By Aaron Earls
As churches responded to the continual cultural upheaval stretching from 2020 to 2021, pastors used their sermons to point people to old favorites and future hope.
According to an analysis of more than 91,000 sermons from FaithLife, users of their platforms covered many of the same topics in 2021 as they did in 2020—God, Jesus, love, power, faith, and glory. Other topics, however, saw significant increases in the past year:
- Eschatology (six times more popular)
- Grace (four times more popular)
- Family and children
The most popular passages are familiar biblical texts. FaithLife found the pastors writing or publishing sermons using Logos, Proclaim, or other FaithLife platforms most often preached on:
- John 3:16
- Matthew 28:18-20
- Ephesians 2:8
- Acts 1:8
- John 1:1
- John 14:6
- Romans 5:8
- Galatians 5:22-23
- Philippians 2:8
- Romans 12:1
More sermons were preached from Matthew than any other book of the Bible, according to FaithLife’s analysis, followed by John and Romans. In the Old Testament, more pastors had congregants turn to Psalms, Isaiah, and Genesis. The most popular Old Testament verse in sermons last year was Isaiah 9:6.The most popular sermon verse in 2021 was John 3:16. The most popular verse from the Old Testament was Isaiah 9:6. Ephesians 3:14-21 saw the biggest increase in usage from 2020 to 2021, according to analysis from FaithLife. Click To Tweet
Passages that saw the biggest increase in usage from 2020 to 2021 were:
Overall, FaithLife discovered that, of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, 29,321 were referred to in at least one sermon in 2021 (94%).
In 2020, a Pew Research analysis of sermons posted online focused on cultural topics addressed in sermons and found many addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall election, and racism.Of the 31,102 verses in the Bible, 29,321 were referred to in at least one sermon in 2021 (94%), according to analysis from FaithLife. Click To Tweet
Regardless of the topic or biblical passage, there’s a disconnect between pastors and churchgoers regarding the sermon length, according to Lifeway Research.
When asked how long their typical sermon is, 85% of Protestant pastors say it’s less than 40 minutes. The most common lengths of sermons according to pastors are 15 minutes to less than 20 minutes (22%), 20 minutes to less than 30 minutes (26%), and 30 minutes to less than 40 minutes (28%).
Few say they deliver sermons that are shorter than 15 minutes (9%) or more than 40 minutes (14%).
While 85% of Protestant pastors say their sermons are shorter than 40 minutes, 66% of Protestant churchgoers say the same.Churchgoers (12%) are six times more likely than pastors (2%) to say the typical sermon lasts at least an hour, according to Lifeway Research. Click To Tweet
The largest gap between the perception of pastors and that of churchgoers lies between the two extremes.
Protestant churchgoers (11%) are half as likely to say their pastor typically preaches 15 minutes to less than 20 minutes as pastors (22%) are to say their sermons are that length.
Churchgoers (12%) are six times more likely than pastors (2%) to say the typical sermon lasts at least an hour.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.