Pastor

When is Renovation Church Getting a Building?

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When people find out that I lead Renovation Church and that we meet at the Garretson School for services, one of the first questions they ask is, “So… when are you guys getting your own building and becoming a ‘real’ church?

It’s a pretty innocent question but the assumptions behind it are fatally flawed.

For those who are curious as to when Renovation Church will get our own building – the answer is probably never… at least not while I am the pastor (unless God clearly makes it known to all of us that He wants us to purchase a building).

There are two primary reasons why our vision is to remain a portable church:

1. Mission Drift
When you purchase a building, the people of the church begin to believe that the church is a building. The truth is, the church is a PEOPLE called by Christ to be on mission with Him to make disciples of all the nations. For the first 300 years of the church, there was no such thing as a church building!

Virtually every church will affirm that the “church” is not a building but rather the people who follow Jesus. Nevertheless, it is clear by the way most churches spend money and by the very language they use, most don’t really believe this. As soon as a congregation purchases their first building, the temptation is to fill it with programs so it does not sit empty the entire week. These programs end up giving everyone a full schedule and destroys their witness to the community.

It’s difficult (impossible?) to be a witness in your family, community, and workplace when you are trapped in a holy huddle at the church building every night of the week.

2. Financial Difficulties
If you have ever attended a church business meeting, you will quickly realize that 99% of the time the members are obsessed with maintaining the church building. They are forced to do bake sales, fundraisers, and other means in order to keep the lights on and pay for the debt the church finds itself in. Even if the building is paid off, maintaining a church building comes with an EXTREMELY high price tag! (The Church and the Government have something in common – both are really good at having expenses  exceed income… which brings devastating debt).

In our first year as a church, we have given over $17,000 to outreach (both locally & internationally). At our last Member Meeting we decided that we would begin giving away our entire offering every 2 months and we voted on who we would give our money to. I do not think fundraisers are always bad but I find it a little silly that the church has to ask for money from the community so that they can use that same money to try to reach the community (or, let’s be real, to pay off the debt they find themselves in due to their building).


Do you disagree with me? Do you think church buildings are something all churches should aim for? Let me know your reasons by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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! 

You Might be a False Teacher

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


Pastoral ministry is dangerous.

Being in front of a captive audience each week strokes the ego. Knowing that the majority of the people will believe what you say due to your authority as “pastor” can cause you to subtly build your own platform and diffuse your “majestic” ideas.

Combine this potential hazard with the unending pressure to increase attendance and giving numbers and it will create the perfect ministerial storm. Preaching will slowly drift from Gospel-centered proclamation to sharing helpful advice that is grounded in pop-psychology – this is where many churches find themselves today.

Jared Wilson makes this powerful observation about the role of Scripture in our preaching:
“Because the Bible is the only infallible authority over our lives, it is pastoral malpractice to treat it as a supporting document for our own good ideas. Our words ought to stand under Scripture, not vice-versa. When we come to the biblical text, it is meant to shape us; we are not to shape it. We are the ones to be malleable, not the Bible.”

I’m afraid that many pastors no longer tremble at the Word of God. Instead, we use it to proof-text our clever ideas in an attempt to generate an audience. Below is the main indicator that your preaching is driven by your creativity rather than Scripture.

You practice “Eisegesis” and call it relevance.

Now you are wondering how you practice something you have never heard of! When it comes to teaching the Bible, the proper way to preach is through exegesis. Exegesis literally means to “lead out of.” In other words, you allow the passage you are studying to determine the main point of your message. You seek to understand how the Spirit is speaking through His Word (this can be done in both topical preaching and verse-by-verse preaching).

Eisegesis is unbiblical, unhelpful, and ungodly. Eisegesis literally means to “lead into.” We practice eisegesis when we inject the poison of our opinions into the text and force the passage to bend to our meaning and will. We place ourselves in the position of God and twist Scripture to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-18).

For example, many pastors utilize Eisegesis when studying the narrative of David and Goliath. Rather than beginning in the text, the pastor will try to think of a giant that faces us as Christians – for example striving to have a good marriage. The pastor will then think of some “advice” on how to have a better marriage and package it as “Five Stones to Defeat Divorce.”

The pastor will then inject his meaning into the narrative by explaining that Goliath stands for the giant of divorce. He will continue to inject his meaning into the stones by labeling them:
1. Have a date night.
2. Express your love to each other.
3. Buy each other gifts.
4. (Helpful advice)
5. (Helpful advice)

The original text has absolutely nothing to do with marriage or defeating the giant of “divorce.” In an effort to generate an audience and appear relevant, the pastor will twist the text to meet his own agenda.

