Subscription Preferences:

How to interpret those alarming church statistics


 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

AMERICAN CHURCH SIZE AND AGE STATISTICS CAN CAUSE CONCERN

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:

  1. The median church size is 75 people.
  2. The median church age is 73 years old.

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. That’s where they are in their size.

FOCUS ON CHURCH HEALTH, NOT SIZE

Now, how are we to see that? And, by the way, if you’re a pastor of one of those churches, how are you to look at that? We have a ministry, Tom, called “From Embers to a Flame,” and Embers to a Flame is taking the Biblically revealed paradigm for church revitalization — how can you lead your church back to health and vitality? And one of the points that we make is your objective is not church growth; it’s church health.

I didn’t tell my children to grow — “I want you to grow three inches” — but what I did is I fed them, I exercised them, made sure they got rest, that God had a DNA in them, 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 on cultural steroids because they value growth more than health so it’s not big is good and small is bad, or small is good and big is bad — it’s healthy. You want to be a spiritually healthy Gospel-vital church.

Now, where you’re located — your location and your generation — is 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. 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?” 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 country?” “Well, it was around 30,000.” I said, “What’s the population now in the country?” “It’s about 8,000.” The recession that hit the coal mine industry, people had moved out, businesses were shut down — 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 are 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 county 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.”

LOOK TO THE BIBLE FOR WHAT’S IMPORTANT

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 — that’s just counting the men — then 5,000 are added — that’s just counting the men — and people are being saved every day.

Likely, the church at Jerusalem at one time, in 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 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. So 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 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, 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 have a Gospel-healthy church and there’s only 75 people in a small rural time and I praise the Lord for that. We need that.

FOCUS ON WHERE GOD HAS SEEN FIT TO PUT YOU

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 ever wanted to do, but God has seen fit to put me in other situations where there are larger churches and that is 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 that we’re hanging around, but that 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 — we’re still reaching them.

MAKE SURE YOUR CHURCH IS DOING “WELL”

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; evangelizes — the E is evangelism and missions — and you are reaching the lost with intentionality; L, loving one another — “They marveled at how they loved one another”; and then the last L in the WELL church is a learning church.

Therefore, you’ve got Worship and that’s our ministry of upreach to God, evangelism and that’s our ministry of outreach to the world, loving one another and that’s our ministry of inreach to one another, then learning and that’s our ministry of downreach to ourselves where 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 CAN GUIDE, BUT DON’T LET THEM DOMINATE

Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t use the metrics. If the metrics are showing something declining and it’s not explained by 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, 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 sort of enfolded into the body of Christ — when they love one another. And then he says, “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you” — that calls for learning with conviction in your life and that’s what we look to the Lord to do.

So, 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, liv 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. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

1 hour ago

What is it with Alabama Democrats’ dumb obsession with debates, town halls?

So you’re a Democrat in Alabama, and you want to be elected to high office? You approached your run for office thinking that Doug Jones showed what’s possible for a Democrat in Alabama. Therefore, you determined the time is right to run.

And here you are. You put up your qualifying fee and made it through the primary. It’s you versus a well-funded Republican incumbent in a state outside the Seventh Congressional District, and a handful of other urban minority precincts elects very few Democrats.

It’s a David versus Goliath story. It’s going to require a solid ground game, a fair amount of travel and a campaign message that will sway some Republicans to overlook party labels and mark the ballot for a Democrat.

What’s Walt Maddox’s first significant push? Perhaps it could be the success story of Tuscaloosa and all the things he has accomplished as mayor. Tuscaloosa is still a place people might want to visit – several nice restaurants, an up and coming riverfront, an affluent and diverse population, or yeah – and the University of Alabama and all it has to offer.

It’s a simple message: Do you want Alabama to be more like Tuscaloosa? Vote for me.

428

Instead, the one big thing – the thing that he has tirelessly played up to the media, the topic about which he made internet videos and the one upon which his off-the-rails, left-of-center allies in the media seem to agree is Gov. Kay Ivey’s refusal to debate him.

In Alabama’s Second Congressional District, there’s a similarly mystifying event taking place in the race between Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and her Democratic opponent Tabitha Isner.

Unlike Maddox, Isner doesn’t have a public service resume on which to run. She has to make the case in what is now arguably the most conservative congressional district in Alabama that she is a better alternative to the incumbent Roby.

