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Lots of older pastors, not many young ones — what’s going on?


Harry Reeder, pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. (Photo: Anne Richoux)

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, I would like to take you to a new Barna study that was just released. As the average pastor grows older in America, churches say they are struggling to find young Christians who want to become future pastors.

 Today, half of American pastors are older than 55. In 1992, less than a quarter of pastors, 24 percent were that old. Pastors 65 and older have almost tripled in the last 25 years from 6 percent to 17 percent. Meanwhile, pastors 40 and younger have fallen from 33 percent in 1992 to just 15 percent today.

HOW TO REACH MILLENIALS

DR. REEDER: Barna is saying, “This is evidence that younger men are not being called into the Gospel ministry. That is a point of concern,” which I would agree with him if I thought that was the only thing contributing to this – that, for some reason, the call to the ministry is no longer being extended to young men that God is calling or that there is a decreasing number of those available to be called to the ministry.

I do believe that there is a challenge right now that the evangelical church needs to embrace concerning reaching the millennials. I don’t think you reach the millennials by embracing the culture that surrounds the millennials, but by embracing the millennials that are finding that that culture is empty and bringing a Gospel culture to them.

AGING BOOMERS

Having said that, what about these statistics, themselves? Let me give you four other reasons why this is true. This is true in almost every demographic of vocation at the moment and the reason why is you’re looking at the Boomer generation. The Boomer generation is this gigantic demographic ball that is working its way down the timeline.

Think of a python that swallows a mongoose and watch the mongoose work its way down the length of the python and that’s the way that the Boomer generation has been – that post-World War II extraordinary baby boom that we had. I’m a part of it – I was born in 1948.

Me and my compatriots that were born after World War II all the way up until the mid-1950’s have been called the Baby Boomers, this extraordinary population bubble has changed everything – changed the way you did junior high and high school. It changed churches – all of a sudden, there were now youth groups. There weren’t any youth groups before this.

Well, it’s true in the ministry: There was an extraordinary amount of young men and women giving themselves to vocational ministry and, particularly, those who were called to Gospel ministry, specifically, and so that’s just a large bubble.

Well, that means, when you get to the end of their ministry life, which is where most of them are – most of us are – now in our 60s and late 60s, well, that’s just going to be a large demographic statistic. That’s why you’ve got this large number of, “graying” gospel ministers.

PASTORS LIVING LONGER

And, secondly, the old age of 65, people are living longer now. The average death for men has now risen to somewhere between 76 to 78, which means that people are going to stay active longer.

Thirdly, people are healthy longer. Tom, I have been through three different surgeries. I have as much energy as I have ever had, but in the last two years, I have been through three surgeries that could have been life-ending 20 years ago.

Instead, they’re not only life-extending, but energy-renewing in my life. I’ve got amazing energy at my age, in the late 60s, that most people would not have had. I remember looking at people in 60s and 70s and they not only looked older, they acted a lot older.

I’m just using myself as an example: I walk/jog and I do four miles every day. Well, that just wouldn’t have been done years ago. An older person might have taken a leisurely walk, but today we’re much more active physically, which means we’re going to be active vocationally.

We’re not only living longer, we’re more healthy as we live longer and, therefore, want to stay engaged longer.

EVANGELICAL MINISTRY THRIVING

And then, fourth, there is an ecclesiastical and, therefore, theological issue to this. Tom, I’m engaged in the Gospel Reformation Network and you ought to see the young ministers in our Gospel Reformation Network. I am related to the TG4, Together 4 the Gospel, and you ought to see the thousands that come to the conference of young Gospel ministers that come to that. And then I am also on the council of the Gospel Coalition and you ought to see the multiple thousands that come to our conference.

Tom, I believe this: there is no shortage of young ministers in the evangelical segment of Christianity. Go look at the mainline churches and there are very few people going into their ministry. Why? Because why would you go into the ministry? What is believed by those churches is no different than what you can do in a secular vocation – there’s nothing drawing to it, there’s nothing significant to it, there’s nothing distinctive – and there is where you see the plunge in numbers, not in the evangelical wing of the church so much, but in the mainline Protestant and in the Roman Catholic element of the church.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, one of the statistics that Barna brings up, 7 in 10 Protestant pastors say young leaders seem to think other kinds of work are more important than vocational ministry. Even though the statistics aren’t as dramatic in the evangelical circles, do you find that true?

