Current Events

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!

 

 

Garretson Campus Becoming its Own Church?

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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) 

 

Two Homes Lost in Garretson (And How YOU Can Help!)

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Courtesy: Garretson Gazette

On Thursday, May 11th two families lost their homes to a horrible fire. Thankfully, no people were hurt but pets were lost in the blaze. For one of these families – the Ellis family – this was the second time in two years that they lost their home. The first time happened in a windstorm that destroyed parts of Garretson a few years ago.

The Rescue Church in Garretson – where I currently pastor – wanted to respond in a radical way. We firmly believe that Christians should be the most generous people on the face of the earth. We should practice sacrificial, extravagant, self-denying, foolish-looking generosity!

So we gave away 100% of our offering this past Sunday! It will be split 50/50 between the two families.

Truthfully, we are only playing a small role. It was been incredible seeing the community of Garretson rally around the victims of this tragedy. Multiple businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals have contributed time, talent, and money to provide relief for these families.

Here are a few stories by the local news media about how the community is responding:

If you would like to help these families you can do so in multiple ways:

1. There are two funds set-up at First Bank & Trust in Garretson. The names of the funds are “Zion Lutheran Church for the Benefit of the Ellis Family” & “Zion Lutheran Church for the Benefit of the Eide Family.”

2. There is a GoFundMe set-up for the Ellis family so you can give online.

3. There is a Target registry set up for the Ellis family. This registry will be updated by the family when they have the opportunity to do so.

4. Vince Eide – the owner of the other house that was lost – is an avid shopper at Campbell’s Supply and Ace Hardware. He has requested gift cards to these stores. These cards can be sent to the following address:
Vince Eide
P.O. Box 135
Garretson, SD 57030

The Gospel Tears Walls Down

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We are in the midst of a politically charged season. As U.S. citizens prepare to elect the most powerful person in the world, a variety of issues have surfaced. One of the vital issues of the presidential election is how the next president will handle immigrants.

As a Christian, will you respond from a place of biblical conviction or unwarranted fear?

In the early years of the United States there was an “US vs THEM” mentality between white and black people. Many white people celebrated the evil institution of slavery – to the point of exploiting religion in order to abuse their slaves.

In the midst of this tremendously dark situation, Methodist and Baptist churches began to swell with African-Americans (both slave and free). Nathan O. Hatch, in his excellent book on Christianity in the early U.S. explains, “Early Baptists and Methodists earned the right to be heard. They welcome African-Americans as full participants in their communities and condemned the institution of slavery.

In the 1800s the church experienced rapid growth because they took Peter’s revelation seriously:
I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” – Acts 10:34-35

This is an incredibly powerful verse that should influence how we respond to peoples of other cultures:

1. God does not view us through a national lens.
Contrary to popular belief, God does not have a favorite nation. God no longer views people through the lens of a national culture as He once did with Israel. This does not mean that patriotism is wrong; it does mean that patriotism which demonizes another country or culture IS wrong.

God does not elevate the United States or Israel (or any other country) on a pedestal above everyone else. There is no such thing as a truly “Christian” nation. A theocracy today would be a gross misinterpretation of Biblical truth.

2. God accepts us based on faith.
As a Christian, you should feel more solidarity with a refugee who follows Jesus than an American who doesn’t. We hold a dual citizenship in this world – we are citizens of God before we are citizens of the State.

As we enter into the New Jerusalem we will not be waving a flag with stripes and stars. We will be adorned in robes made clean by the blood of Christ. Our unity with others will be secured by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – not our culture, politics, language, or national identity.

3. God loves immigrants.
Being an immigrant seeking refuge is a picture of the Christian life. We exist on this planet as exiles and aliens; living in a world of which we never truly belong. Out of all people, Christians should be the most compassionate towards foreigners.

But what about foreigners who hold to the Muslim faith?

God loves them as well. He sees each of them as individuals made in His image and desires to have a personal relationship with them. Rather than bemoaning those who follow the Muslim faith, what if we showered them with unrelenting love and mercy? What if we lived out the Gospel truth that Jesus tears down the dividing walls of hostility that separate people (Eph. 2:14)?

