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Dear Church – Don’t Give People What They Want

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In our American culture we are obsessed with size and outward success. This has infiltrated the church and encouraged pastors to use any means necessary to pursue numerical growth for the church. In many ways this is a good thing – more people getting connected to the body of Christ is always positive. Unfortunately, the means that we have used for many years for this growth has caused more people to attend but less people to be disciples. I would even argue that the American way of doing church has given people a false hope of salvation for they have trusted in a false Jesus.

Before you leave an angry comment, let me explain.

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through the miraculous healing of a man who had been unable to walk since he was born – over four decades. His livelihood consisted of being carried to the temple each day so that he could beg for money from those coming to worship. On a seemingly ordinary day, he encounters two leaders in the early church – Peter and John.

These men have likely seen this beggar numerous times – the text says he was at the temple daily asking for alms. According to Acts 3:3, when he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money. This is how Peter responds to this man’s request, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Peter offered the man what he needed – not what he wanted.

If we could sit down with this beggar in the first century and ask him what his greatest need on that day was, he would have said it was money. He needed money to purchase food, he needed money to pay rent, and he needed money to simply survive.

What if Peter and John simply gave this man what he wanted? What if they did a fundraiser or a GoFundMe page to raise money for the poor beggar outside of the temple? It would have been a great marketing move; displaying to the Jewish world the generosity of Jesus’ followers. It would have made the poor beggar happy – his monetary needs would have been met and he could have taken a vacation from begging outside of the temple.

But here’s the thing.

If Peter and John offered this man what he wanted, they would have missed out on the wonder-working power of God.

Might I suggest to you that our churches settle far too often for giving people what they want instead of what they need. Here’s what I mean – Most contemporary and outward-focused churches (like Renovation Church) utilize the pulpit to declare self-help messages on parenting skills, marriage tips, financial advice, as well as many other “felt need” topics. The messages generally take the pastor’s ideas or creativity as the starting point and then sprinkle in some Scripture to Christianize it – usually with a vague altar call at the end of the message.

These topics are important but they are secondary to our mission as the Church. The greatest gift we can offer the world is not corny motivational talks but Gospel-centered and expository (i.e. verse-by-verse) preaching of the Bible. If we want to see people truly transformed by the radical message of the Gospel, it begins by introducing people to the richness found in the Scriptures. Life transformation isn’t the result of a 3-week motivational talk on finances and tithing; it’s the result of the Holy Spirit working new birth through the clear exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.

On theologian said it this way, “I don’t go to church to have my needs met, I go to church to figure out what my needs are.”

Pastors, leaders, and church members – quit giving the culture what they want and instead offer them what they need. In the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the faithful exposition of God’s Word – give them Jesus in all of his beauty, glory, and majesty.

Downward Mobility (Original Song)

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Hey everyone! I decided to start out 2020 by writing, recording, and mastering an original (and free) song about Jesus’ teaching on greatness. The song is below. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it, do me a favor and share it on social media!

(If you are reading this in your e-mail, you may need to go to the actual page to hear the song).


Download Free


Instrumental: Sean Divine
Lyrics: Tyler Ramsbey
Vocals: Tyler Ramsbey
Mixing/Mastering: Tyler Ramsbey

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

[Verse 1]
You see judgment, it begins with the church
Quit pointing fingers at the world as if your sin didn’t hurt

The reputation of the King who has given you worth
So live in my words and repent of the works

The way we idolize success is an evident curse
Because #blessed is for the poor & the hurt

Not the rich Americans who just want more of the perks
Of the radical consumerism that ruins the church

It’s like we’re drinking poison we join in our own death
And we even have the nerve to complain when it’s all a mess

I have a guess – God’s not impressed
With the popular press or the lobby that’s flexed

Or the money that’s spent to keep you running ahead
Just to have a good brand when you’re spirituallly dead

You can have the greatest band while appearing to be fed
But we need humble leaders who are fearing what He said

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

[Verse 2]
Who is greatest? That’s the question that they asked
So he called a child and made him step into their path

The greatest in the Kingdom are the ones who rep the fact
That they are insignificant the ones that we’re sending back

It’s the weak whom he seeks do you believe that?
I know we all nod our heads even in the back

But our actions betray what we really think
You see the ladder of success will make you sink

But we lift it all up like it’s the greatest thing
But my Savior sings, about a servant life

Yeah you heard the Light but do you really worship right
I know that we’ve been purchased by the King, but are we blind?

