Christian Life

Renovation Church – Launch Sunday Recap!

10-15-17 PART 1

I’m still in awe of what God did this past Sunday at Renovation Church. I had the incredible honor of preaching from John 3 and explaining why our church would be rooted & sustained by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we would not lift up Renovation Church but rather Jesus Christ and unite with other churches in the area to help people know Jesus and make Him known.

Here are a few highlights of this past Sunday!

Attendance: We had over 80 people in attendance for the service. We actually had to add 5 extra rows of chairs than what we normally have for Sunday mornings!

First Time Guests: We had 6 first time guests who had never attended one of our services as The Rescue Church.

Meal: After the service we had an incredible team of volunteers provide a great lunch for everyone who came. The vast majority of people were able to stay after the service and enjoy the food. We even got the Vikings v. Packers game on for the football fans!

Generosity: I am still amazed at God’s generosity through His people this past Sunday. Our offering was FOUR TIMES our weekly expenses. In other words, through one Sunday we covered all of our expenses for the month of October. To give some context, we become “Renovation Church” on Monday, October 9th with exactly $0.00 in our bank account. I was extremely stressed and plagued with doubt leading up to our first Sunday – could we even afford to be our own church? I can testify that God is truly a provider for His people.

More than anything, we were faithful to what God called us to do. My goal is not to grow a large church or gain a personal platform. I pray that our church can have the same attitude as John the Baptist – that Jesus must increase while we decrease (John 3:30). As He continues to provide for our church we are planning on releasing many of our people to plant churches throughout the area – especially in rural communities. Our goal is plant our first autonomous church by 2022.

We are just a bunch of nobodies trying to tell everybody about Somebody. Let’s make Jesus famous!

P.S. – If you live in the Garretson/Sioux Falls/Pipestone/Luverne area we would love to have you as our guest. We meet on Sundays at 10am at the Garretson school. For more information, head to our website – www.renovationchurchsd.com 

It’s Time For War

war

This is the tenth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


As we move closer to transitioning the Garretson Campus to an independent church, I have noticed the subtle effects of spiritual warfare have been magnified. Small disagreements threaten to bring division, obstacles appear to be impossible to overcome, and discouragement attempts to reign over my thoughts.

God reminded me of a truth this week that has placed things into perspective: We are overthrowing the dark forces of evil in this community and we must expect resistance. It’s time to fall on our knees and storm the gates of hell with the weapon of prayer.

Jared Wilson explains what happens when the kingdom of darkness is pierced by the light of the Gospel:
“The Devil is like a rat in a jar that is filling with ether. We should expect that as his death gets ever-nearer, he will beat his claws more furiously against the glass… As the Gospel takes over your ministry and the kingdom of God grows in your church like yeast in dough, you can expect that our enemy will not go quietly.” 

As we enter into a season of warfare, here are three principles we must keep in mind:

1. People are not the enemy.
Even if people are the source of persecution, insults, or division – we must never attack the person as if they are the enemy. Paul makes it clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood, instead it is against the powers of darkness that wreak havoc in our communities (Ephesians 6:12).

We must rejoice when we are insulted, persecuted, or slandered. When this happens we know that our reward will be great for we are experiencing the same thing as the prophets and apostles who have gone before us (see Matthew 5:11-12). In retaliation for the offense, we must not be overcome with evil but rather overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

2. We fight FROM victory not for victory. 
When David conquered Goliath, the war was already won. The once trembling and fearful Israelites overwhelmed the Philistines and slaughtered them (1 Samuel 17). In the same way, Jesus has already disarmed Satan and all of his demons by triumphing over them through the cross (Colossians 2:15).

We are invited to follow our Warrior-King into battle – knowing that the victory is already secured. Satan may let out a furious scream but the ether of the Gospel will suffocate his power. We do not need to fight for the victory because the victory has already been achieved through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

3. Our weapons will demolish strongholds.
Every community – especially rural ones – have demonic strongholds of addiction and false religion. These fortresses seem insurmountable but we must remember the weapons God has entrusted to us. We do not wage war with bullets, fire, or bombs. Instead, our weapons have been infused with a divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Friends, commit to the Scriptures and prayer daily. We must renew our minds so that we do not conform to the toxic pattern of this world (Romans 12:1). If we submit our lives to God and resist the Devil he will flee from us (James 4:7). We must battle by laboring in intercession for our families, communities, and churches in order to crush the ugly face of the ancient serpent.

It’s time for war.

