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Don’t get hung up on church numbers — focus on church health, not size


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

CHURCH MEDIAN AGES ARE ALARMING BUT IS THERE A PROBLEM?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to a story of statistics. Statistics never tell the whole story, but they can validate that a story exists. Two simple statistics can help explain the American church: one, the median church size is 75 people and, two, the median church age is 73 years.

DR. REEDER: Tom, now let’s get clarity as this new story also brings clarity. A statistician doesn’t cringe any more than when he hears people say, “Well, the median average is.” Those two terms don’t go together. Median means mid-point. In other words, when you take the churches in the United States of America, the median point of the size of churches is 75. In other words, half of the churches in the United States are above 75 and half are below 75. The median age is 73 — that is, half of the churches in the United States are above age 73 and half of the churches are below age 73. That’s the median point.

And then, out of that, the majority of churches actually have less than 100 people, probably less than 75 people, and that’s where they are in their size. Now, how are we do see that? And, by the way, if you’re a pastor of one of those churches, how are you to look at that?

WHY IS GROWTH IMPORTANT?

We have a ministry, Tom, called “From Embers to a Flame” and “From Embers to a Flame” is taking the Biblically revealed paradigm for church revitalization. How can you lead your church back to healthy vitality and one of the points we make is your objective is not church growth, but it’s church health?

I didn’t tell my children to grow — “I want you to grow three inches” — but what I did was I fed them, exercised them and made sure they got rest. God had a DNA in them of what he had put within them and my job as a parent was not to make them grow. That’s why we don’t give them steroids for false growth. There’s a lot of churches of cultural steroids because they value growth more than health.

Therefore, it’s not big is good and small is bad or small’s good, big’s bad — it’s healthy. You want to be a spiritually healthy, Gospel-vital church. Now, where you’re located, your location and your generation are going to affect that. If I’m in a community that is declining, then likely I can have a healthy church but, actually, the statistics may be decreasing.

KEEP IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE, NOT JUST ON FLAT NUMBERS

I was with a young man in the ministry and I had gone to do a conference for him and to spend some time with him at his request. And, in our prayer time together, he was weeping and I said, “What’s the problem?” and he said, “I feel like an utter failure.” I said, “Why?” and he said, “Well, when I came here, the church was 250 and now our average attendance is 175.”

This guy pastored in a church that was in a county that is the only county east of the Mississippi River that doesn’t have a traffic light. “What was the population when you arrived here in the county?” “Well, it was around 30,000.” I said, “What’s the population now in the county?” “It’s about 8,000.” The recession that hit the coal mining industry, people had moved out, businesses were shut down and it looked like a ghost town.

I said, “First of all, you’ve got 175 people and when you came it was 250 but, when you came, you had 250 people but there were 30,000 people here. Now you’ve got 175 people but there’s 8,000 people. Well, I’m not a whiz in math, but I do believe 175 out of 8,000 is a higher percentage of people in the country coming to your church than when you came and you had 250 but there were 30,000 people in the county. I could make a case that you’ve actually grown.”

THE BIBLE SHOWS EXAMPLES OF HEALTHY BIG AND SMALL CHURCHES

When I look at the Bible, I see the Bible bringing to us the testimony of a healthy church, not a “big church.” The Bible does not avoid statistics — they’re all over the place in the Book of Acts. When the Bible commends the church at Jerusalem — there are 3,000 and that’s just counting the men and then 5,000 were added and that’s just counting the men. People are being saved every day.

Likely, the church at Jerusalem at one time of those opening salvos of the first generation of the church when James became their pastor, the brother of the Lord, that church probably was somewhere between 14,000 and 18,000 people. Yet, look at the commendation that God gives to churches that are meeting in houses and that the apostle Paul affirms. Go read the Book of Revelation: two churches get a clean bill of health and they’re both house churches.

Therefore, it’s not that God says, “Oh, if you’re big, you’re good. If you’re small, you’re bad. Nor, if you’re small, you’re good and if you’re big, you’re bad.” What you need to see is it’s Gospel health is what you want. Your size, many times, is what will reflect where God has you.

It is said there are certain species of fish from which we get goldfish. The goldfish grows proportionately to the size of the pool that they’re in. Well, so it is with many churches. You can you have Gospel healthy church and there’s only 75 people in a small, rural town. And I praise the Lord for that — we need that.

GOD CHOOSES WHERE HE NEEDS YOU TO MINISTER

Tom, as you know, if I just had my druthers, I would have pastored a small Presbyterian church in a small southern town with a wonderful, laid-back lifestyle — my romantic desire in all of life. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but God has seen fit to put me in other situations where there are larger churches and that’s what He has seen fit to do and that’s fine.

