New Gallup Poll Shows No. 1 Reason Americans Go to Church Is Not for Music or Kids Programs, But for “Sermons that Teach About Scripture”

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Despite a new wave of contemporary church buzzwords like relational, relevant, and intentional, people who show up on Sundays are looking for the same thing that has long anchored most services: preaching centered on the Bible.

“Sermons that teach about Scripture” are the No. 1 reason Americans go to church, according to a new Gallup poll.

Researchers found that 82 percent of Protestants and 76 percent of all regular worshipers consider sermons’ biblical lessons as a major factor that draws them to services.

They’re also looking for application, as 80 percent of Protestants and 75 percent of worshipers valued sermons that connect faith to everyday life. Protestants were more likely to cite the importance of sermon content than churchgoing Catholics, about two-thirds of whom say it’s what draws them to church.

Preaching on Scripture and its relevance ranked above factors like kids programs (68% of Protestants), community outreach (61%), and social activities (49%).

Churchgoers’ focus on Sunday sermons is a hopeful indicator for pastors. Even as congregants’ media diet and attention spans shift, they remain engaged in straightforward preaching of the Word.

“In a distracted, outraged, shallow culture, people begin to hunger for something rare: the focused, balanced, deep,” wrote Matt Woodley in Preaching Today’s annual State of Preaching outlook. “Deep preaching is our best chance to change lives.”

It can also put more pressure on pastors to ensure their sermons engage churchgoers and avoid corny jokes, clichéd illustrations, or worse, unsound teaching. Young Christians in particular are paying attention: Nearly 4 in 10 practicing millennial Christians fact-check sermon claims on Google, according to a 2013 Barna Group survey.

The Gallup survey found that people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it. Only half of Protestants (53%) and Americans overall (54%) said they attend because of “dynamic religious leaders who are interesting and inspiring.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Kate Shellnutt