Important Update for Renovation Church

On Sunday, October 4th we are moving indoors to the American Legion and asking all people to wear masks (see previous post for the official statement). There have been a few questions that have come in so I wanted to write a brief post to answer them.

Q: If I am physically unable to wear a masks due to a health issue, can I come to church
A: Yes. That being said, if you have a severe underlying health issue (such as severe asthma) it’s probably best for you to join us online but that’s a decision you need to make.

Q: Do my kids need to wear a mask?
A: We are asking all kids who are 5 years old and older to wear a mask. Those who are younger, we encourage it but understand that it can be difficult for kids. For what it’s worth, my daughter who is three will be wearing one and she wears one every day at preschool without any issues (or complaining).

Q: Will we be taking communion?
A: Yes. We will continue to take communion while practicing social distancing, good hygiene, and the wearing of masks before and after communion. Of course you can take your mask off to take communion but that’s only for a few seconds.

Q: Will there be singing?
A: Yes. If we were not wearing masks, we would not do any type of singing. Although singing does increase the risk of COVID-19, this risk should be reduced if everyone who is able is wearing a mask.

Q: What if I do not want to wear a mask?
A: If your reason for not wearing a mask is simply a refusal to do so or a philosophical reason (i.e. you think masks are the mark of the beast – or some other internet theory) – you have two choices. First, you are more than welcome to join us online – but online church is not ideal. Second, there are many churches in our area who are not asking people to wear masks. We encourage you to get plugged into one of them.

Finally, I appreciate the encouraging comments some people have sent me. I shared with my wife this morning that, for the third Sunday in a row, I have had severe anxiety on Sunday mornings (to the point of my hands have been shaking). I generally have very little anxiety. I think my anxiety comes from the reality that I know this is the right thing to do but I also understand there’s a significant number of people upset with me. Nevertheless, I take comfort in the writings of Paul, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).”

In Christ,
Tyler Ramsbey

Spirit-Led Ministry (Acts 13:1-12)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through Acts 13:1-12. In this passage, we see five characteristics that MUST be evident in our church in order to survive (and thrive) in a post-Christian society. The “Sermon Discussion Guide” is below the message. We will be meeting via Zoom on Wednesday night at 8pm to talk through these discussion questions. All are invited to join us. The connection info is here: https://renovationchurchsd.com/online-service-information/

Book of Acts – Week 31 – Acts 13:1-12
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 13:1-12. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. Tyler shared in the beginning of the message that churches have lost anywhere from 25 – 50% of regular attenders since the start of COVID-19 and many of these people will never return to the church. Why do you think this is?

3. Although it’s easy to fall into despair when considering this reality, we should keep in mind the teaching of Jesus on pruning. Read John 15:1-8. What stands out to you? What are some personal experiences of “pruning” you have in your faith journey?

4. The Holy Spirit spoke to the church in Antioch when they were in the midst of “worshiping and fasting.” First, how do you define “worship”? What are some activities that fall into this category? Second, what is the purpose of fasting in the life of a Christian?

5. In this passage, Paul & Barnabas face Satanic opposition through a false prophet named Bar-Jesus/Elymas. In a similar way, all of us who desire to make an impact of the Kingdom of God will face opposition. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 – what does this passage have to teach us about this spiritual war we are in?

6. One of the surprising things that happen in this passage is that Paul, who already has the Holy Spirit, is once again “filled” with the Holy Spirit. Paul is likely reflecting on this experience (and others) when he writes Ephesians 5:15-21. Read through this passage – what does this teach us about being filled with the Holy Spirit?

COVID-19 Update from Renovation Church

Renovation Church Family,

We will be moving our services indoors to the American Legion beginning on Sunday, October 4th. Since COVID-19 cases continue to rise exponentially in South Dakota (and in Minnehaha County) we want you to know that your safety and well-being is our priority. Since there are people in our congregation who are likely to experience severe and negative outcomes from COVID-19, we are asking all people who attend Renovation Church to do the following two things:

1. Carefully consider staying home and joining us online if you have impaired immunity or other underlying health conditions that cause you to be especially susceptible to COVID-19.

