Christian Life

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) –

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! 

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. 

Lutherans, Catholics, & Renovation Church!

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Monday and Tuesday of this week I had the honor of running sound/video for a Lutheran Conference at Sioux Falls Seminary. This morning (Wednesday) I attended Mass at St. Rose of Lima in Garretson. This afternoon I began working on an expository sermon from John 6 to proclaim to the church I pastor – a nondenominational church called Renovation Church.

When I first became a Christian I decried the “dead religion” of liturgy that displayed itself in Lutheran and Catholic congregations. This week I participated in numerous Lutheran and Catholic services, allowing the Spirit of God to speak His truth into my life from preachers vastly different from myself.

Why the change?

I really believe it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Although I have secondary doctrinal disagreements with Lutherans or Catholics, I know that we proclaim the unchanging Jesus Christ of the Bible. There is value in every Christian tradition – from the chanting of Psalms found in Benedictine Monasteries to the spontaneous worship celebrated in Pentecostal churches.

If you attend a church different from your own and you immediately jump to criticism –  that says more about the condition of your heart than the service of the church.

 

Midweek Check-Up!

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Hey Renovation Church Family!

Wednesday is a good day of the week to examine our lives and recommit ourselves to God. We spent a little bit of time last Sunday talking about the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness after his baptism – I hope this continued reflection will help you live for God’s purposes for the remainder of your week.

One of the most enticing temptations that Satan offered to Jesus was the following:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you will fall down and worship me (Matthew 4:8-9).

Satan was offering Jesus a crown without thorns. He was offering Jesus glory without a cross. He was willing to provide Jesus with a kingdom of success rather than suffering. If Jesus would have allowed himself to be seduced by this promise, the redemption of mankind would have never happened. We would still be dead in our sins, unable to respond to God.

Satan’s will for your life is to make you successful, wealthy, and happy. He would love for you to pursue the American Dream and succeed! Satan uses the pleasures & comforts of this life to numb us to the cancerous effects of sin within our souls. If he can keep us from asking existential questions about ourselves and the world, he can deceive us through empty pleasure.

God’s will for your life often leads to suffering and mourning. Jesus called his followers to take up their cross and follow Him. The author of the Gospel we have been studying on Sundays (The Gospel of John) was literally boiled alive in hot oil and then exiled to an island called Patmos. All of the other disciples of Jesus were brutally tortured and killed for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ.

Following Jesus will lead to suffering.

It will also lead to incomprehensible joy which is rooted in the Eternal God rather than temporary circumstances. If we truly taste and see how good God is, we can say in the midst of overwhelming suffering, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).” 

Whose will for your life are you following? Are you pursuing comfort or a cross? Are you practicing radical generosity or worldly stinginess? Is your life displaying the infinite value of Christ or are you conforming to the corrupt values of this age?

In Christ’s Love,

Tyler Ramsbey

Listen… Worship… Live (Part 3)

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In my sermon this past Sunday I closed with three words: Listen, Worship, Live. This week I will be taking time to write an individual post for each one of these disciplines to help you apply the Bible to your life.
Listen… Worship… Live (Part 1)

Listen… Worship… Live (Part 2)


When I was 16 years old I was arrested for drug possession and drug paraphernalia. Leading up to my arrest, I was writing and performing Christian music as well as speaking to youth groups about the Gospel. I literally got arrested one week after performing a song in a church that warned against the dangers of drug use!

In other words – I was a hypocrite.

My lifestyle did not match my confession of faith. Unfortunately this is far too common in our churches. Many of us confess that Jesus is Lord on Sunday but live as if He does not exist Monday through Saturday. We only follow the teachings of Jesus when it’s convenient for us.

This is not a modern problem. James, one of the leaders in the early church, exhorted people with the following instruction:

James 1:22-25
22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. 25 But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

Pay special attention to verse 25 (I have underlined it). James does not say that the one who looks intently at behavior modification will then be a “doer who works.” Rather, it is the one who looks intently into the “perfect law of freedom.” He is speaking about the Scriptures – the 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament that God uses to encourage, correct, rebuke, and train His people for righteousness.

What steps can we take to make sure our lives match our confessions? How do we truly LIVE as followers of Christ?

1. Look intently at the Scriptures.
What James is describing is a far deeper reading of the Bible than we generally practice. For most of us, we spend a few minutes each day reading a passage or a chapter from the Bible. At the most, we spend a few minutes reflecting on the passage and considering its application for our lives. This is good – do not misunderstand me – but it is not enough to sustain us.

One good way to do this is to study a new book of the Bible every month. Read commentaries on the book, study the historical context, read/listen to sermons preached from the book. If you are part of Renovation Church, I encourage you to study the Gospel of John deeply. We are walking through it verse-by-verse on Sunday mornings so it would be a great way to “look intently” at the Scriptures!

2. Takes notes when you read the Bible!
James describes two kinds of people who read the Bible – the first is a “forgetful hearer” and the second is a “doer who works.” Friends, we are far too guilty of being forgetful hearers! We study a passage in the morning and by lunch time we cannot even recall what we read a few hours before.

The best way to transition from forgetfulness to memory is to write down what you learn in your Bible reading. I utilize the CSB Notetaking Bible. This is a special Bible that has large margins for the reader to take notes and write prayers. After studying a passage I try to respond to what God is saying by writing out my prayer to Him in this Bible. Another added benefit is I hope to give this Bible as a gift to Ava when she graduates high school. It will (Lord Willing) be marked up by personal prayer and reflections of mine from my daily Bible reading!

3. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
This third point does not come from the text above but is a major theme throughout all of the Scriptures. When Jesus ascended to be with the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to fill His people. He promised that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26).”

Please understand that you cannot make this transition through sheer will power. The ability to live out the Scriptures is a supernatural gift – it is the result of the Holy Spirit leading you daily to the River of Life. We should continually be pleading with the Holy Spirit to fill us so that we might treasure Christ over the meaningless distractions of this world.

If you are interested in learning more about studying the Bible in an effective way, I recommend the following book:
Reading The Bible Supernaturally – John Piper 

Listen. Worship. Live.

If you have found these blog posts helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail (tyler@renovationchurchsd.com)