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


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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.

 

2 hours ago

Ryan Blaney wins Talladega Superspeedway’s 1000Bulbs(dot)com 500 in photo finish

It took 27 hours to get from the green flag to the checkered flag, but when it was all said and done, Ryan Blaney, the driver of Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford Mustang, earned the win on Monday afternoon in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Blaney edged out veteran NASCAR driver Ryan Newman by a margin of .007 seconds, which is reportedly only the sixth-closest Talladega margin of victory ever.

The win advances Blaney in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ playoff to determine the 2019 champion.

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“We got together a little coming through the trioval,” Blaney said of his run for the start-finish line with Newman. “He pushed me below the yellow line, but I wasn’t going below there after what happened in the truck race.”

Blaney was referring to Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Talladega, when Johnny Sauter lost the win after being ruled out of bounds by NASCAR and demoted from first to the last truck on the lead lap.

“Now we don’t have to worry about next week,” Blaney explained, given that he advances in the championship hunt by virtue of his race win. “We can go and fight for another win.”

The race did not end without the traditional “big one” crash. Brendan Gaughan, driver of the No. 62 Chevrolet launched into the air during the escapade.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

Rick Karle: Saban has a point about ‘rat poison’; Let’s start calling Bama players mediocre

There’s no need to tell you that the Alabama Crimson Tide are playing great football — and one of the best ways to tell that coach Nick Saban knows it as well?

He uttered those two familiar words: “Rat poison.”

It was two years ago when these words went viral, as Saban attempted to squelch the rave reviews about his players that were coming from the media.

His message?

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If his players kept hearing that they were great, they’d believe it — and those words could act as rat poison to his team.

A few days ago, Saban brought up the words again, this time after his team beat the Aggies 47-28.

What does this all mean? Allow me to explain as I’m coming in hot, giving you my take!

Watch:

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.

4 hours ago

Ivey announces ID Plastics to open manufacturing operation in Auburn, creating 50 jobs

Governor Kay Ivey announced Monday that ID Plastics LP, a manufacturer of a variety of technical plastic products, is set to open its first operation in Auburn, investing $9.8 million.

“Our continued efforts and partnerships with local communities have led to another great manufacturer coming to Alabama,” Ivey said. “ID Plastics’ decision to select Alabama will create 50 jobs for families in East Alabama over the next three years.”

At first, the company will produce the ID PACK sleeve, a foldable, returnable transportation container system used in various industries.

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A press release noted, “Brothers Martin and Andreas Hartl formed the Alabama-based business operation with the plan to bring various products of their companies, DUROtherm Plastics, a thermoforming specialist, and the Infinex Group, an extrusion specialist, to a production center in the U.S. The two companies are headquartered in the Black Forest in Southwest Germany and have approximately 600 employees.”

“Transport containers have always had downsides of one kind or another,” Martin Hartl said. “We responded with an innovative collapsing container system that eliminates these problems. The ID PACK is a truly problem-free sleeve pack system.”

Andreas Hart also discussed his vision for the company as it relates to the parts and manufacturing required.

“German technology made in the U.S.A. with state-of-the-art, customer-oriented manufacturing — that’s the perfect combination, the way we see it,” Hart said. “This was the foundation for the ID PACK collapsible container system and the big advantages it offers in a wide range of logistics applications.”

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders expressed his support for the German operation in a statement.

“We are grateful to be the U.S. headquarters and manufacturing location for ID Plastics,” Anders said. “Through our partnership with Auburn University, Southern Union Community College and our existing industries, the City of Auburn has created an excellent environment for technology-based, value-added manufacturing operations like ID Plastics. We welcome Andreas and Martin to the Auburn family.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, released a statement on the project and reflected on the strong economic ties between Alabama and the German industry.

“German companies have directed around $10 billion in new capital investment to Alabama in the past two decades because these companies have learned they can find success in our state,” Canfield said. “We welcome ID Plastics and look forward to helping another German business enterprise prosper in Alabama.”

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

5 hours ago

Mondays for Moms: Confessions of a fluorescent mac-n-cheese lover

What happened to the days when we could saunter down the aisles of the grocery store without being bombarded with 500 options for each item in the store?

Organic. Non-dairy. GMO-free. No artificial flavors. Lite. Fat-free. Gluten-free. Taste-free.

My head is spinning.

Retailers should start labeling packages with the following disclaimer: “Will need nutritionist to assist with purchase.”

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Instead of greeters, could nutritionists begin to welcome us at the entrance of the grocery store and offer to accompany us down the aisles?

And while we’re on this topic, could someone for the love of Jesus and all the goodness in the world explain to me what the heck GMOs are? Are they kin to UFOs? Is it a military operative slogan? Are they little cancer pellets hidden away in every bite of my Cheetos? I’m getting worried over here. If you can provide some useful information, could you shoot me a quick message at HelpErinUnderstandGMOs@gmail.com? This is real; send help. Thanks in advance.