DR. REEDER: I just don’t. I just don’t. I’ve got 14 young men I meet with once a month who are moving toward the ministry. This last month, two young men were just ordained and installed into the Gospel ministry.

I am on the adjunct faculty of two seminaries – Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary – and our numbers are up. Those are evangelical seminaries, utterly and fully committed to the inerrancy of the Word, the reformed faith and the vibrancy of it. No, I don’t see it.

Now, I believe that we’ve got a challenge reaching the millennial generation – and I believe that that challenge is profound – and that means the number of those out of that generation called to the ministry.

But, overall, no, I don’t see that. It’s not because I’m living in a fool’s paradise. It’s anecdotal and it is statistical. I read the statistics of my seminary so you watch our Reformed Theological Seminary keeps expanding its campuses, Westminster Seminary keeps expanding its reach and its outreach, Third Millennium is expanding, also, the way it is training pastors in the international world.

CAN’T BE WARMED OVER CHRISTIANITY

And, by the way, to the evangelical world, the key to us maintaining and growing the vibrancy to the millennial generation is not to compromise our message to fit their culture, but it is to bring a Gospel message distinctively.

They already see the emptiness of the social media-driven culture and its paltry notion of friendship and its paltry notion of community.

They’re desirous of community that is meaningful, that has substance to it, and that’s what we should bring, the glory of a transcendent God who dwells among His people and who receives us just as we are, but never leaves us just as we are, saves us by His grace, forgives us of our sins, is at work within us, uses the means of grace – of preaching, prayer, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship – and God-centered worship, not warmed-over musical concerts and calling it worship.

When we begin to engage in the vibrancy of an evangelical witness that is Gospel-driven and centered and Biblically-framed and vibrant with the empowering power of the Spirit of God, that’s what will reach the millennial generation and I see it, I’m experiencing it, and I believe our best days are ahead of us if we stay on Gospel message, in Gospel ministry and on the Gospel mission of making disciples of all the nations.

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

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is 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.

2 hours ago

Aderholt named ranking member of appropriations subcommittee critical to north Alabama’s economy

On Tuesday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) was named ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds NASA and the FBI, amongst other important economic engines.

In a statement, Aderholt said, “It is a great honor to be named the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. This subcommittee is certainly important to America, but even more so for North Alabama.”

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“This subcommittee is directly responsible for funding NASA and the FBI, along with the Department of Commerce,” Aderholt explained. “The FBI and NASA are two very important agencies to the economy of not only Huntsville, but also the northern portion of our state. NASA, of course, has a long history in this region and gave rise to Huntsville’s name as the Rocket City. And in just the past few years, the FBI has built a presence on Redstone Arsenal and is in the process of growing to a level of approximately 4,000 jobs.”

The congressman concluded, “With my leadership on this subcommittee, I will work to ensure that North Alabama continues to lead as we return to the moon, put boots on Mars and travel into deep space. And with the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School, and growing footprint in North Alabama, I will also be a voice to let my colleagues know that North Alabama is in a prime position to be a hub for matters concerning our national security.”

Aderholt also serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

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

3 hours ago

Is Doug Jones a foot soldier in the Democrat Civil War for taking a shot at liberal darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

If you are Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) right now, you probably know you have almost no chance of being elected to a full term as a United State senator.

This obviously could change. Roy Moore could continue to crave the spotlight and enter a Republican primary field in 2020, but this is obviously a long-shot for him.

Complicating Jones’ life right now is a number of new Democratic members of the House of Representatives. They are outspoken, silly and contrary to the carefully crafted image Jones wants to sell to Alabama. Jones wants to be Mr. Moderate, a conservative-ish Democrat in the mold of former Congressman Bud Cramer (D-Huntsville), but he can’t do that if he is constantly dealing with a 24-hour news cycle where his fellow Democrats are acting nuts.

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Jones seems to know this, and the clearest way to distinguish himself from members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is to directly scold her to The Hill.

He said, “I think it skews what’s really there for the Democratic Party.”

Jones seems to want to differentiate himself from Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of non-stop Twitter trolling will endear her to the same media that can’t let a Trump tweet go without an analysis of its impact. But Jones didn’t stop there. He also thinks this style of bomb-throwing is ineffective politics.