2. If you choose to attend in person, we are asking everyone to wear a mask and observe social distancing.

Finally, we understand that masks have become notoriously divisive in our country. There are many reasons we are asking those in attendance to wear a mask but here are the two primary ones: First, the Scriptures clearly encourage us to give up certain freedoms in order to better display the sacrificial love of Christ to others in our community (see 1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Second, after consulting with local health officials, we decided it’s the best course of action we can take to protect the vulnerable among us.

If you have further questions, please contact Pastor Tyler Ramsbey via e-mail (tyler@renovationchurchsd.com) or phone (605-359-9486).

Elders of Renovation Church
Dave Greenlee
Chuck Jones
Tyler Ramsbey

Church After COVID-19

According to a multitude of studies, churches in the United States will lose at least 25% of regular attenders due to COVID-19 who will never return to the church. At Renovation Church, close to 40% of regular attenders have not returned to any of our services since March. It’s likely that many of these people will not re-join our church – this is true of churches all around our country.

The reality is that COVID-19 did not CAUSE this to happen. Instead, it simply accelerated trends that were already evident in the church. As our nation becomes post-Christian and church attendance is no longer an expected norm, churches are going to increasingly become smaller.

How do we navigate these changes? One of the best things we can do is to learn how the early church spread the Gospel in a pre-Christian society. In many ways, the post-Christian world will look a lot like the pre-Christian world of the first few centuries of the church. This Sunday, we will be continuing our series in the Book of Acts by studying Acts 13:1-12 to discern what we can learn from the most influential church of the New Testament – the church in the ancient city of Antioch.

(All are invited to join us. We meet on Sundays outside at Split Rock Park in Garretson, South Dakota.)

Should Young Children Take Communion?

Yesterday, I received a very good question from a member of Renovation Church in regards to young children and communion. If you have attended our church recently, you will know that during the communion time I tell parents that it is up to them to decide whether or not their children are ready to partake of communion. Below is the question I received (I removed any identifying information) and below is my response.

If you currently attend Renovation Church, please never be afraid to ask questions (and disagree with me). I am not the “standard” of truth – the Scriptures are. If you ever think I am doing something outside of Scripture, PLEASE reach out to me so we can discuss it together. I received this person’s permission to share their question and my answer while removing identifying information.


Hi Tyler,
We have been wanting to ask you this question but with everything going on we just haven’t gotten around to it and on Sundays you are so busy we didn’t want to bother you so we decided just to email you.  We are wondering why children are being invited to partake of communion.  We could not find any examples in Acts of unbaptized people taking communion.  Every where we have read in the Bible, communion follows baptism.

In Acts 2 it was those who were baptized and added to the church who then participated in communion.  We believe baptism points to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and after baptism we participate in the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of what he did. In 1 Corinthians, Paul warns against eating and drinking unworthily. so we are supposed to examine ourselves before taking communion.  We don’t see a child having the ability to  examine their life in such a manner so we wanted to know your thoughts on this matter.

Thanks!


Hey (Name Removed),

This is an excellent question.

First, there is oddly not that much teaching in the New Testament on communion. The place where Jesus first institutes communion does not have specific teaching on how it is to be done – other than that it is to be a reminder of Jesus’ body being broken and his blood being poured out for our sins. It is the fulfillment of the Passover Festival – with Jesus being the Passover Lamb. The original Passover Lamb was instituted in the Old Testament to be eaten by the entire family with the parents instructing the children on the significance of what is taking place (Exodus 12:24-28). Keeping in mind that Jesus was a first century Jew and knew that he was providing his Jewish followers with the reality that the Passover Lamb pointed to (since he instituted the meal on the eve of the Passover), it’s likely that many in the early church and the first few centuries of the church used the Lord’s Supper as a means of teaching their children in a physical means of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Jewish Christians would have viewed the Lord’s Supper as the fulfillment of the Passover Meal and as a natural extension, used it as a means of teaching their children about the true Passover.  