“But Tyler! All those things are good advice that Christians should practice!”

Good advice doesn’t save people, only the Gospel does that. Paul does not tell Timothy to preach good advice… he tells him to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2)! In the last days, people will gather around them false teachers that will share all the “good advice” that their itching hears long to listen to (2 Timothy 4:3). Many pastors have fallen into this category without even realizing it!

It’s time for judgment to begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). It’s time for judgment to begin with the leaders in the church. Those of us that teach are judged with greater strictness and will gave an account for every empty word; especially our words which twist the Scriptures to support our own agenda (James 3:1).

I long for the day that Christians in the Western world exercise the noble character of the Bereans:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)

Don’t take my word for anything I say. Examine the Scriptures to see if it’s true. This goes for every pastor and teacher that shares from the Bible.


Why do you think so many pastors inject their opinions into the Bible when they preach? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know by leaving a comment! 

 

 

 

The #1 Key to Spiritual Growth

concert

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


I remember the first megachurch I ever experienced. I was at a church conference in Texas and was speechless at the size of the church building as we approached it. It seemed as if multiple shopping malls joined together and somebody added “Christian” to the name!

Each night of the conference we had a church service that was open to the public. Thousands upon thousands of people flooded into this facility to sing songs and listen to people preach. At times it felt like I was in the midst of a rock concert with bright lights, smoke on the stage, and an incredible sound system.

Many people would write this church off as “worldly” due to its methodology. Truthfully, this is the same temptation that I fall into. I enjoy knowing the names, stories, and families of those around me in worship which is nearly impossible at a megachurch.

Does that mean they are wrong?

No.

Churches should strive for health, not size. There ARE unhealthy megachurches… but there’s also unhealthy small churches!

There is a movement within the church that began in the 1980s called the “Church Growth Movement.” This movement (usually) encourages churches to study their communities in order to ascertain who the “customers” are. Then each church should formulate non-threatening programs that meet a felt-need. The assumption behind this approach is the more programs & classes that a seeker is involved in, the more that person will grow spiritually.

Willow Creek Community Church, led by a pastor I highly admire (Bill Hybels), realized this assumption was deeply flawed. They decided to test the results of their programs through the REVEAL study.

With deep integrity, Willow Creek released the results of this study with an introduction by Bill Hybels honestly wrestling with the results:
You can imagine my reaction when three people whose counsel I value told me that the local church I’ve been the pastor of for more than three decades was not doing as well as we thought when it came to spiritual growth. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they said this wasn’t just their opinion. It was based on scientific research. Ouch.

Jarred Wilson, another pastor who was deeply influenced by the church growth movement, explains the results of the study, “Willow revealed what they discovered to be the number one catalyst for spiritual growth – Bible study.

Sometimes simple conclusions are the most challenging. Studying the Bible has taken secondary importance while brand management, building campaigns, and creative programs demand the attention of church leaders (in small and big churches!)

We can no longer neglect the Scriptures. One of the greatest ways we neglect the Bible is through the methods we use to preach. In my next post, I will share specifically what this looks like.


What are some ways our churches can prioritize the Bible over other demands? I’d love to hear from you – let me know by leaving a comment!

The Idol of “Success.”

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


I had the honor of helping launch the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church in October of 2014. I immediately had dreams of outgrowing our building in a week and breaking ground on a new facility. I assumed that people would come to our services, give their lives to Jesus, and become powerful missionaries in the community and abroad.

In our opening service we had 75 people join us. This may not seem like a lot depending on your context but we were planting this campus in a town of 1,200 people. On our first Sunday, we ran out of room due to the high attendance! My dream of becoming an influential and successful minister was finally coming to fruition.

A few months later we moved from Sunday night services to Sunday morning services. Our goal is that we would see how many people were going to stay with us as a “real” church and how many others were simply visiting from other churches.

We decreased in attendance to an average of 14 people.

I remember one Sunday morning when the only people that came to the service were those that were scheduled to serve in different areas. I stood outside to greet all the people that were flocking to my “successful” ministry and I welcomed no one.

I was crushed.

Jared Wilson, in his book The Pastor’s Justification has this to say, “Whatever God gives you in your ministry, accept as his wise allotment to you, not as unjust or unbecoming your awesomeness. Will you accept good from God and not trouble?

Without realizing it I had elevated worldly forms of success and tied them to God’s view of my ministry. I forgot that God measured success not through attendance numbers, increased giving, or larger buildings. Rather, He demands faithfulness and obedience; we are called to leave the results in His hands. He is the one who gives the growth!

