The #1 Key to Spiritual Growth

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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!

Know Your Tackle Box (New Message!)

Fishing

Due to some technology issues I have not been able to record my messages for quite a few weeks. All of those things have been solved so you can plan on looking for a new message (usually) once a week!

We are currently in a series called “Catch and Release” and we are learning how to practically share our faith with others. In this message I lay out seven different strategies to help you share your faith!


Download Here | Sermon Notes 


Did this message encourage you? I’d love to hear from you! You can either leave a comment on this post or send an e-mail to tyler@therescuechurch.com 

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?

Three Myths about Ministry

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I have just finished a tremendous book on pastoral ministry called “The Pastor’s Justification” by Jared Wilson. Over the next few weeks I will reflect on the ways this book has challenged my view of ministry and leadership.

Wilson has put into words ideas which have burned strongly in my mind for the past few years.

“Books and podcasts and conferences from the leadership cult bid us to believe that pastoral ministry is a technology, that our churches are businesses, and that our flocks are customers.” – Jared Wilson

Let’s break down the three failures of the “leadership cult” mentioned by Wilson in the quote above.

1. Pastoral ministry is NOT a technology!
Granted, many of the “creative” leaders who emphasize secrets to growth would not claim ministry is a technology. Nevertheless, their practical theology is evident in their strategies for success. These leaders boldly proclaim that God wants all churches to grow… the problem (they claim) is we have not discovered the secret to breaking through the next “growth barrier.”

There is not a magic formula that can cause churches to grow. Sure healthy things DO grow… but so does cancer!

Pastors – labor faithfully, pray fervently, minister lovingly – but trust the growth of your church (numerical & spiritual) into the hands of God. He alone gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).

2. The Church is NOT a business!
Is there a business aspect to a church? Definitely. My undergraduate degree is business administration. I believe pastors would be greatly helped through a better understanding of the business side of the church. That being said, the church is NOT a business!

Successful business are led by CEOs that often domineer over those in their charge. The Church should be led by self-denying and sacrificial leaders modeling their leadership on the Great Shepherd – Jesus himself. The Kingdom of God does not emphasize CEO-style leadership… rather it is a call to die daily for the good of others. It is the responsibility of every pastor to become the servant of those under his care.

3. The flock are NOT customers!
Many church growth gurus emphasize studying our communities and then offering a product that meets a felt-need. Here’s the problem – the Scriptures teach that all outside of Christ are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Let’s be real – it would be a little insane to go to a cemetery and take a poll to determine what the rotting corpses would enjoy for entertainment!

If we seek to serve felt-needs we will subvert the Gospel by elevating attractional models of ministry over the blood-splattered Messiah. The Gospel itself is INCREDIBLY offensive. The cross of Jesus implies the following about everyone on earth:
— We are wicked beyond imagination.
— We are unable to respond to God in our own power.
— We are not special; matter of fact, we are objects of God’s wrath.
— The Son of God was brutally murdered because of us.


Even if you are not in formal leadership in a church, I highly encourage you to spend some time praying through 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Pay attention to the paradoxical nature of the cross. 

What are some other “ministry myths” you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Sue Jensen had this to share in the comments and it was TOO good for me not place on the main post!
“I know we call a lot of people volunteers at our church but I think the belief that the church is a volunteer organization is a myth. As volunteers, people believe they can do as little as possible and say they are part of the church. However, the attitude in scripture calls us to be soldiers and servants and we should take our roles in ministry seriously.”

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

From Suicide to Mission Work – (Blue Light Podcast – Episode 4)

Chase Ward

For this episode, I had the honor of sitting down with Chase Ward. Chase is one of the leaders of Simba Educational Ministries and lives right outside of Garretson!

Download Here