“When it gets time to get things done, that’s what people are going to be looking at — they’re going to be looking at the middle-of-the-roaders because it’s the only way to get anything done,” Jones stated.

If recent history is any judge, Ocasio-Cortez will not let these comments slide without a response. The fight for the soul of the Democratic Party is on and Jones will likely find himself out-gunned and without many powerful allies.

In response to similar criticism from former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ocasio-Cortez responded with the following tweet:

Will Jones double-down or will he slink back to his backbench for fear of his party’s base if she hits back?

For now, Jones sounds like he thinks his voters want him to get stuff done, but considering that Jones’ main accomplishment at this point in his Senate career is his vote against now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation it is likely most Alabama voters would prefer he enjoys his time in Washington D.C. as a spectator before being sent home in 2020.

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

4 hours ago

Trump AG nominee: Sessions ‘probably did the right thing’ in recusing himself from Russia probe

Attorney General-nominee William Barr on Tuesday said Jeff Sessions “probably did the right thing” in recusing himself from the investigation into alleged collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign, according to The Washington Post.

Barr previously served as attorney general from 1991-1993. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr was asked by committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the probe because he was involved in the Trump campaign.

“I am not sure of all of the facts, but I think he probably did the right thing recusing himself,” Barr said.

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This came the day after Sessions attended Alabama’s Inaugural Day festivities, including the swearing-in ceremony for all statewide elected officials and reception for state Attorney General Steve Marshall.

During Marshall’s event in the attorney general’s office building, Sessions said, “Do the right thing every day and usually things will work out… [well,] not always.”

After the laughter of the room started to subside, he added, “At least in the United States, when they fire you, they don’t shoot you like they do in some countries.”

Sessions’ relationship with President Donald Trump was eroded by the recusal and the president’s public attacks on both that decision and Sessions personally. He resigned at the request of the president in November.

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

4 hours ago

State Sen. Gerald Allen responds to judge striking down Alabama Memorial Preservation Act — ‘Judges are not kings’

On Tuesday afternoon, State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, criticized Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

Graffeo made the ruling Monday.

“Under the Constitution, judges are to be neutral umpires who apply the rule of law fairly,” Allen said in a statement. “A judge’s personal beliefs, whether about politics, sociology, or history, have no bearing on how he is to apply the law.”

He continued, “Judge Graffeo has taken it upon himself to know and declare that it is ‘undisputed’ that the majority of residents of Birmingham are ‘repulsed’ by the Linn Park monument, and has thus ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act void. But judges are not kings, and judicial activism is no substitute for the democratic process.”

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“The Memorial Preservation Act is meant to thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for future generations. The law was vigorously debated for months by the people of Alabama’s duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature, and passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate,” Allen advised.

He concluded, “The Attorney General’s Office is confident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling.”

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

5 hours ago

Judge voids Alabama law protecting Confederate monuments

A judge has overturned an Alabama law meant to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments from public property, ruling the act infringed on the rights of citizens in a mostly black city who are “repulsed” by the memorial.

The 10-page ruling issued late Monday by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo said a 2017 state law barring the removal or alteration of historical monuments wrongly violated the free speech rights of local communities.

The law cannot be enforced, Graffeo ruled, but the state could still appeal.

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The attorney general’s comment had no immediate response to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The state sued the city of Birmingham after officials tried to remove a 52-foot-tall (16-meter)-tall obelisk that was erected to honor Confederate veterans in a downtown park in 1905.

Rather than toppling the stone marker, the city built a 12-foot (3.6-meter)-tall wooden box around it.

Birmingham’s population of 210,000 is more than 70 percent black, and the judge said it was indisputable that most citizens are “repulsed” by the memorial.

He rejected the state’s claims that lawmakers had the power to protect historical monuments statewide.

The law includes a $25,000 penalty for removing or altering a historical monument, but the judge said the penalty was unconstitutional.

The city has not had to pay while the lawsuit worked its way through court.

The ruling came hours after the inauguration of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the law and opened her campaign last year with a commercial that prominently showed Confederate monuments.

“We can’t change or erase our history, but here in Alabama we know something that Washington doesn’t. To get where we are going means understanding where we have been,” Ivey said in the ad.

Supporters of the law contend it protects not just Confederate memorials but historical markers of any kind, but rebel memorials have been an issue nationwide since a white supremacist gunman killed nine worshippers in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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