The only place that communion is explicitly taught is by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians (correct me if I am wrong – I am going off memory). There are many passages that seem to refer to it – but none do so explicitly. There are a few mentions of the “breaking of bread” in the Book of Acts but these are also equated with what was known as the “love feasts.” The “breaking of bread” was also used routinely to refer to meals in the homes of Christians which would of course been attended by children as well. From what we know, these “love feasts” were very similar to our modern-day potluck meals where members of the community would bring food together to share. It was in the context of these love feasts that the early church would take communion. This is clear in Paul’s description of communion in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22: “When you come together, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk! Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you in this matter!

It is clear from Paul’s description of the “Lord’s Supper” that it was originally much more than a wafer and wine. Instead, it encompassed the entire “love feast” that the church gathered together to celebrate. I think it’s very likely (if not certain) that these love feasts were attended by the children of the worshippers to also partake of the meal in keeping with Jesus’ admonition to his disciples to allow children to come to him and not keep them away (Matt. 19:14). 

Paul goes on in this teaching on communion to rightly explain what you mentioned above – the need to, “Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” The “examining” Paul is encouraging of course included unconfessed sin but in the immediate context it is to examine one’s self to see if there is a spirit of division that is destroying the church. This is evident because just a few verses earlier, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for having “divisions” among them. This is also why many of them were sick and dying – not just because they were taking communion with some type of sin in their life but they had the absolute worst sin – they were destroying the church through divisive attitudes and following false leaders. I believe to “examine” one’s self differs and grows as a person grows. For example, it is a different level of “examination” when I examine myself for my sin as opposed to when a 13 year old (or 4 year old – under parental direction) examines themselves before partaking communion. With this same definition in mind, I believe it is right for those with mental handicaps who are physical adults but may function with the cognitive ability of a 5 year old or 6 year old to take communion as the Spirit will help them “examine” themselves in a way that is keeping with their cognitive ability. If a person is able to articulate the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus – and is able to ask for forgiveness and thank Jesus for what He has done for us, I believe it is right and good for them to join the church in the celebration of Communion. 

Third, there is nowhere in Scripture that says a person must be baptized in order to take communion (once again, correct me if I am wrong – I am going off of memory as I think through the Scriptures in my mind). This IS the stance that many churches take – especially those that practice “closed communion.” If we are to apply this across the board, we would need to monitor the communion table and only allow those who have been baptized to participate which would exclude many adults who have a sincere and active faith in Jesus but have a different conviction on baptism. 

Fourth, and this part of my reasoning holds less weight because it is not based on Scripture but instead based on church history, I can say with confidence that children were partaking of communion by at least A.D. 150 (so about 60 years after the death of the Apostle John). This is evident when reading the church Fathers and considering the teachings of Clement of Alexandria (the earliest), Cyprian, the “Apostolic Constitutions”, and the writings of St. Augustine. 

Finally, and this hold the least amount of weight for it is my personal experience, I began allowing Ava to partake of Communion after spending a few months going through the “Jesus Storybook Bible” with her which goes through all of the stories in Scripture and explains how they all point to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Near the end, there is a story that explains what communion is and how Jesus instituted it – including the need to examine one’s self. Each Sunday, when Ava joins me in taking communion, I first ask her the question, “What does this stand for?” She replies something along the lines of, “Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so I could be forgiven of sin.” Then, I ask her to pray for both of us and to thank Jesus for doing this. Then she prays along the lines of, “Dear Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross and rising from the dead to show us your love. Amen.” After that, I give her the wafer and tell her, “This is Jesus’ body, broken for you. As often as you do this, do it to remember Him.” Then I take the grape juice and I give it to her and say, “This is the blood of Jesus poured out for you, as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of him.” Then, I have her give me my elements for communion and explain what they are as I partake of them. From my time with Ava, I fully believe she understands God more than most of the adults I know. I think there’s a reason Jesus called a child in the midst of the disciples and told them they cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless they become like a little children (Matthew 18:3). Another Scripture that comes to mind is in Matthew 11 when Jesus prays, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was your good pleasure. All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.