 

The Terrible Weight of Pastoral Ministry

PastoralMinistry

This is the ninth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


P.S. – This will be a longer blog post. One of the best ways that I process concepts is through writing. Truthfully, this post is probably more for me than anyone else!

We are a few short months from completely transitioning the Garretson Campus into an autonomous church plant. In the past few weeks, I have been spending hours researching church leadership – all while fueled by copious amounts of caffeine! It seems to me that the healthiest form of church government is to have a church led by a team of Elders who are committed to making disciples who make disciples.

The office of Elder is interchangeable with the office of pastor. In other words you can correctly call a pastor either an “elder” or a “pastor.” This means that those who function in the role of Elder should be functioning as pastors – not just business leaders who vote on the church budget!

Jared Wilson explains the terrible weight of this ministry in this way:
With the double honor of 1 Timothy 5:17 is the double responsibility of James 3:1.

As I wrestle with the development of elders/pastors in our church, I want to meditate on these two texts and see what we can learn from them.


1 Timothy 5:17
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

1. It is the elders – not the congregation – who direct the affairs of the church. There are numerous forms of church government and the majority of rural churches practice a congregational form of leadership. In other words, the church holds business meetings and all the members vote on major decisions (hiring/firing staff, nomination of new elders, expansion of a building, etc). Contrary to this, it seems that the Scriptures teach that the healthiest form of church government is for each congregation to have a plurality of elders/pastors who lead the church & shepherd the people.

2. These elders are worthy of double honor. Literally, they are worthy of a double “honorarium.” Paul is speaking about honoring them by holding them in high regard and also honoring them by providing a healthy salary. Unfortunately, we will not be able to pay salaries for our elders since we are a small church but that is the goal we will work towards.

3. Some elders are focused on preaching & teaching. All the Elders in a church have to be able to teach the Bible (2 Timothy 2:24). Nevertheless, there is usually a “Teaching Elder” or “Teaching Pastor” who preaches the majority of the messages and leads from the pulpit. In our new church, I will be the one filling this role.


James 3:1
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

1. The majority of people should not teach the Bible on Sunday mornings. All Christians have a responsibility to instruct one another with the Scriptures but very few should stand before a congregation and proclaim the Word of God. Only those that hold to and are able to defend sound doctrine & sound living should teach the people of God corporately. This means that those who are not able to lead their household as their first ministry by shepherding their spouse and kids should never attempt to lead God’s church (1 Timothy 3:5).

2. Everyone who teaches the Bible should be extremely fearful. The Elders/Pastors who regularly teach the Scriptures must consider the terrible burden of representing the limitless God through human speech. We are prone to pride and fits of anger – even in the pulpit. We must plead with God to crush our pride and bring supernatural humility each time we open the Scriptures. Practically, I pray each morning (out loud for the congregation to hear) that if I say anything contrary to the Scriptures I pray my words fall on deaf ears.

3. Elders/Pastors who teach the Bible will be judged with greater strictness than those who do not. Practically, we are judged by those that listen to our messages. Often the first person to be attacked in a church is the pastor because he is the person who represents the congregation. Even more terrifying than being judged by people, we will give an account to God for how we exercised leadership in His church. We will be held accountable for every careless word that we speak.


Do you have other Scriptures in mind that help clarify the role of an elder/pastor? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment!

How To Preach Great Sermons

bettersermons

This is the eighth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


Preaching is a terrifying task. Every Sunday I stand before a people hungry to hear from God. The words I speak carry incredible weight and I will have to give an account for every syllable spoken. Those of us who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).

Often a blog post with this title will outline “5 Steps to a Better Sermon.” The author will usually give helpful advice on preparation, study, notes, and delivery. Although this advice can be beneficial, it is missing what we actually need to preach great sermons – namely, the presence of God.

Jared Wilson explains it this way:
“The important thing is not whether you can call down thunder and set hearts aflame with your words, but whether you have personally felt the thunder and flame of the gospel’s word.”

Pastor – an eloquent sermon with passionate delivery disconnected from the presence of God will surely be an engaging message… that leads people to Hell. If the only time you study the Bible is in anticipation for a Bible Study or Sunday sermon, you are in grave danger of shipwrecking your ministry.

So, how can pastors preach better sermons?

1. Preach from the overflow of your relationship with God.
We must understand that we preach for an audience of One. It is impossible for us to lead people to where we ourselves have not been. If you desire for the people in your congregation to experience God’s power you need to fall on your face before God and plead for His power in your own life. Transformational sermons are birthed through the labor of prayer; not the creativity of the pastor.

