Is the Pulpit a Factor in Church Growth? -- By: Earl V. Comfort

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 140:557 (Jan 1983)
Article: Is the Pulpit a Factor in Church Growth?
Author: Earl V. Comfort

Is the Pulpit a Factor in Church Growth?

Earl V. Comfort

[Earl V. Comfort, Pastor, Jacksonville Chapel, Lincoln Park, New Jersey]

One could easily get the impression from church growth experts that the pulpit plays little or no part in church growth. A survey of books and articles on church growth communicates strongly that the pulpit is passé. For instance, The Pastors Church Growth Handbook, a compilation of suggestions for those involved in church growth, mentions nothing about the place of the pulpit. Ken Parker, one of the contributors, lists “seven characteristics of a growing church” and completely ignores the pulpit ministry.1 Robert Schuller talks about “three characteristics of a successful pastor,” and not once does he mention the role of an effective communicator.2 Charles Mylander writes about “how to build morale in your church,” but does not mention the pulpit.3

Donald McGavran’s book, Understanding Church Growth, is the most comprehensive study ever published on church growth. But he makes little mention of the pulpit ministry. When it is mentioned. however, it is done so in a deprecating manner.

Research should make a sharp distinction between reproducible patterns of growth and those which cannot be duplicated. Some of the most striking church growth is the work of extraordinarily gifted men—geniuses. We rejoice in these men, but do not expect to find many Dwight L. Moodys or Henry Ward Beechers in our congregation…. for church growth which is dependent on exceptional men one thanks God, but realizes He probably will not grant us that kind of growth. Research should look for reproducible patterns of

growth possible to ordinary congregations, ordinary pastors. and ordinary missionaries.4

Arn, a colaborer with McGavern on church growth, wrote:

Unfortunately, many churches in choosing a pastor place greatest priority on the man’s ability to preach. Certainly congregations are entitled to prepared and well-delivered messages. Yet, sermon delivery represents a very small portion of the pastor’s total work week. Indications are that the sermon, by itself, is a relatively minor factor in the growth of the church. How then should its pastor spend his time to have the greatest effect in church growth?5

And yet when church growth situations are examined in this country, one cannot overlook ...

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