Cuz we try to strive, but it’s kind of like
Holding dynamite that’s been lit by the sin inside

So we begin to die, lifting up the pride
So let’s return to the only King & lift Him high

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

The God of the Ordinary

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What comes to mind when you think of the person of God?

For some, the only image that comes to mind is an angry deity determined to cast his enemies into a lake of fire. For others, God is a vague idea that is defined by a human definition of love. For others, especially Christians, God brings forth images and descriptions of supernatural power. God is transcendent, holy, and glorious; the Creator and Sustainer of all creation by the power of His Word.

As I prepare for my Christmas Eve message at Renovation Church, the Holy Spirit highlighted for me a small (but significant) part of the Christmas story – Jesus was born as a baby.

Okay.

I know you don’t find that amazing and it’s a detail you already know, but hang with me for a minute.

Many Jews in the first century were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Savior. Before Jesus (and after him) many arose from within the ranks of the Jewish people and proclaimed themselves to be the long-awaited Messiah. The Jewish people were under the control and reign of the marvelous Roman Empire. The Jews were forced to pay extravagant taxes, honor the emperor as the son of the gods, and submit their worship of the God of Israel to the laws of Rome.

But they had hope.

They believed the ancient Scriptures promised that God would send a divine warrior-king to set His people free and set up a theocracy on earth; elevating the Jewish people to a place of power, honor, and glory allowing them to crush those who oppress them. For many ancient rabbis, the belief was that the Messiah would simply show up on the scene, fully grown. The reason for this belief is that the Jewish people in the first century, like us, viewed God as supernatural, powerful, and glorious beyond words (which is all true).

Babies don’t really fit the picture.

But God, through his own sovereign choice, chose to enter into the mess of humanity as a helpless baby born in a manger. The scene was so incredibly ordinary that even the shepherds would have missed the significance of it if the birth wasn’t accompanied by a chorus of angels proclaiming the praises of this unique yet ordinary baby boy.

So… why does all of this matter?

Many of us do not hear the voice of God or behold His glory because we are looking in the wrong places. The majority of God’s people in the first century rejected Jesus because He didn’t fit their expectations. They expected a Savior who would conquer by killing his enemies; instead, they got a Savior who conquered by allowing his enemies to kill him. They expected a warrior-king who would simply “appear” fully grown and ready for war; instead, they received a helpless baby born to two teenage parents in the small town of Bethlehem.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is about the prophet Elijah (whom we named our son after). After an incredible victory over the false prophets of his day, Elijah was beyond depleted and exhausted. He was on the run and fearful of losing his life. In the midst of his spiritual depression, God instructs Elijah to stand on a mountain and wait for the glory of God to be revealed. First, an incredible wind storm shattered parts of the mountain – a terrifying sight for this prophet – but the text says God was not in the wind. After the wind, Elijah felt the earth below his feet begin to move and heave with a great violence; the foundations of the earth trembled from a mighty earth quake – but God was not in the earthquake. Suddenly, out of seemingly thin air, a terrifying and consuming fire appeared before Elijah. Surely, Elijah must have thought, God is in the fire because that’s how he appeared to Moses… but God was not in the fire.

Wind… Earthquakes… Fire… All miraculous, terrifying, and powerful signs of God’s power but God was not found in any of them. Finally, Elijah heard a still small voice – an almost silent whisper; and He discovered God.

As you prepare for Christmas my challenge for you is to wake up to the ordinary whispers of the extraordinary God in your life. Reject the commercialized busyness, slow down, and seek to hear God’s voice through Scripture, nature, family, and silence.