I don’t see myself as a superior pastor because my church is big. I just want to be faithful and I want to be effective. And if God puts you in a place where there’s booming population, well, that’s where you are. If God’s put you in a place where there’s a shrinking population, that’s where you are. What you aim at is effectiveness and church health and, God, give us maturation of longevity — not just we’re hanging around, but we keep growing in the Lord and our next years are even better than the last years. Even though the surrounding population may be shrinking, thereby affecting the size of our church, we’re still reaching our parish.

MAKE SURE YOUR CHURCH IS “WELL” FOR HEALTHY GROWTH

You want to aim at Gospel health and vitality. We call it a WELL Church. A WELL church is a church that:

W — worships with authenticity in spirit and in truth

E — evangelism and missions; you are reaching the lost with intentionality

L — loving one another; “They marveled at how they loved one another”

L — learning church

Therefore, you’ve got worship, that’s our ministry of upreach to God; evangelism, that’s our ministry of outreach to the world; loving one another, that’s our ministry to inreach to one another; then learning, that’s our ministry of downreach to ourselves that we’re being discipled and discipling others. That’s the testimony of vitality.

Normally, when you got a WELL church, just like a physical body grows and is healthy, so will a church grow statistically. In God’s providence, sometimes that statistical growth won’t be there because of the location and the generation, but it’s still a healthy church in that context.

STATISTICS MATTER BUT DON’T LET THEM DEFINE YOUR CHURCH

Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t use the metrics. If the metrics are showing something declining and it’s not explained by the dynamics in the community, then you need to take a look and say, “Wait, wait, wait. This statistic is revealing something is amiss.” But the answer is not to puff up the statistics because your mission is not growth; your mission is to make disciples that are healthy.

And don’t you love it in the Great Commission where it says the disciples of Jesus, when they saw Him after His resurrection, it says they worshipped Him — W. Then He tells them to go — that’s evangelism. Then He tells them to baptize and that’s when believers and their household are enfolded into the body of Christ — when they love one another. And then He says, “Teach them to observe all I have commanded you — that calls for learning with conviction in your life and that’s what we look to the Lord to do.

Therefore, Tom, statistics don’t lie, but liars can use statistics and statistics can lead you to the wrong place if you don’t have the right paradigm. In the ministry, your paradigm is fix your eyes on Jesus, fulfill the Great Commission, live the Great Commandment and then have a great commitment to Christ and then, “God, thank you for where I am. Where I am let me raise a standard. The size of the church will reflect where I am. The health of the church will reflect the grace of God that is greater than our sins.”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

 

21 mins ago

Ivey’s inaugural events to promote children’s literacy

In keeping with the theme “Keep Alabama Growing,” Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee on Friday announced plans to promote children’s literacy throughout the January 2019 inaugural festivities.

“Investing in the next generation is critical to our ability to keep Alabama growing,” Ivey said in a press release. “As we prepare for four more years of growing opportunities for Alabamians, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with our children’s literacy, ensuring they get a strong start.”

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As part of this effort, the governor’s inaugural committee will be hosting book drives at the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration on January 12 and the Inaugural Gala in Montgomery on January 14. The books collected will be donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy in communities across the state.

Tickets to the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration are available to the general public here. The $25 ticket price will be waived for attendees who bring four children’s books to the celebration.

The Inaugural Gala in Montgomery is invitation only.

More details will be announced in the coming weeks and posted here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Ohio-based Gregory Industries set to invest $4.21 million in Decatur steel plant

Ohio-based galvanized steel company Gregory Industries plans to make a $4.21 million capital investment in a Decatur steel plant, according to Decatur Daily.

The investment will consist of the purchasing of 100,000 square feet of the Willo Products building and 13 adjacent acres at the site for a galvanized steel tubing plant.

Gregory Industries recently purchased Mid-Ohio Tubing. Once the Morgan County plant undergoes renovations and begins operations, it will carry the name Mid-Ohio Tubing.

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Company officials hope to have the plant open by June. The plan is to hire 20 employees at an average annual wage of $47,000 and add four more employees by the end of the third year.

According to Mike Rothacher, the Gregory vice president of corporate services, the company will hire a plant manager, maintenance workers, machine operators and general laborers.

The Industrial Development Board of Decatur approved $172,400 in state, city and Morgan County tax abatements for the company.

Morgan County Economic Development Association president and CEO Jeremy Nails connected with Gregory officials after Nucor found out the Ohio company was looking to expand by venturing into the south.

