In a Church Central article, church growth expert Thom Rainer cited research which demonstrates that once an unchurched person becomes interested in spiritual issues, preaching is a decisive factor in bringing him or her into a specific church.
Rainer writes, "When my research team and I interviewed the formerly unchurched, we asked two questions that engendered significant responses about pastors. The first of the questions was a straightforward query directly about pastors that could be answered with a simple yes or no: 'Did the pastor and his preaching play a part in your coming to the church?' Nearly all of the respondents (more than 97 percent) said yes.
"The second question required a more subjective response: 'What factors led you to choose this church?' The responses show that facts relating to the pastor and preaching were the most-often mentioned answers. Without any prompting from our interviewers, the formerly unchurched told us nine out of 10 times the pastor was key in their entering the ranks of the churched.
"The formerly unchurched were unequivocal in their beliefs that preaching was pivotal to bringing them to Christ…When the believer began to seek religious truth, the sermons had some meaning. By the time the nonbeliever was an active seeker, attending church on a regular basis, the nonbeliever tended to hang on every word of the sermon."