Renovation Church – 2019 Giving Letter!

churchlogoBelow is a copy of the letter that will go out to everyone who has given financially to the ministry of Renovation Church in 2019. If you fit that description, you will receive a physical copy of this letter with your giving statement in early January!


Dear Renovation Church Family,

I want to take a minute to thank you for your incredible generosity. In our third year as a church, we have been able to give nearly $14,000 to outreach – both locally and internationally. For context, that is roughly three months of expenses for our church. This is only possible through the generous giving of those from inside and outside of our church who believe in and support the mission God has given us.

One of the passages I have been meditating on recently is 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. In this passage, Paul exhorts the church in the famous city of Corinth to boast in Christ alone. Specifically, he reminds them of their calling and purpose by writing:

“Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence.”

In the eyes of many people, Renovation Church is foolish, weak, insignificant, despised, and viewed as nothing.

  • We are a small church in the very small town of Garretson
  • We have no church building and instead rent from the local school.
  • We have a small budget; our entire budget is less than many pastor’s total pay packages.
  • We have no paid staff outside of my role as the Lead Pastor.

Our temptation as people (and a church) is to flee from being viewed as foolish, weak, or insignificant – this is the same temptation that was facing the church in Corinth. Yet God has used our small church in our seemingly insignificant town to preach the Gospel, practice radical generosity, and make disciples who make disciples. God has used our “foolish” church to bring healing to couples in broken marriages; our “weak” church to bring freedom to those deep in addiction; and our “insignificant” church to bring grace to those enslaved by legalism and false religion.

I share all of this not because Renovation Church is awesome; instead, it is all a testimony to the awesome God whom we serve and worship. It has never been about Renovation Church or my role as the pastor – it has always been about Jesus.

As we begin a new year of ministry, if there’s anything I can personally help you with in your walk with Jesus, please reach out. You can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com or text/call me at 605-359-9486. I’d love to meet with you this year to help you study the Bible and grow in your relationship with Jesus.

Thank you!

Tyler Ramsbey

Renovation Church – Membership Meeting Agenda

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Tomorrow (Tuesday, August 13th) we are holding our next “Membership Meeting” for Renovation Church at O So Good in Garretson. This is not a business meeting and it is not a vision casting meeting; it is a time for us to prayerfully discern the direction and leadership of the Holy Spirit in our church.

This meeting is open to ANYONE who regularly attends or supports Renovation Church. The agenda consists almost entirely of discussion questions. If you are coming to the meeting, I urge you to seriously pray through these questions, listen to the Holy Spirit, and come to the meeting ready to share your thoughts. The agenda for this meeting is below:

Membership Meeting
Tuesday, August 13th – 6:30pm – 8:00pm
O So Good – Garretson, SD

Focus of our church this Fall, Winter, and Spring
1. Rooted in the Word (Col. 3:16)
2. Empowered by the Spirit (Acts 1:4-8)
3. Centered on Christ (Col. 1:15-20)

Discussion Questions:
Rooted in the Word
Practically, what does it look like for a church to be rooted in the Bible? What does it look like when a church is NOT rooted in the Bible?

What are some unique resources/training we can offer to people to help them better understand how to read, understand, and apply the Bible to their lives? Do you have an interest in being a “mentor” to new Christians?

What are some biblical concepts that you find especially difficult to understand that we can address either on a Sunday morning or through another resource?

What do you find most difficult about rooting your own life in the Bible? How can the church come alongside of you – not from a place of condemnation – but rather from a place of encouragement and accountability?

Empowered by the Spirit
What are some pictures that come to mind when you think of the following terms – “Holy Spirit” “Living in the Spirit” “Baptism in the Spirit” and “Spiritual Gifts” – why do you think these images come to mind?

What are some questions you have about the ministry of the Holy Spirit? How can we address these questions (or concerns) during our Sunday morning service or a resource offered at a different time?

It is clear that many churches in the Western world lack the power of the Holy Spirit. How can we as a church come to a place where we depend in greater measure on the leading of the Spirit rather than our well-developed plans and strategies?

