Beware Of Wolves

wolf

One of the most difficult and terrifying roles of a pastor is to battle against wolves who seek to infiltrate the church. The Apostle Paul exhorts the elders (pastors) in Ephesus with the following, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29-30)

These “wolves” are false teachers who creep into the church and seek to mislead the people of God with false doctrine.

The short letter of Jude is a warning to all Christians – especially pastors – to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).” This small but powerful epistle is a grave warning that false teachers WILL seek to infiltrate our congregations and we must be on our guard against them.

In Jude 1:12-13, the Holy Spirit through Jude gives us four descriptions of these false teachers:

1. They Promise Life but Lead to Death.
Jude writes that false teachers are, “clouds without water, carried about by the winds.” This condemnation is two-fold. First, clouds in the first century often brought the promise of rain during a drought. Likewise, false teachers give the appearance of godliness, wisdom, and sound teaching but there is no true life found in their teaching. Instead of building up the Body of Christ, false teachers use flattery to build their own platforms and draw believers away from the Church.

Second, Jude’s statement that they are “carried about by the winds” means that the false teachers are driven by their own appetites and fleshly desires. They refuse to submit their teaching to the Bible or their authority to a local church; instead, they drift from church to church and are carried along by the false “spirits” of this world.

2. They Appear to be Alive but are Dead.
The second description Jude gives for these false teachers is that they are, “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots.” From a distance, it is difficult to discern whether a tree is alive or dead. As you get closer to the tree, it becomes apparent that it has no fruit and the root system has been removed from the ground. In the same way, from a distance, false teacher appear to be spiritually alive and worth following. Upon closer inspection, it will become apparent that the false teacher does not display the fruit of the Spirit, is spiritually dead, and has been removed from the root of Christ.

3. They Boast In Their Shame.
Third, Jude writes that these false teachers are, “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame.” During a storm or a strong wind, waves create foam on the surface of the water for all to see. In the same way, false teachers boast in their shame rather than pursuing holiness. They refer to evil behaviors as good and call good behaviors evil. False teachers applaud and accept such sinful behavior as abortion, homosexual activity, sex outside of marriage, divorce, gossip, and various other sins. In the process, they confuse genuine believers and cause divisions in the church.

4. They Refuse Stability and Community.
Fourth, Jude describes these false teachers as, “wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Once again, this has two implications. First, as I mentioned in the first point, false teachers do not submit to church authority or commit themselves to a local church. Instead, they wander from fellowship to fellowship – often avoiding the accountability and discipline of a church body.

Second, just like a shooting star, the teaching of a false teacher is short-lived. It seems remarkable when it comes forth but under closer examination and through a length of time, it quickly dissipates. This has proven true for all of the ancient heresies throughout church history and will continue to be true for all “new” teachings. As a rule of thumb, if a person claims to have a “new” revelation from God, run as far as you can!


What are some other descriptions you would add for false teachers? I’d love to hear and learn from you. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts! 

 

 

7 Pillars of a Successful Ministry

pillars

I just finished listening to an excellent message from Kent Hughes, the author of Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. According to Hughes, many pastors and ministry leaders feel like failures because they are measuring success according to the metrics of this world rather than according to Scripture. With this premise, he gives the audience seven “pillars” of a successful ministry.

Once a month I schedule a personal retreat for a full day. I use this day to reflect on the ministry God has given me and to examine how I am doing in light of His calling. My goal for these days is to repent of sin and resolve, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to conduct myself in a manner worth of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27).

My next retreat day is tomorrow so I wanted to use these pillars as a guide to ask myself some hard questions. Below are the questions I am going to wrestle with and I hope they challenge you in your own unique context:

Pillar #1: God measures success by faithfulness to His Word.
Q: In what ways have I devalued the authority of Scripture in my life and ministry?
Q: Is there a command from Scripture which I am failing to be obedient to out of fear of offending or upsetting someone in my congregation?
Q: Am I regularly studying and meditating on the Bible? 

Pillar #2: God measures success by serving Him with a foot-washing heart.
Q: In what ways do I need to repent of a domineering leadership style so that I may embrace being a servant? 
Q: Is there a duty in my personal life or ministry that I am avoiding because I feel as if it is “below me”? 
Q: What are some specific ways I can serve the Church God has placed me over as a shepherd?  

Pillar #3: God measures success by loving Him with all one’s heart and soul.
Q: Is my ministry flowing from a deep love for God or an unhealthy need for human recognition? 
Q: Is God’s love evident in the way I speak to and treat those closest to me – especially Ashley and Ava? 
Q: What changes is the Holy Spirit asking me to make to my schedule so that I can pursue my relationship with God above all else? 

