The churches and their leaders hold to the primacy of preaching. In some churches, preaching has lost its power and emphasis. It is perceived to be an irrelevant ministry and style of communication. Or it may be a central part of the worship service, but the time and study involved in sermon preparation is lacking. There is preaching, but it has little power.
Among the churches we studied, preaching was primary for those with healthy conversion growth and meaningful discipleship ministries. Pastors who preached each week spent five times as much time in sermon preparation as those who preached in unhealthy churches. There is a powerful correlation between sermon study time and health of the church.
Of course, if the preachers are to spend significant time in the preparation of sermons, the church members must give them the time to do so. There cannot be an expectation that they attend every meeting, meet every pastoral care need, visit everyone, and provide hours of counseling. The members must give the preacher time to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). In other words, the laity must be unleashed to do much of the ministry of the church.
The churches have a healthy small group structure. For some churches, the primary small group was Sunday school; for others, it was home groups or small groups that met in diverse locations. The churches that emphasized moving as many members as possible into a small group assimilated those members five times better than those who attended only worship services.
Another sign of a healthy small group structure was the involved leadership of pastors and senior pastors. They see the critical importance of members and guests connecting in a smaller setting.