One of the emphasis in Scripture when it comes to the Holy Spirit is prayer. A praying church is a powerful church. What does it look like to be a “praying church”? How can we make prayer a priority in our church this Fall?

Those who live according to the Holy Spirit are constantly making disciples. What does it mean to “make disciples” in our everyday lives? How can we as a church better help our members make disciples who make disciples?

What are some resources, books, retreats, or other resources we can offer people to help them develop a life in the Spirit and in prayer with God?

Centered on Christ
What does it look like to be a church centered on Christ? What are some other things/people/agendas that churches can be side-tracked by? How can we avoid these traps?

Practically, what are some ways we can center Renovation Church more on Jesus rather than on Tyler?

One of my (Tyler) weaknesses is leadership development and taking on too many things. What does it look like for our church to develop godly and mature leaders? Can you think of anyone in our congregation who might make a good spiritual leader to oversee a ministry area?

A large part of being centered on Christ is having a healthy membership structure where members themselves are living in such a way that their lives are centered on Christ. How can we improve accountability/encouragement for those who are members in Renovation Church?

Another aspect of being centered on Christ is doing more by doing less. Is our church adding “busyness” to the calendars of those in our congregation? How can we help people understand that God is more concerned about who they are becoming rather than what they are doing?

Summary Question:
Are there any other questions we can use to guide our church in being rooted in the Word, empowered by the Spirit, and centered on Christ?

(P.S. – If you are unable to make the meeting, feel free to message or e-mail me your thoughts!) 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not About You

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Credit: Charlie Wilson (http://charleslwilson.smugmug.com)

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter Ava (who is 2) to Devil’s Gulch in Garretson for the first time. For those unfamiliar with Devil’s Gulch, it is a hiking destination filled with many imposing and jagged cliffs. It is both a beautiful and yet exceedingly dangerous place – especially for a Toddler. As we entered the park and began to hike through the tall grass and pass over the famous metal bridge, I instructed Ava to hold onto my hand. I explained to her that the cliffs were dangerous and if she were to fall from the side, she would be seriously injured.

Thankfully Ava listened to me as we explored the different areas of Devil’s Gulch but here’s the thing – she could not have fallen off a cliff even if she wanted to. Ava may have been gripping my hand but I was clinging to her entire arm. If she left go of my hand and tried to fly off the cliff (as Toddlers sometimes believe they are birds); I would have simply pulled her back to myself.

Ava’s safety was not found in her holding onto me but instead in the fact that I was holding onto her.

This is a picture of our relationship with God.

Many Christians fearfully ask the question, “Is it possible to lose my salvation?” If your salvation was based on your effort and righteousness, the answer would be a resounding yes. If your spiritual safety is rooted in you gripping the hand of God with all your might, the answer is surely yes. You do not have the strength to endure the storms of life through your will power or spiritual vigor. But here’s the thing – your salvation is not based on your effort, righteousness, or spiritual vitality. It is the gift of God you receive by faith. Salvation from your sin, the devil, and the world is based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in your place – not your religious works.

In John 10, Jesus is using a metaphor of sheep and shepherds to explain his relationship with those who follow Him. This teaching left the crowd divided; some believed Jesus was more than a mere religious teacher while others accused him of being possessed by demons. Rather than appealing to logic to try and convince the unbelievers in the crowd to give him a chance, this is what he says –

“The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:25-30).

As you begin your Monday, here are a few incredible realities to ponder based on this passage:

  1. If you are a Christian, it is Jesus who has given you eternal life; not your effort to follow Him (“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.”)
  2. If you are a Christian, no one can snatch you away from Jesus; not even your own actions (“No one can snatch them away from me…”)
  3. The beauty of the Gospel is that God is holding onto you; not the other way around (“No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”)

Friends, rest in Jesus today. Quit trying to perform to earn God’s favor or nervously seeking to establish your own righteousness. Instead, find your peace in the reality that your salvation has been accomplished through Jesus on the cross. Listen to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to transform your thoughts, attitudes, and actions to look more like Jesus. It’s not about you; it’s about Him working through you.