Pillar #4: God measures success by believing/having faith in the God who is.
Q: In what ways have I foolishly tried to re-create God according to my image and imagination? 
Q: Is there a promise from God which I am struggling to believe? If so, what steps can I take to find help and counsel? 
Q: Do I honestly have an accurate view of God as He has been revealed in Jesus Christ? 

Pillar #5: God measures success by praying with the passion of Jesus Christ. 
Q: What demands on my time have I allowed to push away the regular discipline of prayer?
Q: What people or organization is God laying on my heart this month to spend extra time in prayer for? 
Q: What are some steps I can take to strengthen my prayer life? 

Pillar #6: God measures success by living a holy life in a pornographic world.
Q: In what ways have I allowed my mind/heart to be seduced by lust?
Q: What does regular repentance and freedom look like in the area of sexual lust?
Q: Have I been meeting regularly with (and being honest with) my accountability partner – especially in regards to lust? 

Pillar #7: God measures success by having an attitude that sees “the stars through the bars” and by rejoicing in the elevation of others.
Q: Have I been jealous of the success of other pastors and churches? If so, what is the root cause of this jealousy?
Q: How have I allowed pride to express itself in my life – both in the forms of arrogance and self-pity?
Q: How is God calling me to submit my attitude to that of Jesus as recorded in Philippians 2:1-11?


I hope these questions both challenge you and encourage you. If you are not in the habit of taking a 1-day retreat every month, you should try it. This is vital for all of us who are Christians – regardless of the vocation God has called us to. 

What The Copper Lounge Collapse Teaches Us About The Church

copper-lounge-collapse-overview

Today marks exactly two years since the horrific Copper Lounge Collapse in Sioux Falls. When this downtown building crumbled to the ground, one person died and another was trapped under the rubble. I remember watching the rescue operation as I was working at Southeast Tech and hearing the horrible news that a person died in the collapse.

After numerous investigations of why this happened, investigators learned that the contractor working on the building illegally removed a load-bearing wall without the proper training. A load-bearing wall is vital to the structure of a building and is what supports everything above it. The removal of a load-bearing wall without any replacement will eventually cause a building to collapse – which is what happened on that fateful December day in 2016.

Might I suggest this is a picture of the Christian Church – especially in the United States?

Towards the end of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, he shifts his focus from praying for the disciples to praying for all future Christians. In John 17:20, he prays to the Father, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.

Although it’s easy to miss since we have a habit of reading the Bible far too quickly, Jesus makes it clear that the key to believing in Him is through the “Apostolic” word (or the word of the Apostles).

Jesus wants us to understand that the Church is not built on our personal vision but rather on the Word He has given us through the Scriptures. As soon as a local church seeks to be built on anything other than the Bible and the person of Jesus, it will soon collapse. Sure, the numbers may increase because the messages are geared around the “felt-needs” of the audience – but the Church will fail to make disciples or help people grow spiritually.

The Apostle Paul, using a similar building analogy, describes the Church as, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:20-21).

This is one of the many reasons we preach through books of the Bible at Renovation Church rather than topical sermon series. I am convinced without faithful verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, the Church will quickly be built on the personality and interests of the preacher rather than the “apostles and prophets” with Jesus as the “chief cornerstone.”

Here’s a question I want to challenge you with today: who or what is the foundation of your life? The church is the gathering of God’s people; in order for the Church to be built on the Bible and Jesus, each of our lives much also be built on the Bible and Jesus.

As a Christian, the foundation of our lives is NOT family, career, income, citizenship, political party, or anything else in this world. An authentically Christian life is one which is rooted in the teaching of Scripture and sustained by the person of Jesus Christ.

As we begin Advent today, what are some ways the Spirit is calling you to build your life on this firm foundation? 

Is Your Church a Swamp or a River?

swamp

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through John 17:6-19 at Renovation Church. This is the most powerful, beautiful, and magnificent prayers ever recorded in human history for it is prayed by God Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The last question I challenged my congregation to consider was this:

Q: Am I Mission-Focused or Inward-Focused?

This question flows out of what Jesus says in John 17:18 – “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

As Christians, we are called to be “sent ones.” We are sent by Jesus into our homes, workplaces, and communities in order to share the message of John 3:16 with every possible person.

I want you to think of two bodies of water: a swamp and a river.

“Swamp” Christianity:
A swamp is created when a body of water remains stagnant. Since there is no fresh water flowing into the body, a swamp will often produce harmful bacteria that threatens to kill anyone who enters into the body of water.

That’s a picture of most churches in the United States.

Many Churches (which are made up by individual Christians) have become so inward-focused that they have lost sight of the mission given by Jesus and the lost outside of their doors. These churches spend numerous hours arguing about carpet color, remodeling their organ, and fundraising for the building they can’t afford (among many other things) – All the while forgetting that our mission as a Church and as Christians is to seek and save the lost and make disciples! (see Luke 19:10 & Matt. 28:19-20).

