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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.

8 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

8 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

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

9 hours ago

Six vote difference: Republicans Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood in tight race for House District 38

Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood are in a tight race to become the Republican nominee for House District 38, where only six votes separate the two candidates. Wood has 2,165 votes to Rauch’s 2,159 votes.

The number is well within Rauch’s reach considering there are still votes to be counted.

A winner won’t be declared until at least next Tuesday, July 24, when provisional ballots are officially counted and even then, it could take longer for Secretary of State John Merrill to certify the results officially declaring a winner.

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“There’s never a winner until everything is certified,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News.

Even in the case of such a wide margin as Attorney General Steve Marshall has over Troy King – 62 to 38 percent – there is still no official winner because it hasn’t been certified, Merrill said.

Provisional ballots are provided to those whose names do not appear on the voter roles when they show up to vote but who insist they belong, and still want to vote.

In order to have their votes counted, those who participate in the provisional process must prove to the board of registrar’s office that they ought to be on the roles.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

10 hours ago

Alabamians less likely to be understood by ‘Alexa’ and other ‘smart’ tech because of southern accents

The remarkable drawl that embodies Southern culture may be responsible for the frustration many Alabamians feel when trying to get their smart tech to answer a question. The repeated “Sorry, I didn’t get that” can lead people with accents to underutilize voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home that are rapidly growing in popularity.

study conducted by the Washington Post and two research groups revealed people with Southern accents were three percent less likely to get accurate responses from a Google Home device than those with Western accents.  Foreign accents face the largest challenge with 30 percent more inaccuracies.

But, help is on the way.

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According to the study, the artificial intelligence used in programming the technology is taught to comprehend different accents by processing data from a variety of voices.  The more it learns, the more accurate the programming will become.  Even though these tools may be more useful for some people at the moment, Amazon, the maker of the smart home product Alexa, says to keep trying.

“The more we hear voices that follow certain speech patterns or have certain accents, the easier we find it to understand them.  For Alexa, this no different,” Amazon said in a statement.  “As more people speak to Alexa, and with various accents, Alexa’s understanding will improve.”

Over 20 percent of U.S. households with WiFi utilize smart speakers, and the number of users is growing.  Hopefully, for the benefit of Alabamians, that growth will happen in the South.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

“I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

Those words, voiced by President Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm early this week.

Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

The morning after Trump’s press conference with President Putin, Kilmeade spoke in second person “you” language and pleaded for President Trump to clarify his statement and his belief in our intelligence agencies over Russians who, as Kilmeade said “hate democracy.”

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To his credit, Trump – who had previously agreed that Russian meddling existed – corrected his statement within twenty-four hours.

Regardless of whether his clarification was believable or timely, this episode reminds us that in politics and government – and in everyday life – words matter.

19thcentury German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the power of words. Nietzsche wrote, “All I need is a sheet of paper, and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down”.

Nietzsche’s statement wasn’t merely hypothetical. His declaration that “God is dead” shattered worldviews across western civilization into pieces that PureFlix (the movie company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequels) is still trying to pick up.

Even so, it seems that many have forgotten the power of words and have embraced the idea that simply being heard, regardless of content, is of utmost importance.

In NBC’s hit show The Office, Michael Scott tells viewers, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” I think a lot of us are more like Michael Scott than we’d like to admit.

We might do well to envision more intentional dialogue from ourselves and from our elected officials, especially our state and local representatives.

In an environment where soundbites are everything, Trump’s statements in Helsinki and the backlash that ensued ought to prompt Alabama officials and candidates to rethink any “wing it” sympathies they may have towards public statements, press conferences, or tweets.

This is even more important in the post-primary period of our election cycle.

Now that the nominees are chosen, we must remind each of their responsibility as leaders to use words, strategies, and express differences in a way that is less divisive and more unifying, less bombastic and more genuine. Our officials and candidates should think twice before resorting to name-calling or vilifying their opponents, as doing so endorses that type of behavior and lowers the standard of Alabamians for those who represent them.

We should also expect, now that the in-fighting of our primary process is over, nominees to run thoughtful campaigns where issues, not personalities, are articulately debated.

Candidates and regular Alabamians alike must remember that words yield tremendous power. Therefore, as Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, and Matilda, suggests, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words”.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.