2. Preach the Bible!
The Apostle Paul, writing to a young pastor named Timothy says it this way, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim. 4:2).” Pastors, our authority does not come from our title, degree, or denominational leadership. We only have authority when we carefully teach the Scriptures for the people of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Practically, this means we need to practice exegesis rather than eisegesis. I spent time unpacking the differences in this blog post so I will be brief. In summary, the main point of the Biblical passage should be the main point of our message. We should never begin with a topic and then distort the Scriptures to fit with our clever idea. Preach the Word of God not the words of men.

3. Preach Jesus Christ as the crucified King who has conquered death, sin, and hell!
Far too many sermons resemble the incoherent ramblings of a self-help coach sprinkled with obscure Bible verses. The primary problem of mankind is not the need for a better marriage, financial freedom, parenting skills, or any of the other “hot topics” churches recycle in their preaching calendar. Does the Bible speak into these areas? Absolutely. But not to the neglect of preaching Jesus Christ as living a perfect life, dying an atoning death, and rising victoriously from the dead.

The greatest issue every human being faces is their sinful nature. We are born into this world spiritually dead, unable to even respond to God (Ephesians 2:1). Quit spraying religious cologne on rotting corpses and hoping they come back the following week. The people in your church do not need “life skills” – they need to hear about the solution to their sin problem – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


What would you add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

My Only Job: Faithfulness

faithfulness

This is the seventh post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”


In a few short months we will be transitioning the Garretson Campus to becoming an autonomous church. I am extremely excited for this upcoming adventure but, if I am honest, I have more questions than answers about pastoral leadership. I have been carrying the terrible burden of church growth, financial sustainability, and casting vision in order to see this opportunity become a reality.

As I have been studying the Gospel of John for our current sermon series I was reminded of what my actual job is (and isn’t):
– It’s not up to me to make this transition succeed.
– It’s not up to me to bring growth to the church.
– It’s not up to me to grow the faith of the church’s members.
– It’s not up to me to provide for the financial needs of the church.

So what exactly is my job?

Faithfulness.

Jared Wilson explains it this way, “Our responsibility in evangelism is to scatter the seed, not produce the harvest.

Jared is simply paraphrasing Paul’s view of ministry:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. – 1 Cor. 3:5-7

1. Pastor – you are called to be a servant.
Pastors are called to be shepherds and spiritual directors – not CEOs of corporations. We do not command obedience from those under our leadership; instead, we wash the feet of the broken and sinful. Regardless of the size or significance of your ministry, it’s not about you. The church doesn’t belong to the pastor, it belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Place the weight of leadership on His shoulders!

2. Pastor – you are called to please God. 
Paul makes it clear that the Lord assigns each of us our task. We cannot compare ourselves to other ministries and boast about our numbers or despair about our offerings. We cannot preach “softer” sermons in order to attract a crowd of consumeristic, church-shopping Christians. We cannot target the members of other churches and grow through the deception of sheep-stealing. Our primary motivation must be to honor the God who called us into ministry – not appear significant or successful.

3. Pastor – your only job is faithfulness. 
Every moment we have a decision to make – will we be faithful or faithless? Will we practice obedience or disobedience? God has a calling over each of our lives but we need to make a decision to submit ourselves to God’s authority. My job is not to grow my church; it’s to simply be faithful each day to the tasks God has called me to.

So will the transition succeed? I hope so. Will my church grow? I hope so.

Nevertheless, my goal is to remain faithful to the ministry God has called me. If I succeed through deceptive means then I fail in God’s sight. If I “fail” by practicing faithfulness then I succeed in the eyes of the only One that matters – the Living God who has called me into ministry.

Garretson Campus Becoming its Own Church?

Garretson SD Picture

Pastor Jon & I recorded a podcast that discusses this in more detail. I HIGHLY encourage you to listen to the podcast to get a better understanding of what is happening!
Episode 132: Why We are Transitioning a Multi-Site Campus into an Independent Church Plant


For those of you that do not know, The RESCUE Church is a multi-site church. This means we are one church that meets in multiple locations. Each campus shares the same structure, budget, preaching calendar, and leadership team. I currently pastor the Garretson Campus of The RESCUE Church.

There’s a good chance you have heard something about the Garretson Campus of The RESCUE Church becoming a separate church from The RESCUE Church. After numerous conversations and hours in prayer, we are moving in the direction of establishing ourselves as an autonomous church separate from The RESCUE Church.

