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Is Church Growth All About the Pastor?

Parishioners are no longer loyal to their denominations.

Here’s my story: I was born and baptized Lutheran. As a young man, I attended an Assemblies of God Sunday school. I came to know Christ in a Free Methodist Church. In college, I joined a Baptist church, where I was married. I moved to Alaska and became a Presbyterian, and 10 years ago, I joined a nondenominational megachurch, which I still attend today (although I returned to a small Lutheran church this summer and loved it).

This kind of religious switching would have been unusual a century ago, but today it’s common. People move to new cities. They have automobiles that will take them to a church (and a pastor) they connect with. 

People are less loyal to institutions.

Because parishioners now have access to better preaching (live or through the media), they are less willing to put up with boring, rambling, irrelevant preaching.

This has led modern congregants to evaluate their churches based on the sermon. They stay or go based on whether they “are being fed.” If the messages consistently lag, they seek out another church that offers them more.

Many of you are seeing red by this point. “Today’s churchgoers are so shallow. They treat God’s holy church like a product to be consumed!” you may be thinking. And you’re right.

But this is the reality in today’s world. People come to church expecting to receive something from God. If they don’t, they move on.

Can we blame them? People came to Jesus—and they always received.

Although we may condemn them as consumers, today’s parishioners choose a church with great care. The decision to leave a church is often a difficult one, fraught with emotion, doubt and uncertainty.

I have a friend in Texas (let’s call him Roger) whose church planted a “daughter church” in a nearby town. Roger and his family agreed to move to the daughter church to help it get started.

This “church plant” started with much enthusiasm, but quickly began to sputter. Attendance dropped by 75 percent as the fledgling congregation struggled with its music and preaching.

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David Murrow is director of Church for Men, an organization dedicated to restoring a healthy, life-giving masculine spirit in Christian congregations. He is the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, an inspirational bestseller with more than 100,000 copies in print.