Church Planting

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! 

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.

 

Renovation Church & Weekly Communion

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Beginning this coming Sunday (November 12th), Renovation Church will begin practicing weekly communion. Communion is when we celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through eating a small amount of bread and wine (or grape juice) as a church.

The vast majority of contemporary churches only practice communion quarterly or monthly. This is a major change for many of the people who attend our church. Here are three reasons we will begin practicing weekly communion.

1. Weekly Communion seems to be the practice of the early church.
First of all, let me make it clear that there is no scriptural mandate to practice communion every single week. So if you disagree with me on the frequency of communion, that’s okay. Nevertheless, it’s my conviction that the early church seemed to practice communion each time they gathered together (see Acts 2:46 & 1 Cor. 11:20).

2. Communion is more than a “memorial.”
The Roman Catholic church believes the elements in communion literally become Jesus’ body and blood. Many baptists have taken the opposite path and said there is nothing significant about communion, it’s simply a memorial of what Jesus has done in our place. I think both of these approaches are incorrect.

I prefer the Anglican route of calling communion a mystery. When we partake of communion as a church there is something significant happening. People do not die and get sick by taking communion in an unworthy manner if communion is only a memorial (1 Cor. 11:30).

When we partake of the elements, God nourishes our souls through the power of His Holy Spirit. Jesus is present in communion… just not physically. So how exactly is He present? I’m not sure – it’s a mystery that is beyond my comprehension.

3. Communion is an opportunity for us to respond to God.
We will partake of Communion at the end of every service as a response to what God has done through the preaching of His Word. Rather than passing the elements of communion around, we will invite people to come forward. As people are coming forward, we will have prayer volunteers around the communion table so that people can confess sin & receive prayer (this isn’t required but highly encouraged).

Each time we partake of communion, we are reminded that Jesus was crushed for our sin. The punishment that brings us peace was laid upon Him. His blood was poured out that we might be forgiven. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God.

In summary, it seems right to us and to the Holy Spirit for us to begin weekly communion. I believe God will use this ordinance (or sacrament) as a means to strengthen His people and draw us closer to Him. 

Renovation Church – Launch Sunday Recap!

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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 

New Name, Same People (Garretson Campus Transition Q&A)

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The Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church is in the process of becoming our own church. We are doing this with the blessing & support of The Rescue Church.

In this short post, I want to invite you to a special service on Sunday, September 24th. We meet every Sunday at 10am at the Garretson School. Our regular service on September 24th will be extremely short (roughly 30 minutes long). The rest of the time we will announce some major news about the transition and spend time answering questions. If you are wondering about any of the following I HIGHLY encourage you to join us!

1. What will the name of the church be?

2. What will our values & vision be?

3. Are we financially sustainable?

4. How can I be involved to get things going?

5. What will our relationship with The Rescue Church be after the transition?

6. When will we officially transition to the new church?

7. How will we spread the word to our communities about this change?

…and many more questions – see you then!

 

 

It’s Time For War

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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

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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!