Many immigrants are fleeing war-torn countries. They have two options: stay in their country and allow themselves to be brutally murdered or… flee! If we reject refugees out of a sense of fear, we will face the judgment of God. I find it convenient that many Christians ignore what the Scriptures teach on immigration (here are a few):

“There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.” – Exodus 12:49

When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34

“Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien.” – Deuteronomy 1:1

Isn’t it ironic that many Christians claim the United States is a Christian nation and yet reject refugees and immigrants out of fear?

Christians, let’s ask different questions:
How can we make our churches more inviting to immigrants and refugees?
How can we show with our actions that God loves them and desires a relationship with them?
How do we live the crucified life, dying to ourselves, in order to display the love of Christ? 

There’s a Document Greater Than the Constitution.

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We have a tendency to take cultural norms and make them a standard for religious orthodoxy. One of the most disgusting, shameful, and terrible examples of this is racism. Flannery O’Connor lived from 1925 – 1964 and wrote prolifically about the cultural issues of her day. Growing up in the south, she saw the true evil of racism practiced and ingrained in the minds of Christians.

O’Connor sought to judge the cultural norms through the lens of Scripture.

One of the characters in her short story “Why Do the Heathen Rage” is appalled by the justice of God. This character believed that racism was good – that African Americans were treated best when they were treated as less than human.

You’re probably thinking this doesn’t apply to you.

Matter of fact, you may be someone of a different ethnicity and find racism horrible.

Hold on before you close this page out.

We as Christians tend to allow 21st century social issues to become the means of determining whether or not someone is a Christian (especially during a political season). Often we look to the constitution as our standard rather than Scripture. When someone questions a certain political issue held almost universally by Christians, that person is often labeled as a heretic and dismissed.

Unknowingly we have twisted the Gospel. We have added certain qualifications to the Christian life in order to determine whether or not a person is truly spiritual. We need to remember…

Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Jesus + Something = Nothing.

Below are some qualifications I have experienced Christians (including myself!) lay on other believers:

You are only a true Christian if you believe there should NOT be more gun control.
Some Christians treat the 2nd amendment as if it was written into Scripture. Just for making this statement, there are people reading this who are assuming I am a crazy liberal supporting the “anti-God” agenda of taking away firearms (for the record, I enjoy shooting guns). We forget that many sincere Christians throughout the centuries have been pacifists; that doesn’t make them “anti-God” liberals.

You are only a true Christian if you vote republican.
No matter what you do, do not tell another Christian you support a democratic candidate. Regardless of the character of a certain Republican leader, be sure to vote for them over all else. We all know that God has selected a special political party and nominated the United States to be HIS county where HIS glory dwells (that’s sarcasm… or I’m a godless liberal. I’ll let you decide).

You are only a true Christian if you believe in greater immigration laws.
Forget all the commandments in Scripture for supporting immigrants. We need to focus on US before focusing on THEM (P.S. anytime you have an US vs THEM mentality, it is out of line with the Gospel.) For the record, I’m with the pope on this one. The gospel tears down walls, it doesn’t build them.

You are only a true Christian if you support the nation of Israel.
I almost don’t want to comment on this one… but I will. I won’t go into the theological debate regarding the nation of Israel but I will say this… We should identify more closely with a Christian in Palestine (or Israel, or Iraq) than we do with a secular citizen of any country – Including the United States or Israel.

Let me take this one step further. As a Christian, you should be more willing to support other Christians of different countries than you are willing to support a secular but very patriotic American. The blood of Christ trumps the blood of country.

You are only a true Christian if you attend a contemporary church.
We all know that liturgical churches are made up of lukewarm Christians who care nothing about Jesus (sarcasm again). Anytime our music/style preference negates our love for believers in a different context, we are contradicting the Gospel.

You get the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe any of these issues are morally evil or along the same lines as racism. Nevertheless, there is a document greater than the constitution.

Rather than blindly supporting a political agenda and demonizing those who disagree with you, find unity in the Gospel. Below is my contemporary translation of Galatians 3:28:

“There is neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal, immigrant nor citizen, Jew nor Gentile, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.” 

Are you mad at me? Leave a comment and let me know… I’m all for the 1st amendment! 

Christendom is dead… and it’s a good thing.

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The culture around us is descending into ruin and decay. The values once embraced by the elite and common people are being crushed under the veil of progress. Morality is fading into a subtle gray as the world refers to evil as good and celebrates it.

It is easy to lose hope.

But we don’t have to.

As Christians, we can either mourn the death of Christendom in the west or challenge the intellectual culture of our day. Far too many churches are trying to be pillars of Christendom – a dead and fading belief that Christianity is socially beneficial.

It is time to awake from our slumber and incarnate the Gospel into the present brokenness. In order to do this, we need to exercise Christian imagination. As defined by Vigen Guroian, Christian imagination is “both presenting the truths of Christian doctrine and exposing the errors of the age.” In a post-Christendom world, this is best done through art – whether its literature, music, painting, or speeches.

The world isn’t going to change through dry preaching and outdated church services.

What if instead of signing a protest about a retail store, we exposed the folly behind the decision? Similar to what Kevin DeYoung did in this thought experiment. We need to quit trying to convince people that the Bible is true and use art to elevate the beauty of the Scriptures for the entire world to be exposed to.

Don’t misunderstand me. I affirm a very high view of the Scriptures – I believe the Bible is the Word of God, absolutely true in every regard… but that’s not going to convince a post-Christian world of its need for Jesus Christ.

To be honest, I’m happy that Christendom is dead. It is refreshing to have conversations with people who are honest enough to admit they are not Christian. I am absolutely sick of “Christians” who claim the name of Jesus simply because their family taught them to do it. Second-hand faith is a dead faith; I don’t care what church you attended growing up… do you actually KNOW Jesus?

Over the next few weeks, I encourage you to join me in this discussion. Rather than bemoan society, how can we bring lasting impact to our communities and family? What types of art can penetrate through the calloused hearts of those among us? How does Christian imagination have anything to do with all of this? 

YOUR View of Jesus is (probably) Wrong.

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This reflection was inspired by the short story Why Do the Heathen Rage by Flannery O’Connor. If you want to read more of my reflections on this incredible story, click below:
The Truth Will Make You… Odd? 


Why Do the Heathen Rage is set in the deep south with characters who are deeply religious and entrenched in the racism of the age. One of the characters who simply goes by “Tilman’s wife” is fascinated with an allusion to Jesus’ Second Coming. This was a depiction of Jesus coming forth in a robe splashed in blood in order to destroy all of those who have rejected him. This begins to shatter her view of racism.

In other words, it’s not your typical meek and mild Jesus holding a lamb… He is wielding a sword and he’s ready for war!

This catches many people off guard.

Our view of Jesus has been radically distorted by our culture. Rather than viewing him as the fierce Lion of Judah ready to devour those who oppose him, we see him as a hippie with beautiful hair. We have transformed his ferocious roar into a peaceful purr… this is utter foolishness.

God created us in HIS image and we return the favor by re-creating God in our image. This is the epitome of idolatry.

You may not support racism but there are numerous ways we commit gross idolatry by forming God in our image…

1. Jesus is not a republican… democrat… or even an American!
I am absolutely sick of Christians trying to put the King of kings in a box by identifying him with a political party. Many conservative Christians view Jesus as if he hates universal healthcare, promotes small business, and loves to shoot guns.

On the other hand, many liberal Christians see Jesus as a distributor of wealth who is part of the LGBT movement and has no problem with abortion.

Jesus is not a republican, a democrat, an independent or even an american! Jesus transcends politics and nationality!

2. Jesus is not a Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Non-denominational, etc!
Denominations are not a bad thing. Matter of fact, I believe they can be extremely helpful in unifying churches around common doctrinal positions. A denomination becomes toxic when it is seen as the only true vision of Christianity (this is also the sign of a cult!)

Christians are notorious for dividing themselves over small doctrinal issues and lobbying rocks at their brothers and sisters. Rather than debating transubstantiation and paedobaptism, let’s unite under the incredible message of the Gospel!

3. Jesus IS the King of kings and Lord of lords!
I constantly hear people throw around the statement, “Only God can judge me!” This usually comes from someone who has never read the Bible and has no idea what judgment from God looks like.

Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God…

Jesus is not parading for tolerance in the name of “love”. You cannot mold Jesus into the 21st century.

Jesus had to be brutally tortured and murdered at the hands of lawless men because you and I are sinners. If there is no such thing as sin, Jesus was an absolute fool for allowing himself to be crucified! He transcends all of your views and beliefs; HE will have the final word and many people will be terrified when He returns…

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16

I’m guessing that is not the Jesus you have heard about?