“We rely on existing industries to put us in contact with companies that they deal with,” Nails said. “We don’t have a lot of available buildings so we were fortunate that this building was available. It’s a win-win for Gregory and Willo.”

The Gregory plant will produce galvanized steel tubing that will be used in material called G-street metal framing. The plant will feature a tubing mill and a roll-forming mill.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

2 hours ago

Alabama House Speaker McCutcheon hospitalized with heart issue, expects to be released following treatment

Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) announced on Friday that he has been hospitalized with a heart issue but expects to be released following treatment over the weekend.

“Deb and I appreciate the prayers of healing that so many have made on my behalf, and I am well on the road to recovery,” McCutcheon said in a press release.

“Tests indicated that I had a blocked blood vessel in my heart, which resulted in the fatigue and shortness of breath that I felt, and the issue will be treated with simple medication,” he explained.

While returning home from the legislative orientation session at the Alabama State House on Thursday, the speaker suffered mild chest pains and shortness of breath and was driven to an emergency room for examination.

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McCutcheon outlined that he first assumed he was suffering from a case of bronchitis, but an EKG indicated a heart issue, which blood tests later confirmed.

His physician recommended a heart catheterization, and those results showed a blood vessel that had closed but did not require a stent and could be treated with medication.

During his recovery, the speaker said he will continue working on House committee assignments and other legislative issues in preparation for the upcoming organizational and regular sessions of the Alabama Legislature. The organizational session begins on January 8.

During the 2014 legislative session, McCutcheon underwent heart bypass surgery and returned to work before the session ended.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Hoover protest leader recruiting help from Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago

Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of protesting in Hoover, is calling for activists to come to Alabama from Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and potentially more areas that have been affected by rioting in recent years.

In a Facebook post just after noon on Friday, Chaverst wrote, “Calling ALL activist and organizers from Baltimore, Chicago, Ferguson, Florida, etc. ITS TIME!! We need y’all here in Hoover, NOW!!”

“There will be a organizing [sic]  conference call Sunday night. Details released tomorrow,” he added.

In another post shortly beforehand, Chaverst claimed that protesters would take to Hoover High School after 1:15 p.m. on Friday. 

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Chaverst threatened to go to the school last week but failed to show up. The City of Hoover and the Hoover Police Department have previously said that protesting at city schools will not be tolerated.

Also on Friday, the Nation of Islam’s leader in Birmingham, Tremon Muhammad, wrote, “When the INSANITY comes, you only have yourselves to Blame.”

Muhammad represents Louis Farrakhan in the state. The Nation of Islam is leading the boycott efforts in Hoover, while Chaverst spearheads the protests themselves. Muhammad has explained that he and his members cannot be on the protest frontline because they do “not subscribe to the theory of nonviolence.”

The protest and boycott efforts in Hoover are in response to the officer-involved shooting death of E.J. Bradford on Thanksgiving night at the Riverchase Galleria. 18-year-old Brian Wilson and 12-year-old Molly Davis were also shot during the incident.

Investigations are currently underway by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). SBI is a division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). Erron Brown has been arrested and charged with attempted murder already for allegedly shooting Wilson.

Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office exercised jurisdiction of all three shooting cases on Thursday.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

A ‘Story Worth Sharing’: Yellowhammer News and Serquest Partner to award monthly grants to Alabama nonprofits

Christmas is the season of giving, helping others and finding magic moments among seemingly ordinary (and occasionally dreary) days. What better way to welcome this season than to share what Alabamians are doing to help others?

Yellowhammer News and Serquest are partnering to bring you, “A Story Worth Sharing,” a monthly award given to an Alabama based nonprofit actively making an impact through their mission. Each month, the winning organization will receive a $1,000 grant from Serquest and promotion across the Yellowhammer Multimedia platforms.

Yellowhammer and Serquest are looking for nonprofits that go above and beyond to change lives and make a difference in their communities.

Already have a nonprofit in mind to nominate? Great!

Get started here with contest guidelines and a link to submit your nomination:

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Nominations open Monday, December 10, and applicants only need to be nominated once. All non-winning nominations will automatically be eligible for selection in subsequent months. Monthly winners will be announced via a feature story that will be shared and promoted on Yellowhammer’s website, email and social media platforms.

Submit your nomination here.

Our organizations look forward to sharing these heartwarming and positive stories with you over the next few months as we highlight the good works of nonprofits throughout our state.

Serquest is an Alabama based software company founded by Hammond Cobb, IV of Montgomery. The organization sees itself as, “Digital road and bridge builders in the nonprofit sector to help people get where they want to go faster, life’s purpose can’t wait.”

Learn more about Serquest here.