She has to find vulnerabilities in this heavily agricultural congressional district. Whereas Roby’s Republican opponents ran against her for not being Trump-y enough, she might be served by saying Roby is way too much Trump – supporting tariffs and restrictions on labor. Her best shot would be to build a coalition of Democrat-voting Black Belt Democrats in Butler, Conecuh, Bullock and Barbour Counties and win over the handful of pockets of Republican-leaning swing voters in Montgomery, Elmore and Autauga Counties.

The math is very tough. But what does she do instead? She makes Roby’s lack of town hall meetings an issue with bizarre performance art in front of the Bird Dog Monument in Union Springs and posting it on YouTube.

A few of Alabama’s media celebrities have taken the bait. Alabama News Network’s senior political reporter Tim Lenox confronted Roby with the video, who shrugged it off.

“I have a packed August where I’ll be spending a lot of time with my constituents both in public meetings and in private meetings,” Roby said at an appearance earlier this week in Montgomery. “[P]rivate meeting scheduled previously scheduled one-on-one meetings — there’s lots of different ways to communicate with your constituents.”

Doug Jones didn’t win a U.S. Senate seat in 2017 because he hammered Roy Moore for not debating him. He had a big assist from the Democratic Party’s opposition research wing known as the mainstream media. He also did a few other things the Democratic Party of Alabama’s past and present won’t do, and that’s work beyond preserving the status quo – but that’s a subject for another time.

Is it noteworthy that a Republican opponent is reluctant to debate or hold town halls? Sure. Is it something to harp on as if it is the magic ticket to higher office? No, it’s just a dumb obsession.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

1 hour ago

Officials investigating Brewer High School hazing report

A sheriff’s department in Alabama is investigating a report of hazing at a high school earlier this year.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is working with the county school system on an incident involving students at Brewer High School in February.

107

Schools Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. told WHNT in Huntsville the incident involved the junior varsity baseball team.

Hopkins said the incident happened in a locker room and involved middle school students who played for the junior varsity team.

The students involved were suspended from all summer programs and started the new school year in in-school suspension.

Hopkins says school officials will work with the coaches and team members to provide extra training on bullying.

Sheriff Ana Franklin says investigators are working to determine whether charges should be filed.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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

2 hours ago

Rep. Robert Aderholt remembers Aretha Franklin, her time recording in Muscle Shoals

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) is paying tribute to Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” who died on Thursday.

Aderholt posted a video on his Facebook page documenting Franklin’s time recording at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, along with these words:

“The music world has lost a legend in Aretha Franklin. While I was just a young child in Haleyville, I had no idea that just a few miles up the road in Muscle Shoals, she was recording some of the world’s most famous songs. She recorded RESPECT in Muscle Shoals on February 14, 1967. And what a Valentine gift it was. Her voice was one of the many that gave richly to the Muscle Shoals Music, and it will never go silent.”

“We consider it an honor that many of her songs were recorded in the 4th District and here in Alabama,” Aderholt’s office said in a statement obtained by Yellowhammer News. “Besides being an honor, it’s just plain cool.”

1
3 hours ago

You’re not alone, Alabama: South Carolina also has a billion-dollar defunct nuclear site — but it’s worse

The Yellowhammer State and the Palmetto State share many things: heat, southern culture, a love for football.

A more unfortunate commonality between the two, and one receiving lots of attention in both states, is that each has an unfinished nuclear power plant just sitting there, continually making news but not power.

Alabama’s Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, which has never generated a single watt of power, has become over the years a (literally) concrete representation of the federal government’s vast ambition coupled with its occasional  – or frequent, depending who you ask – inability to follow through.

297

Recent developments indicate that the massive power plant could eventually be put to use, but that is still a long way off.

Still, Bellefonte is a case study of taxpayer investment in a dead-end project

In a way, though, Alabamians can be grateful that they themselves weren’t required to fund the dead-end project through increased monthly energy rates, as consumers in South Carolina were.

Back in March 2008, South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) – the South Carolina equivalent of Alabama Power – began the process of applying for authorization to built two new nuclear reactors at its VC Summer site just north of Columbia. The company already operated one reactor at the site.

SCE&G was approved and established contracts for construction. The project was estimated to cost $9.8 billion.

