Subscription Preferences:

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.

print
12 hours ago

20 percent of Americans have known someone suffering from opioid addiction

A federal survey reveals roughly 20 percent of Americans know or have known someone struggling with addiction to opioid painkillers.

The annual report on the economic well being of U.S. households by the Federal Reserve System included questions regarding exposure to opioids, a first in the history of the survey. It found at least one in five Americans personally know someone suffering with an addiction to opioids, reported The Hill.

While the study revealed that white people are roughly twice as likely to be impacted by opioid abuse, the results also showed opioid addiction does not discriminate along socioeconomic lines.

275

“Adults who have been personally exposed to the opioid epidemic have somewhat less favorable assessments of economic conditions than those who have not been exposed,” said researchers, according to The Hill. “However, local unemployment rates are similar in the neighborhoods where those exposed to opioids live and where those not exposed live. Altogether, this analysis suggests the need to look beyond economic conditions to understand the roots of the current opioid epidemic.”

The researchers noted that a majority of adults impacted by the opioid epidemic have a positive view of their local economy.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives in 2016, a 28-percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015.

Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller about 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives in 2016.

The epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S., officials said. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

(Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.)

13 hours ago

Alabama teacher charged with having sex with student

A statement from police says 54-year-old Meta Lovely of Duncanville surrendered Wednesday. She is being held on $30,000 bond on a charge of having sex with a student less than 19 years old.

Lovely worked as a substitute teacher at Bryant High School.

Police say they were told about a possible improper relationship between a school employee and a student on May 2.

32

A lawyer representing Lovely, Mary Turner, says her client is innocent and “adamantly” denies the allegations.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Sign-up now for our daily newsletter and never miss another article from Yellowhammer News.

14 hours ago

Less than two weeks to primary – governor’s race

As we get down to the lick log in the 2018 June Primary, there are few if any surprises in any of the major state races. Polling indicates that all of the contests are about where they were three or four months ago when the races began.

There is a tremendous amount of apathy and indifference as we head into the final days. This lack of enthusiasm has also affected fundraising. Most of the high-profile races have not attracted the amount of dollars as in the past.

Kay Ivey is sitting on a sizeable lead in the GOP gubernatorial primary. She took a slight dip in the polls when she ducked out of debates. However, it is not as pronounced as it would have been if she had appeared. Her campaign has been managed brilliantly.

628

Coincidentally, at the same time that her staff adroitly kept her out of the debates, her polling picked up that preserving the confederate monuments was an issue with conservative Republican primary voters. Kay’s media folks responded with an ad that could have come out of the George Wallace playbook. They had her telling folks that northern liberals and scalawags were not going to tell us what we are going to do with our monuments. Her resolve made folks wonder if she was actually there when the monuments were erected.

Last week, with only three weeks until the primary, lesbian lawmaker and LGBTQ activist Patricia Todd suggested in social media posts that Kay was gay. Ms. Ivey adamantly denied the tweet. She has adroitly deflected any and all inquiries into her private life.

The bottom line is that polls indicated she had a 30-point lead three months ago, and that lead is about the same now with less than two weeks to go to the Primary. The question is do her challengers push her into a runoff. Speculation is that she could win without a runoff the same way that her mentor, Lurleen Wallace, did in 1966.

The surprise in the GOP race could be Birmingham evangelist, Scott Dawson. He has run a very energetic campaign. Evangelical, rural, Roy Moore voters may be coalescing around the young minister. His strength might be underestimated by polling data.

This white evangelical vote is ironically similar to the African American vote in the state. It is quiet and beats to a different drummer. The message resonates through word-of-mouth between church pews rather than through the media and social media. Although, it eventually gravitates to being somewhat in lock-step with a predictably higher than average turnout.

Most observers expect Huntsville mayor, Tommy Battle, to make a late run at Ivey. He has money in the bank. He will also come out of the vote rich Tennessee Valley with good Friends and Neighbors support. He should get enough votes to run second and force Ivey into a runoff.

However, there will still be a 15-to-20 point spread in favor of Ivey when the votes are counted on June 5. Kay will have to put on her campaign bonnet for another six weeks. She will still not debate.

The Democratic Primary for governor has two thoroughbreds battling it out for the opportunity to face the GOP candidate, probably Ivey. Polling in this race between former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is inconclusive.

Most of the folks who vote in the Democratic Primary on June 5 will be African American.

Although this vote is not monolithic, the pendulum swings toward one candidate.

The African American leadership in the party is actively supporting Walt Maddox. He has also captured a good number of young white millennials and college students. My guess is that Maddox is the winner in the Democratic Primary.