Why is it that, for the majority of churches (especially in small towns), if you do not dress a certain way or use the right language, you are excluded from the gathering? Why is it that churches are more obsessed with maintaining their denominational heritage rather than preaching Christ-crucified and seeking to share the incredible message of the Gospel with lost people? Why is it that, for many pastors, they put the same amount of passion into their preaching as I do when I’m reading cooking directions? (i.e. none!)

I would argue it is because we have forgotten our mission. We have allowed buildings, budgets, music, and various other (good) things distract us from the main thing – making disciples.

“River” Christianity:
A river on the other hand is a stream of ever-flowing water that is continually being funneled to give life to other bodies of water. This is a picture of the Church I believe Jesus is calling us to. I do not think it’s a coincidence that He promises to all of us in John 7:38, “The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

What if we began to recognize that our churches exist for those not yet there? What if the purpose of our Sunday morning gatherings was to faithfully teach verse-by-verse through the Bible so that the people of the Church would be built up and empowered to share the incredible message of the Gospel with their friends (and enemies)? What if pastors actually proclaimed messages filled with passion because we have the most INCREDIBLE good news to share with a hurting world?

I think we would experience Word-centered, Christ-exalting, and Spirit-empowered revival.

Remember, the church is made up of individuals so let me pose the same question to you. Reader, are you mission-focused or inward-focused? God does not exist for your comfort, YOU exist for His glory. He has given you a mission of making disciples who make disciples. Are you doing that? Or are you distracted by (good) things that do not matter in eternity?

Friends, let’s reject the “swamp” mentality and seek to be rivers through whom the Holy Spirit flows into our homes, workplaces, and communities for the glory of God.

(If you do not have a church you are a part of, I will be preaching on the last section of Jesus’ prayer – John 17:20-26 – this Sunday. We meet on Sunday at 10am at the Garretson School and I’d be honored to have YOU as my guest.) 

Real Discipleship: Word-Centered, Jesus-Sustained, Mission-Focused

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through John 17:6-19 at Renovation Church. John 17 is known as Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” It is the most remarkable, beautiful, and powerful prayer ever recorded in all of human history since it was prayed by God Himself.

This is the second week of John 17. To listen to my teaching on John 17:1-5 from the first week, click the link below:
The Basis For Unity (John 17:1-5)

In the video below, we learn that true discipleship is Word-Centered, Jesus-Sustained, and Mission-Focused.

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you will need to go to the actual page to watch the message.) 

THANK YOU To Those Who Support Renovation Church!

Give, Donate, Charity

If you have given to Renovation Church in the past year, you will receive this with your Giving Statement which will be mailed out in early January. Nevertheless, I wanted to share the letter here as well. If you feel led to give to Renovation Church, you can do so in two ways:

1. Online: (https://renovationchurchsd.com/giving/)

2. Mail a Check:
Renovation Church
403 Dows Street #3
Garretson, SD 57030


Dear Renovation Church Family,

I want to take a minute to thank you for your incredible generosity. In our second year as a church, we have given over $17,000 to outreach – both locally and internationally. This is only possible through the generous giving of those inside and from outside of our church who believe in and support the mission God has given us.

The Apostle Paul, in his short letter to the church in Ephesus, says it this way – “Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Friends, we serve a God who is more than able to provide for our needs – both as a church and as individuals. This past November we had our first ever “Giving Sunday” and were able to give $1,510 to the Garretson Community Ambulance. Our goal is to do a “Giving Sunday” once every two months where we give 100% of our offering to another organization in our community (this is in addition to missionary support). We really believe that the Church should be the most generous people on the face of the earth!

As we continue to grow, God continues to provide for our needs through the giving of His people. The primary reason we are passionate about being a portable church rather than pursuing a large building campaign, is so we can steward the financial resources we have as a church for the benefit of the community and the spread of the Gospel. For the first 300 years of Christianity there was no such thing as a church building – instead, the church practiced radical generosity and increased in favor with the people (Acts 5:13).

I seriously cannot wait to see what God is going to do in 2019 through our church and other churches in the area. I really believe the best is yet to come. It is an absolute honor to be one of the leaders of Renovation Church – thank you for allowing God to use you through your prayer, serving, and giving so that we can fulfill the mission God has given us of making disciples of all the nations.

In Christ,

Tyler Ramsbey

The Significance of Singleness

I had the honor of sitting down with Dr. Christina Hitchcock who is a theology professor at the University of Sioux Falls. We spent the bulk of our conversation discussing her recent book – The Significance of Singleness.

Among many other things, we talk about the American church’s idolatry of sex/marriage, the need for valuing singleness as a a gift from God, and how our distorted view of singleness affects the way we view homosexuality, friendship, missions/evangelism, and church leadership.

Enjoy the show!

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you will need to go to the actual page to see the video.)