, logistical considerations. For example, if you’re standing in the aisle, can the people on the flanks or in the balcony see you? There are deeper considerations. What is the congregation used to? If they’re used to one way or the other, is this an issue worthy of controversy? Ask the elders, I tell them. But going farther, my sarcasm getting the better of me, why do you ask? I’ve learned that they imagine that standing out of the pulpit somehow means being relevant. I also hear lay people say, “We love our pastor. He preaches out of the pulpit.” Huh? The real issue is what he’s preaching! A compelling sermon from God’s Word will be compelling wherever it’s delivered from. A sermon of theological jargon that doesn’t speak to life will be irrelevant wherever it comes from.

In my mind it comes down to this. To congregation members: Are we so at home with one worship style that we get upset by something different? Aren’t we driven to come to church by this question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) To students: Don’t make the pulpit the hill you’ll die on, or off. Instead, make God’s Word so applicable to people’s lives that they’ll listen intently wherever you are. In or out? Sounds like a belly-button question, naval gazing. I’m desperate to know more God, wherever the preacher stands.

My thoughts on why I preach a certain way – Pastor Jim Driskell

I certainly get Dr Meyer’s point, well I kind of have to, he’s the one that taught my Homiletics II course, I passed. Fits with my philosophy of life “Semper Gumby”, always flexible. You do have to factor in the situation, the hearers, survey all the considerations. All things being equal, I do prefer the pulpit. It’s not due to some ego need, but I also have to remember what I’m doing there. Richard Foster asked the rather germaine question; “Am I a minister of the people or of Christ.” I’m called “minister” because I represent Jesus to His church, His people. Yea, sometimes you do have to come down and get right in the middle of people. But as I’ve been discussing for awhile, it’s not our “comfort” that it’s about, it’s how we glorify the Lord and pick a part of His earthly ministry and you can see that He was terribly concerned about our “comfort” He was concerned that we are growing, that we are becoming mature in Jesus. How does that apply here? I feel it’s my duty in as many ways as possible to remind people of the Lordship of Jesus. Not that He’s aloof, or separated from us, He’s not, as baptized children who eat Jesus’ Body and drink His blood, we could not be closer or more apart of anyone. But we also let ourselves get way to buddy-buddy with Jesus and we forget what He’s done, continues to do and what He will do. He told us that when He returns He will return in His glory, we know that He rules in glory from heaven. If He chooses to treat us as His friends, and He told us He did, that’s His call and I would certainly welcome it. But as His minister, as one who has been chosen to represent Him and bring Him due honor in front of His people, that’s what my aim is. That when we are in worship together we all know that it’s Jesus who is with us, who is using me to preach. I may not be that great as I conduct worship and I may not be worthy of that tremendous privilege and duty, but I strive to do it to the best of my ability and I want people coming in and thinking about our Great King and I intend to honor Him that way and leave it to Him if He chooses some other way. So Dr Meyer’s point is well taken, if you are in worship, be there for the right reasons. It does none of us any good to get hung up on whether I’m in a pulpit, wandering around, yada, yada. Be focused on what God’s doing, that, hopefully, He is using me to preach His word and I’m doing it well enough and you are getting a message that will lift you and encourage you, know that our great and powerful God is in control and watching over you and to bring Jesus to all you know. In the meantime I will faithfully do what I can to honor Him.