To help with the project’s funding, SCE&G proposed a rate increase, got it approved by the Public Service Commission in May 2008, and construction began later that fall.

Over the years, there were numerous project delays and extra project costs which have, up to the current day, resulted in nine rate increases.

Last July, the project was abandoned after Westinghouse, the company building the reactors, filed for bankruptcy.

As the legislative session winded down this year, the legislature passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut for energy consumers who have paid an estimated $2 billion into the nuclear project fund.

A disaster of nuclear proportions, you could say.

The failure of both Bellefonte and the expansions at VC Summer are disconcerting generally, and downright infuriating for those who were forced to pay into them. Both projects have the potential to succeed, but that will require some kind of co-aligned effort between ambitious big business and government, both of which delivered the failed projects in the first place.

Read about developments on the Bellefonte front here.

Marion Mayor uses tools to prep residents for AlabamaWorks Success Plus Initiative

By: Dexter Hinton, Mayor of Marion, Alabama

When I was elected in late 2016 as Mayor of Marion, I knew there were certain areas in which our town needed to improve. One was education and work preparedness for those who did not want to attend a four-year college. We had gaps that needed to be filled.

As an Industrial Maintenance and Robotics Instructor at the Career Center in Greene County, I know what resources are available to assist those seeking a job or a skills education. When people come to the center, our team has a plethora of tests, assessments, job listings, resume-building sessions and other items at our disposal to help folks get the right position or training that matches their needs or abilities.

587

As Mayor, I realized we needed to get educational tools to Marion residents, especially after Moller Tech announced that it would be locating in Bibb County, adjacent to Perry County, and bringing 222 jobs with it. But with a small town like Marion (population 3,432) not having a dedicated resource center, we didn’t quite know how to unite the two. Then one day, I attended a Central AlabamaWorks meeting and saw AIDT’s mobile unit, which is the Department of Commerce’s skills education center on wheels.

I spoke with Mikki Ruttan, director of Central AlabamaWorks, after the meeting and asked her about the possibility of getting the unit to our area. I learned it could be customized for the needs of its audience. After numerous discussions with other local leaders, we selected basic resume building and a Ready-to-Work course as the initial offerings. I knew the mobile unit would be key in obtaining career readiness for the citizens of Marion. I also felt that our citizens would welcome the chance to improve their skills and knowledge base.

After dozens of conversations, we got the mobile unit scheduled this past April. We posted and delivered flyers all over the city, announcing when and where the unit would be located, and we created a Facebook page. We had no idea what kind of response we would have for this type of educational opportunity. But, our citizens realized how such training could give them a leg up in the job market. As a result, they turned out in droves to learn more and better position themselves for entry into the job market, or to simply upgrade their skill set.

With Gov. Kay Ivey’s Success Plus initiative rollout a few months ago, I knew we had to get our citizens more training to help them, and our state, reach the goal of 500,000 people with post-high-school credentials by 2025. The mobile training unit seemed like the perfect way to deliver those opportunities to our residents.

After some discussion, we were able to get the unit at The Lincoln School. We focused the training on Ready-to-Work. The classes filled immediately, and a waiting list soon formed. Our people were eager to gain knowledge to improve their lives and that of their families. Once they completed the course, they received credentials as an Alabama Certified Worker; a Career Readiness certificate; a free three-credit-hour course at Wallace Community College Selma (if they had a high school diploma); three credits toward a high school diploma (if they didn’t have one); and a referral to the Selma Career Center for free certificates or degree information from WCC in welding, industrial maintenance, electrical technology or nursing.

The unit has been so popular with our citizens that two classrooms are now being refurbished at The Lincoln School specifically for AIDT courses. This means we will have a permanent place for our people to get not only Ready-to-Work training, but also training in other much-needed professions offered by Wallace, such as cosmetology, carpentry, welding, automotive technician and others.

The excitement continues to build for our city. In fact, AIDT has already completed one Ready-to-Work training with several graduates who have received employment.

With the extra effort by Central AlabamaWorks, AIDT, the Career Centers and the Alabama Community College System – combined with the excitement and work ethic of our citizens – I know Marionites can and will be a valued part of the Success Plus endeavor. I look forward to seeing what our citizens can achieve for themselves, their families and our community.