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New Gallup Poll Says People Attend to Hear Biblical Sermons

by: Stafford North | September 6, 2017

A Gallup poll released in April of 2017 surveyed regular church attendees as to why they go to church.  The outcome of this survey is good news for several reasons.  First, the results of the poll.  Seventy-six percent of those who attend church at least once a month said that they attended to hear sermons or talks that teach more about scripture and 75 percent said they came to hear sermons or lectures that helped them connect religion to their own life. And additional 16 percent in both categories said good sermons were a minor factor with only 8 percent in each case saying it was not a factor at all.   So the most important reason people come to church is to hear a biblical sermon that makes good applications to their own lives.

What is also very interesting is that the lowest of the seven reasons from which people could choose as to why they came to church was—a good choir, praise band, cantors or other spiritual music.  Only 38 percent said such music was a major factor, 36 percent a minor factor, and 25 percent not a factor at all.  So, those who say that the a cappella singing in our church services must be changed to attract people do not have a very good case to make.  Having good sermons is much more important.

The other five possible answers show that other factors which influence people to come to church are spiritual programs geared toward children and teenagers (64 percent), community outreach and volunteer opportunities (59 percent) dynamic religious leaders who are interesting and inspiring (54 percent), and social activities that allow one to know people in the community (49 percent).

So, what might we learn from this survey?   For many years I have been teaching preaching students that they need to make their sermons (1) biblical, (2) interesting, (3) practical, and (4) significant (North, Preaching: Man and Method, pp. 52-54).  This list has been right on target because the Gallup poll confirms that these four words describe not only what will make sermons benefit people the most, but what also will draw them to attend church.  Other important factors in attracting people to church are the programs for children and teens, having ways people can serve, and providing social activities which allow people a chance to get better acquainted with each other.

A good exercise for all church leaders would be to ask themselves how their own congregation stacks up on these criteria:  good biblical preaching, excellent programs for children and teens, a broad range of service activities, and social events that help people get acquainted.  And, if the preaching does not measure up to the four criteria above, help the preacher to know what to do about it whether it is just giving him more time to prepare sermons, reading some good books on preaching, or letting him attend seminars and classes on preaching.   Paul’s advice to Timothy is still rings true:  “Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).