In summary, there are people much smarter than me, who love Jesus more than me, and who know the Scriptures deeper than me who would disagree with my conclusion. I view this as an “open-handed” issue that good Christians who love Jesus can disagree on. Each person should be “fully convinced in his own mind” in the words of the Apostle Paul. I am “fully convinced” in my mind that communion for children, when rightly understood and taught by parents, is a good and beneficial practice to teach children the fundamental elements of the Gospel. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to share my thoughts! What are your thoughts on all of this? (Sorry that it’s long and reads more like a seminary paper!) 

A Short Note.

Friends, the President recently said that if Joe Biden is elected it will “hurt the Bible” and “hurt God.” I do not support Joe Biden but I can say with confidence God will not be “hurt” by the leader of the United States of America – regardless of who it is.

By all means, be active in politics but do not place your trust in the process or demonize the other side. Every single earthly nation – including the United States – will one day be merely a footnote in the pages of history. The only Kingdom that will endure throughout all time is God’s invisible Kingdom which advances not through political maneuvering, nationalism, or debate skills but instead through the radical love of a rejected & crucified King named Jesus.

Jesus did not say, “The world will know you are my disciples if you vote Republican…” No, he very clearly said, “The world will know you are my disciples by the love you have for one another (John 13:35).” It’s no wonder that so many people want nothing to do with the church – so often the church is one of the most divisive, hateful, and destructive groups of people.

Let’s walk in repentance and refocus our attention on the radical nature of following Jesus. One of the signs that you are taking Jesus seriously is you too will be rejected by many of the “religious” people of this world.

Those who hated Jesus the most were those who knew the Bible the best.

EDIT:
(I feel the need to add a post-script. I am not anti-Church – I have been in church leadership for nearly 8 years and have a Master of Divinity degree. It’s my love for the church that compels me, at times, to call the church back to our true mission of following Jesus.)

A Tale of Two Kings (Acts 12:18-23)

This past Sunday, I had the honor of teaching through Acts 12:18-23. In this message, I compare and contrast King Herod with King Jesus to help people understand the difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness. The Sermon Discussion Guide can be found below the video to help you go deeper in the text. I will be leading an online small group on Wednesday night at 8pm central time and all are invited to join us – we will go through the Sermon Discussion Guide together. The connection info can be found here: Online Connection Information

Book of Acts – Week 30 – Acts 12:18-23 (and various other Scripture)
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 12:18-23. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. In order to understand the compare/contrast Tyler did in the message, we need to understand what the Scriptures mean by the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Darkness.” How would you define these two kingdoms? What are some passages that come to mind that have helped you understand the “kingdom language” of the New Testament?

3. The first contrast we see between King Herod and King Jesus is this: Herod maintains his kingdom by killing others for his sin. Jesus maintains His Kingdom by being killed for the sins of others. Explain this contrast in your own words. What bearing should this have on our day-to-day lives?

4. One of the signs that you are operating according to the “Kingdom of Darkness” is when we blame our sin on those around us – also known as “scapegoating.” As you consider our culture today, what are some of the most common “scapegoats” for our own personal sins?

5. Keeping with the question above, the Apostle Paul explains the difference between false repentance (which often leads to scapegoating) and true repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:9-13. Read through this passage – what are the characteristics of true repentance?

6. One of the primary ways Jesus established and advanced the Kingdom of God was by becoming a servant of those around him. Jesus did this in order to leave an example for us to follow and this is further explained by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-11. Read through this passage – what stands out to you?

I Am Pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree

I may be the only person who went from an Associate’s Degree to a Master’s Degree and now a Bachelor’s Degree but here I go embarking on another degree. Ashley & I have come to the conclusion that I have an addiction to education but I (think) that’s a good addiction.

Beginning this Fall, I will be pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance through Western Governors University.