Troy King will probably lead the balloting in the Attorney General contest. Alice Martin and Steve Marshall are battling for a place in the runoff with King.

Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to get a good vote in the Lt. Governor’s race. If she has a runoff, it will probably be Will Ainsworth from Sand Mountain, who has had a significant TV buy.

State Senator Gerald Dial has surged in the Agriculture Commissioner race, primarily due to a brilliant and upbeat television ad. It is the best TV spot of the year. He is also benefiting immensely from grassroots support from rural volunteer firefighters throughout the state.

Voter ambivalence favors incumbents and those who have voter name identification. Therefore, my prognostication is that when all of the votes are counted in November, we will have a female Republican Governor, Kay Ivey, and a female Republican Lt. Governor, Twinkle Cavanaugh.

We will see.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the legislature. Steve may be reached at this link.

14 hours ago

Alabama’s gubernatorial candidates’ disagree and agree on how to create jobs

Alabama’s workforce won big earlier this year when Toyota-Mazda promised to create 4,000 jobs in the Huntsville area, though the number of tax dollars that state and local coffers will not see, due to abatements granted by authorities at both levels, is in the millions.

Some candidates for governor see such tax breaks as a poor way to invite job creators into the state, as indicated by their responses to recent questionnaires created by the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News.

When asked how the candidates would foster job creation that rivals our neighboring states, Scott Dawson, a Republican candidate for governor, responded in part:

445

“… We all have to remember that when we bring in a company from out-of-state, the incentives that we utilize to draw them are based on giving away free taxes. The takeaway is that we can do all of the recruiting that we want, but if we’re not making Alabama a sweet home for the businesses or would-be entrepreneurs that are already here — which pay Alabama taxes — we aren’t being financially responsible! I’m a conservative who knows that free market capitalism works.”

Democratic candidate State Rep. James Fields’ ideas are somewhat similar to Dawson’s.

“I will work to end the failed, short-sighted strategy of squeezing government, giving away the farm, and cutting taxes for corporations with the expectation that an economy will suddenly prosper,” Fields responded to the same question.

State Sen. Bill Hightower, who is also vying for the Republican nomination, criticized special tax carve-outs but made his argument more a critique of Alabama’s tax code rather than case-by-case incentives.

“More than 25 states across the nation have embarked on significant tax reform in the last few years,” Hightower wrote in his response. “It is apparent that each of them realize they are in a competition for jobs and growth. By improving their tax policies, they create a business and family-friendly environment which lends itself to prosperity…. But here in Alabama, special interests and career politicians have spent years rigging the tax code with special interest tax carve-outs. I want to make Alabama’s tax code simple, low, and effective in order to compete with neighboring states. ”

Hightower, along with the Democratic Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox, also stressed the importance of developing Alabama’s workforce as a way to attract investment, though the two disagree on a funding mechanism for the skills training. Maddox supports a lottery, while Hightower does not.

Gov. Kay Ivey, who is currently the race’s front-runner, responded broadly in favor of improving infrastructure, education, and workforce development, as did Maddox. She also wrote, “In only a year, more than $6 billion have been invested, 13,000 jobs have been created and we have achieved record low unemployment.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle also touted his record, calling himself the “most effective job creator in the state” and responding: “Over the last 10 years I have created more jobs than all other Alabama counties combined. That’s 63% of all jobs in the state of Alabama. I have created 53% of the jobs in this state announced while Governor Ivey has been in office.”

Battle has elsewhere advocated both infrastructure and workforce development as ways of attracting businesses.

Democratic candidate Sue Bell Cobb did not respond to the questionnaire.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

15 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers says he has seen no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, calls it a distraction

As the calls to investigate the investigators continue to grow, America has clearly started to tire of non-stop news coverage and the politicking off of the narrative of the narrative that the Russians and Trump campaign colluded to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. Congressman Mike Rogers was asked on WVNN this morning if he has seen ANYTHING that leads him to believe actual collusion took place:

“None, and this town leaks like a sieve. If there was anything it would have been leaked months ago. They have nothing. All they can do is keep this cloud out there in the fake news media that there’s some corruption going on between the Trump Administration and the Russian government and there is no evidence of that. This is all about trying to keep people distracted from all the good things the Trump administration has been doing.”

117

Why this matters: Rogers is hardly the first Alabama politician to make this statement. Congressman Mo Brooks called for the probe to end soon. As this drags on, Americans have soured on House Democrats, giving Republicans an edge for the first time. The investigation has gone from collusion, to Internet ads, to financial crimes committed by people years before the campaign, to a porn star’s payment, to a former attorney trying to sell access, and all along NOTHING proving collusion has been brought forward while plenty of information continues to come out.

Like Rogers, America is over this.

Listen to the interview here: