Ministry

The OFFICIAL Podcast & Blog for Garretson!

garretson - blog
Hi everyone!
I have some really exciting news to share. As many of you know, about a year ago I began something called “The Blue Light Podcast.” The goal was to shed a light on the incredible community I call home. This year I had the opportunity to upgrade the podcast by streaming the video live on Facebook. This has allowed us to extend our reach and connect with even more people. For example, my most recent interview with Bruce Brown (who is running for mayor) has received over 800 views in only five days. Another cool fact is that the content from The Blue Light Podcast’s page has reached over 1,400 people in the past week!

This afternoon, the Garretson Commercial Club voted to make The Blue Light Podcast the official podcast and blog for the community. I have been hired on a very part-time basis to produce original and engaging content to draw people to the community and help people in the community feel more connected.

For more information (or to learn how YOU can be involved) watch the video below by clicking the link:
BIG Announcement about The Blue Light Podcast! 

 

Am I “Wasting” my Gifting in Garretson?

garretson - blog

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. 

The Sermon That Could Get Me Fired…

fired

This past Sunday I preached a sermon at Renovation Church that would get me fired in many (if not most) evangelical churches in the United States. In the message I directly contradict the “expert” advice offered by church planting and church growth consultants. If that seems interesting to you, I encourage you to watch the message below. The text that I was preaching from is John 6:22-35.

Do you agree or disagree with the message? Let me know by leaving a comment or sending me a message!

Click the link below for the message:
The Sermon That Could Get Me Fired (John 6:22-35)

The Gospel for Pedophiles

prison blog
A few weeks ago I had the honor of worshiping with the men of St. Dysmas. St. Dysmas is a congregation that meets in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. I received the sacrament of communion side-by-side with men serving life sentences without the possibility of parole due to horrific murders. I raised my voice in worship alongside of men serving decades for sexually abusing young children.

These were the true outcasts of our society. Many of these men were sick… broken… and sinful.

Yet this was one of the most beautiful worship services I have participated in. During one of the songs I glanced around and noticed that every man had his hands raised in utter abandonment to God. These men have had everything ripped away from them as a result of their horrible crimes – their freedom, families, friends, careers, and finances. For some of these men, the prison sentence was the best thing to happen to them because they discovered the Kingdom of God.

Roughly 2,000 years ago, Jesus was teaching the values of this Kingdom to his disciples on a mountain. He began his sermon with these words:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Poor in spirit means to reach a place of utter emotional & spiritual poverty after trusting in one’s self. It is the moment a drug addict hits rock bottom. It is the season when a person pursuing the American Dream realizes he is still miserable even though he is successful by the standards of this world. It is when men & women understand there is nothing in this life that can satisfy the longings of the human heart.

For those of us that are wealthy Americans, we often numb this paralyzing pain through materialism and consumerism. Not so with these inmates – they have no other choice but to stare into the terrifying blackness of their own sin and realize they are hopeless apart from Christ.

I realized some of these inmates have a greater freedom than I do. They have discovered freedom in Christ which is not determined by physical freedom. Many of the New Testament letters were written by an inmate named the Apostle Paul who eventually faced execution for his faith in Christ.

Have you discovered true freedom? Have you come to the end of yourself and realized your only hope in this life is in Jesus Christ? Or are you still trying to save yourself through your own morality and religious work? 

 

How To Preach Great Sermons

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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)