WGU follows a CBE Model (Competency-Based Education) – it’s the same philosophy as the Kairos Program at Sioux Falls Seminary. It is non-profit & regionally accredited (same accreditation as USF, SDSU, USD, etc.) but half the price due to the CBE Model. It’s not for everyone as you have to be able to set your own goals and direct your own education (but, after doing it for 3+ years at Sioux Falls Seminary, I think I have that part down.)

To answer the most common question that people will probably ask – no I am not leaving pastoral ministry and I have no intention of leaving Renovation Church. My goal remains the same – if God allows me, I plan on being a pastor at Renovation Church until retirement.

A huge thank you to my former professors who I now consider good friends and mentors – Dr. Philip E. Thompson and Dr. Nathan Hitchcock – for their encouragement while I have been considering this decision.

(This is only the beginning of education for me. I plan on eventually getting a Master’s in Cybersecurity and either a Doctor of Ministry or a PhD in New Testament Studies…)


Some of you may remember that I was initially in the Doctor of Ministry program through Sioux Falls Seminary. I ended up taking a leave of absence from that program in August of 2019 when my son Elijah was born and we were moving into a new house. After consulting with my wife and mentors, I decided that it was not the right season to pursue a Doctorate degree due to the time, energy, and financial committed needed to do so. I plan on eventually getting either my Doctor of Ministry or my PhD in New Testament Studies but those things will happen in the future (Lord willing).

A Gentle Critique

As a general rule, I try my best to not speak into political issues. The reason for this is that I recognize the moment that I do, I instantly bring division into a group of people. Nevertheless, I do think it is wise (and keeping with church history) to offer gentle critiques of government and governmental leaders. I want to emphasize the word “gentle” – this is not to win an argument or to prove a point but instead to help readers understand how to view social issues through the lens of Scripture.

The President recently made this tweet:

Even a few months ago, I would not have known why this sentiment is so troubling – that is the reason I want to share a different perspective. A few months ago, I reached out to a good friend of mine who is an African-American who lives in Minneapolis and asked him for book recommendations that I can read to better understand what African-Americans and other minorities have to deal with on a regular basis so that I have a fuller understanding of what is going on.

One of the books he recommend was The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. The book describes the historic injustices that have been committed against minority groups using the exact type of policy the President promises to uphold. I encourage you to purchase and read this book for a fuller understanding that I am not able to convey in a blog post.

Second, the other thing I want to encourage my readers to do is to reflect on James 2:1-7 and consider how the principles in this passage apply to fair housing – including low income housing in middle-class neighborhoods. Of course, the context of the passage in James has to do with a church setting but I believe the principles are universal for holding a Christian worldview. Here is that passage:

James 2:1-7
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?


What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? I fully recognize I may be missing something so, if I am, please let me know by leaving a comment as I would love to hear from you!

NT Literature: The Johannine Corpus

As I shared in a previous post, I am hoping to provide a high school level class for students who will be doing virtual learning or homeschooling as a result of COVID-19. I am waiting to make this class official until I have at least 5 students signed up but am spending the bulk of today creating the course overview and curriculum. In my search online, I could not find any classes that I felt were adequate so I am creating one on my own.

Below is the course description. If you know of any high school students who would like to be part of this class, please have them reach out to me via e-mail – tyler@renovationchurchsd.com

TITLE:
NT Literature: The Johannine Corpus

DESCRIPTION:
This is a one-semester course which will meet once a week for 15 weeks for an in-depth study of the Gospel of John as well as overviews of the rest of the Johannine Corpus (i.e. 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation). We will consider the authorship, structure, historical background, and 1st century setting to grasp a fuller and deeper understanding of this ancient text. The class will meet on Thursdays at 9am via Zoom (beginning on Thursday, September 3rd). Class sessions will be around 2 hours long and the student should expect to complete 1 – 3 hours of homework per week for this class. This will be more academic than a regular Bible Study but the goal remains the same: to help the student connect with God in a deeper and more authentic way.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS:
ESV Study Bible (ISBN – 978-1433502415)
N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides: John (ISBN – 978-0830821846)