This decision has been approved unanimously by the leadership team of The RESCUE Church – including lead pastor Jon Sanders and executive pastor Sam Pickard.

I will write a few blog posts over the upcoming months to keep everyone posted. In this first post, I would like to share some important information:

This does not mean there has been conflict that has led to this choice.

On the contrary, I brought this up in a private conversation with Jon & Sam almost a year ago. God was beginning to stir in my heart a desire to become a lead pastor. Nevertheless, I am deeply committed to the people and community of Garretson so I asked if they would consider transitioning the Garretson Campus from being a campus to an independent church.

Truthfully, Jon and/or Sam will be on our leadership team for the first year to help the transition go smoothly.

What can you do to help during this time?

1. Please spend time praying for God to give us wisdom and discernment. We only want to move forward if God is truly leading us in this direction.

2. If you live in the area, consider becoming part of the new church. If you currently attend a church in a different city (i.e. you live in Garretson but attend in Sioux Falls) please speak to your pastor and get his/her blessing to join a church in your community and make a greater impact on those around you. I would strongly encourage you to submit to your current pastor’s spiritual leadership. If he/she is not comfortable with you leaving and joining our ministry, please respect that.

3. Consider giving a monthly amount ($25, $50, $100, $500 or more) for one year to help us with our start-up costs. In a later blog post, I’ll share specifically how you can do this. If you are interested, contact me so I can speak with you personally and answer any questions you have.

4. Continue to pray and support the vision of The RESCUE Church as a whole. To listen to the direction The RESCUE Church is going and hear Pastor Jon’s thoughts on other changes happening, listen to this message:
Pass the Test (Sunday, August 13th) 

 

Lessons From Being Punched in the Face!

boxing blog

I have been in the process of learning how to box for the past few months. I have spent countless hours studying footwork, combinations, and proper head movement. As I continued to improve, I was given clearance to begin full-contact sparring with more experienced boxers at my gym!

This past Saturday, I showed up to Top Flight Boxing with my gloves, head gear, and mouth guard – eager to demonstrate my power in the ring for the first time!

Let’s just say I did throw some punches… but I was also punched repeatedly in the face! Here are my biggest takeaways from my first sparring session:

1. If you can’t fight tired, you can’t win fights!
This the motto constantly shared by Jerry James – the coach and instructor at the gym. Towards the end of my first round of sparring, I was exhausted and no longer wanted to hold my hands up so I lowered them. After a few seconds, my head was snapped backwards with a quick jab and right hook. Needless to say, I now know I need to hold my hands up even when it feels physically impossible!

This is true in life as well.

Temptation conquers leaders when they are tired and discouraged. It is easy to resist the allure of sin when you are emotionally strong and have plenty of sleep; it is a completely different battle when your energy is depleted and the enemy offers temporary pleasure through illicit means. Sin always over-promises and under-delivers. It offers life but causes death.

2. I can take more punches than I thought!
I have only been punched in the face twice – both when I was a teenager. I wasn’t sure how I would react in a small ring with an opponent eager to let his fists connect with my head! After taking a few jabs, I was hit with a powerful straight cross.

I instantly smiled through my mouth guard and returned a few of my own shots!

There are moments in life that are terrifying – getting called into your boss’ office and hearing that your position is no longer needed; hearing the words of a spouse as he/she confesses unfaithfulness in your marriage; receiving a phone call that draws you into the valley of death – the trials of this world can bring excruciating pain.

Yet Jesus promises He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We can say with confidence that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). Even in our trials we can rejoice, knowing that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1:30).

3. Technique beats power.
Boxing is an art form that is mastered through decades of training. Powerful punches begin with the proper rotation of your feet and extend into your fists. Anyone who steps into a ring without proper training intent on throwing “haymakers” will quickly collapse under the skillful punches of their opponent.

In the same way, success in any area of life is produced through the invisible decisions made through years of commitment. A successful marriage is sustained through acts of sacrifice, romance, and devotion. A faithful father instills godly values into his children through quiet prayer and gentle instruction. A healthy church is grown through constant intercession, small acts of outreach, and proper conflict management.

It’s the seemingly insignificant actions that make the difference in a boxing match… and in our lives.


P.S. – If you live in the Sioux Falls area, I’d love for you to join me for a boxing class! They are Saturdays at 11am and the first class is free. Contact me if you are interested!