I’d love to say I no longer struggle with this… the truth is I do. Some days we have 80+ people in our service and I begin to stroke my ego; assuming that people are coming due to my awesomeness. Other Sundays we have 40 people and a horrible offering – it is extremely easy to find my identity in the roller-coaster of attendance numbers!

Friends, I say all of this to encourage you. Our evil nature longs for us to find our identity in something or someone other than Jesus. When our circumstances have the power to crush our joy, we are worshiping a false god.

Allow this passage to encourage you in your day of despair:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Family Over Ministry

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


Pastor’s kids are notorious for rejecting the tenets of Christianity. Although pastors are not always at blame for this phenomenon, we need to consider the role we have played.

The truth is many pastors sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry and then wonder why their children hate the church!

Sure, we dress it up in religious language but the core reason is idolatry. We have found our identity in our ministry activity rather than the finished work of the cross. This has forced us to perform for the masses in an effort to receive our justification from the applause of our congregants rather than the affirmation of the Father.

Many pastors miss the entirety of their son’s or daughter’s childhood because they spent the majority of their time in church meetings. This has been the failure of pastors throughout history – some even placed their kids in orphanages so that they wouldn’t be a distraction from the ministry!

This is what Jared Wilson has to add to this conversation:
“One cannot even be allowed to pastor a church if he cannot or will not pastor his family.”

Here’s the truth: Your church can have a multitude of pastors but your kids only get one dad and your wife gets one husband. WHY THE HECK do we throw away our families pursuing the idol of ministry “success”?!

Why does the church become a mistress that our families must compete with?

God has gifted Ashley & I with a beautiful daughter named Ava – she is currently a little older than 6 months old. When she was born I made a commitment before God and my wife: If ministry ever causes my family to love Jesus or the church less I will walk away completely.

I really mean it.

I have arranged my schedule so that I am home virtually every evening during the week so that I do not miss out on Ava’s childhood. I work 6 days a week and take Tuesdays off to be with my family. I intentionally work a full day on Saturdays and use these days to meet with people for counseling, discipleship, and meetings. I once did all of these things in the evenings but now my schedule has been freed up to engage my family rather than burn myself out through nightly meetings!

This is a problem for more than just pastors – it is a symptom of the toxic busyness evangelicals embrace without discernment.

Here’s my question for you today: Are you sacrificing your family on the altar of work? success? promotions? income? church? ministry?

Be honest.

What practical changes do YOU need make to your schedule to love, serve, support, and prioritize your family above every other human relationship and endeavor?

I Meet With a Therapist.

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I am utterly weak and unqualified to be a pastor.

My leadership is ruled more by timidity than boldness. My actions often derive from a desire to please people rather than God. The motivation behind my preaching springs from a desire for the praise of man rather than the affirmations of the Father… far more than I’d like to admit.

I stress the need for community while drowning in isolation. I proclaim the importance of confession while remaining silent about my own sin. Each Sunday, I exhort people with the message that God loves broken people… while practically denying the same message for my own life.

In short, I am broken.

In my own mind, sin is often a greater delicacy than the glory of God. I sink my teeth into this disgusting, mold-covered appetizer while believing the lie that it offers a greater freedom than obedience to Jesus.

I shared some of these realities with my church recently. I’ve always thought only weak, needy, and emotionally sick people need to see a professional counselor on a regular basis.

I still believe this.

I just realized that I also fall into this category.

I have started meeting with a professional Christian therapist at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in order to pursue Christ-centered wholeness. I debated whether or not to share this with people because it would reveal the illusion of my perfection. It was into this internal argument that the Holy Spirit resounded the paradoxical words of the Apostle Paul:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t have all the answers. People come to me on a regular basis expecting counseling… not realizing that I am utterly aware of how inadequate I am to provide it for them.

Pastor – the Gospel you proclaim is for you.

Our identity isn’t found in the mask of perfection we wear on Sundays. Our righteousness doesn’t flow from the weekly attendance or yearly budget at our churches. Jesus – the only Perfect One to ever live – willingly subjected Himself to brutal torture and crucifixion for the wrath that we justly deserve. This same Jesus resurrected from the grave – offering eternal life, forgiveness, and a foreign righteousness to all who come to Him by faith.

Jesus lived the perfect life we could not live… died the death we deserve to die… and rose from the dead for our justification.

There is a Great Physician that skillfully applies healing salve to the wounds of his people – even pastors. It’s okay to not be okay.