Seriously, why can’t we go in the store and throw two boxes of Cheerios, a couple gallons of milk and a box of the latest flavor of Oreos in our carts without enduring relentless stares from other shoppers? Rather than accosting the produce stocker about the origination and growth habits of Hass avocados, you will find me filling my cart with items that do not require such intense, interrogative research. You know items we’ve all been existing on since the beginning of time.

Confession: I’m the momma that occasionally serves up hot dogs and dinosaur-shaped chicken tenders. You know why? Because my kids love them.

I’m going to be real with you guys for a second. My momma, bless her sweet soul, fed me Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, M&M’s and orange soda. And guess what? I’m still alive! With the exception of the obligatory seasonal cold, I’m kickin’ it just fine, folks.

Pre high-fructose-corn-syrup-hysteria, our world was such a wonderful place. We reveled in our blissful ignorance and we survived. We made it. The corn syrup centaurs didn’t come devour us in our sleep, people!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen a scientifically backed theory indicating that occasional hot dog consumption leads directly to immediate death. But please send that report in if I’m missin’ it.

Get prepared to gasp because I’m not done yet. I’ve also got mac-n-cheese in the ole pantry, too! And, no, not the organic-handmade-by-tiny-food-angels kind. Nope. No way. Not up in here! If you open my cupboard, you are going to find the glorious, fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark orange kind that we all fell in love with in our dorm rooms decades ago. You know, the kind we now crave at 2:00 a.m. after waking up to the baby monitor a few times.

All joking aside, I do think that nutrition is very important. And I completely agree with teaching our kids about the importance of clean eating, healthy food boundaries and coaching them towards a life of fitness.

But I think we walk a fine line. I’m all about providing our babies with the healthiest food options available, but let’s do so without engaging in discussions that result in righteous condemnation.

To the precious mommas who manage to serve pediatric-approved meals on your tables three times a day, you are awesome and superhuman. Could you help a sister out? Show me your ways. And, if any of you wants to write a book summarizing all of these “uber-healthy” options exposing all the superfoods in a graph-like format for ease of reference, that’d be great. (Quick request: provide a dictionary in the back.) I’ll be your first buyer.

Rather than tormenting over the origination of the foods that enter our children’s bodies, let’s spend time focusing on the words they hear, the things they see and the places they go. If we spend more time focusing on that version of input in our child’s lives, we will be doing them and our world a much greater service.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: Consumption is vital. Nutritional, spiritual, emotional, all of it. But I’m afraid we are spending so much time diagramming the sugar content of granola bars, that we are neglecting to measure the growth habits or our children’s patience, kindness and respect for others.

In our final days, it’s not going to matter how many marathons our babies ran or how awesome their homemade compost piles were in their backyards.

What will matter is the lasting legacy they leave and the lives they touched while here on this earth.

So, pardon me if I chunk a few fluorescent mac-n-cheese buckets in my buggy as I saunter through the pasta aisle. No harm. No foul.  Just placing my primary focus on a tad bit different intake at our house.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

6 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Trump is trying to put an end to endless war

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) has a clear approach to the evolving situation in Syria: Leave it alone.

Brooks’ premise is that both Turkey and the Kurds are American allies, so getting involved on either side puts us in conflict with the other.

During a Monday interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” Brooks explained that this situation was seemingly inevitable, saying, “I wish that the Turks and the Kurds would get along peacefully, but they have got ill-will harboring and simmering for at least a hundred years.

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He added, “To me, it was inevitable that whenever America reduced its presence in the Middle East, as we should, because we cannot afford to be the police cop on every corner, that violence would break out.”

The congressman acknowledged the role that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy played in the current situation, especially in the creation of ISIS. This is the same argument Trump used in 2016 and the then-candidate promised to end our “endless wars.”

Brooks went on to say that America does not need to involve itself in these issues any longer.

“I support any kind of decision to reduce our presence in these countries that do not appreciate our loss of life, our financial expenditures, in their countries,” he explained.

Brooks acknowledged this could be a situation the United States has to revisit in the future, but warned of a “war caucus that wants to be more aggressive int he Turk/Kurd fight.

“We’ve got a ‘war caucus,’ for lack of a better term, that does believe that the United States of America should be the cop on every corner of the planet, no matter the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, no matter that every penny we spend on these efforts is borrowed money, money we can’t afford to pay back,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Again, Trump made this clear and Brooks appears to agree: We can’t afford to keep doing this forever. Even the most adamant war hawks from the post-9/11 period think we have been at this long enough. Many seem to see little more to gain from new and prolonged conflicts.

The president made it a campaign promise to end these foreign wars, and he is following through on that promise.

Like in everything else, he will be opposed by both sides of the political aisle. No matter what the president does, it has to be wrong — even if nobody else has any better solutions to offer.

But that does not make him wrong.

Do any of the Democratic presidential candidates advocate re-entering Syria if they win? How about sending more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan?

Only time will tell how this decision affects American interests. But unless something drastically changes in the region, we are better off by letting those with regional interests handle the issues in the Middle East.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN