Challenge #1: Be Present

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Credit: Charles Wilson (http://charleslwilson.smugmug.com) for more pictures.

Here’s my latest blog post for The Blue Light Blog & Podcast. You can also read my weekly column in the Garretson Gazette if you live in the area!


One of the best ways individual community members can add value to Garretson is deceptively simple – being fully present. Community has slowly shifted from being a shared life to shared space. In order to return to the original concept of community, we must refocus on having a shared life together. One of the greatest obstacles to this shared life is our obsession with technology – especially with our phones.

I am currently reading a remarkable book called “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.” Many of us have a behavior addiction to technology – especially the use of smartphones. Based on a large study of smartphone users, the average person looks at their phone for three hours a day and checks their phone 40 times a day!

Eventually winter is going to be over (I know it doesn’t feel like it!) and my challenge to all of us is to learn how to be present. As summer arrives and you spend time at one of the parks in Garretson or simply go on a walk around your neighborhood, resist the urge to stare at your phone. When you are at a local event waiting for it to start, refuse to scroll through Facebook. Instead, seek to be fully present to the people around you.

What if we fought through the awkwardness of not pulling out our phones and instead engaged a real human being in conversation? The tragedy of our technology is that the more connected we become online, the more isolation we experience in the real world. To make Garretson an attractive community, let’s seek to be fully present to family, friends, and strangers – recognizing that real conversations are more impactful than online dialogue.

My Problems with Christianity (Message)

For those of you that live in the South Dakota/Minnesota area, you know that we had the joy of a Spring Snow Storm this past weekend! As a result of the weather, we were forced to cancel the special Sunday evening service we were hosting at the American Legion in Garretson. Instead, I did a special online service and shared a message from 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. Here’s the message – I pray it challenges you in your faith and helps you understand how much God loves you.

(If you are reading this in your email, you will have to go to the actual page to see the video) –

Growth or Health (The Blue Light)

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As some of you know, I have been asked by the City of Garretson to make The Blue Light Blog & Podcast the official blog & podcast for the community. I will cross-post the blogs here for those of you interested in reading them! See below for the most recent one:


At the mayoral forum two weeks ago, one of the questions posed to the candidates was, “How big do you want Garretson to grow?” This is a question that many people in our community ponder. We know that Garretson is at a critical point for a small town – we have new businesses and people coming to our community and we need to decide whether we will encourage or discourage growth. We have all seen small towns slowly lose businesses… young families move away… and the local school can no longer operate. If we simply allow ourselves to drift without any type of plan, we will always drift into complacency rather than action.

But there’s the thing – what if we have the wrong focus? What if instead of asking, “How can we cause Garretson to grow?” we should ask, “How can we cause Garretson to be a healthy community?” If we focus on sheer numerical growth and marketing for our small town, we MIGHT grow but I do not think the growth will be sustainable. On the other hand, if the members of our community truly seek to care for their neighbors, get involved with local government, and join community organizations to promote the wellbeing of all – we will see healthy numerical growth.

Over the next few weeks I am planning on doing a series of posts that will encourage all of us with ways we can help Garretson be a HEALTHY community. The definition of community has slowly changed to a shared area or space where people live. What if we returned to the original meaning of community which is that of a “shared life” or “public spirit?” What if Garretson was known for both radical hospitality and beautiful parks? What if the members of Garretson displayed authentic care for one another? What if we realized that we exist for more than just our own personal happiness and comfort?

These are all questions I am hoping to wrestle with over the next few weeks. If you have any thoughts on them I’d love to hear from you – please send an e-mail to tyler@renovationchurchsd.com!

By the way, there is a planning meeting for GROW Garretson this Saturday at 3pm at Screwballz Bar & Grill. I will be at the meeting and would love to connect with you. This will be an opportunity to learn how you can help Garretson become a truly healthy community!

How Do I Prepare a Message?

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As many of you know, I am a pastor which means I need to be ready every 7 days to speak a 30 – 40 minute message from the Bible that is both faithful to the text and engaging to the audience. I was working on my message late last night and Ashley (my wife) was asking me about the process. After sharing it with her, she encouraged me to share it with anyone/everyone interested so they understand everything that goes into a Sunday morning message!

1. Choose the Text
Before I can begin the process I need to choose the text I am preaching from. This is relatively easy at Renovation Church because we generally preach through entire books of the Bible verse-by-verse. I simply pick up where I left off the previous week. I DO need to “cut up” the text in such a way that we are examining one coherent thought rather than trying to preach an entire chapter of the Bible at once.

2. Meditate Upon the Text
The first thing I do is read through the text I am preaching on slowly. If possible, I also like to read the entire book that the text is in so I am reminded of the overall context. I use the word “meditate” to explain an unhurried process of trying to absorb the text into my own life. Generally I write out the entire passage by hand, commit the whole passage to memory, and then make note of every observation and question I have about the text. The closest comparison I can think of would be that of a scientist studying the almost hidden characteristics of an animal – the scientist spends hours with the animal and takes copious amounts of notes.

3. Make Sure I’m Not a Heretic
After I have an understanding of what I think God is saying through the text, I invite a few scholars into the discussion by reading commentaries. Commentaries are books that go verse-by-verse through books of the Bible and share the scholarly and historical views about the text. I know that if I discover something completely “new” in the text that probably means I am reading it wrong. My goal is to be faithful to the original author’s intention under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – not be “cute” with the text.

The reason I do not begin with commentaries is I do not want to give the people of Renovation Church the opinions and thoughts of a scholar. I do not think the common practice of pastors utilizing each others’ sermon outlines or manuscripts is wise (instead I think it is laziness and/or bad time management). Preaching is an “incarnational” event – God has something specific he wants to speak to the people in a specific place and the role of the pastor is to be attentive to both the text and the congregation so that the message is both relevant and theologically sound.

4. Manuscript the Entire Message
Once I have selected the text, meditated on the text, and studied the text on a scholarly level – I write out my entire message word-for-word how I want to say it. This helps me organize my thoughts and think of illustrations that would be helpful in encouraging others to encounter God through the text. For one of my regular messages (which is usually 30 – 40 minutes) this is anywhere from a 6 – 8 page document.

5. Outline the Message
Once my thoughts are organized and I have some illustrations to help others understand the text, I create a one-page outline. This outline has two major functions: First, it helps the Powerpoint person at church follow along with the message; Second, it is available for me to use in case I feel the need for notes on a certain Sunday. If you were to look at one of my outlines it would make absolutely no sense because I generally just use single words to remind me of the things I want to say.

6. Practice & Preach!
Once everything is done I practice the entire message at least two times as if I was preaching it live. The goal of practicing this many times is NOT to turn it into a performance but to rather absorb the message. I cannot preach something that hasn’t first changed my own heart. When it comes to Sunday morning and I have the opportunity to share the message with my congregation, I usually do so without any notes. I try to make it more conversational by only using my Bible and maybe some words jotted down on the page but other than that I try to prepare myself adequately while trusting that the Holy Spirit will give me illustrations and words of encouragement during the preaching of the message that I hadn’t thought of in my preparation.


This is a weekly rhythm that I absolutely love and it is vital to the life of the church. For those of you that attend Renovation Church who may sometimes get frustrated that I am not always available –  I just know that if I neglect to spend time in the Scriptures for both my personal prayer time and for message preparation, our church will die. Also, keep in mind that I do all of this in addition to working part-time at Southeast Tech, going to school full time for my Master’s Degree, and more importantly as a husband and a dad! I really DO love you and that is why I sometimes need to block out large chunks of time to be alone with God in preparation for Sunday! 

The OFFICIAL Podcast & Blog for Garretson!

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Hi everyone!
I have some really exciting news to share. As many of you know, about a year ago I began something called “The Blue Light Podcast.” The goal was to shed a light on the incredible community I call home. This year I had the opportunity to upgrade the podcast by streaming the video live on Facebook. This has allowed us to extend our reach and connect with even more people. For example, my most recent interview with Bruce Brown (who is running for mayor) has received over 800 views in only five days. Another cool fact is that the content from The Blue Light Podcast’s page has reached over 1,400 people in the past week!

This afternoon, the Garretson Commercial Club voted to make The Blue Light Podcast the official podcast and blog for the community. I have been hired on a very part-time basis to produce original and engaging content to draw people to the community and help people in the community feel more connected.

For more information (or to learn how YOU can be involved) watch the video below by clicking the link:
BIG Announcement about The Blue Light Podcast! 

 

Am I “Wasting” my Gifting in Garretson?

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As many of you know, I am the pastor of a church plant in Garretson, South Dakota. When I explain this to other pastors they often look at me with utter confusion. Why would a young, gifted, and “charismatic” pastor seek to plant a church in a town of 1,200 people? Surely I am “wasting” the gifts that God has given me, right?

The church I pastor has about 80 people who consider the church their home and an average weekly attendance of around 60 people… oh and we do not even have a building! I even work a second job so that I can do ministry in my small town. Wouldn’t it be better if I applied for a position in a large church with a full-time salary and benefits?

I don’t think so.

Small towns NEED healthy churches. Unfortunately, many pastors go to small towns as a stepping stone to build ministry experience before they can apply for a large church in a big city. This disguises itself as professional ambition – as if pastoral ministry was a career rather than a calling. The reason many churches in small towns are unhealthy is because a new pastor arrives every 3 – 5 years. The people in the church know the pastor is not committed to the people so they refuse to follow any type of vision he/she casts for the church – and understandably so!

This Sunday at Renovation Church we are welcoming our first people into church membership. I am going to share a message from Acts 2:42 – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” One of the things I will point out is that the early church devoted themselves to “the fellowship.” Not a building. Not an institution. Not a celebrity pastor. To the fellowship – the people of God in a local area who gather together to receive the sacraments and hear the preaching of God’s Word.

Why should pastors expect their people to be committed to “the fellowship” if we aren’t?

Ashley & my goal for Renovation Church is to remain in the same small church… in the same small town… for the next 40 years or so until I retire. My hope is to pastor only one church my entire pastorate. I seriously have no plans or ambition to go to a more “successful” church.

If you are a pastor in a rural community, I plead with you to consider staying in your community for longer than 3 – 5 years.

Pastoral ministry is a calling – not a career.