Boys Will Be Boys

When I arrived at OBU, I was a fairly terrible man when it came to my interactions with women. I fell headlong into jokes that were saturated in a sexist view of life and the roles of men and women. My interactions with girls were full of flirtatiousness and selfishness as I saw the affection of a young woman as a way to feel better about myself. I approached almost every relationship or friendship with girls with this jaded and honestly vile mindset, whether intentionally and consciously or not.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, God drew me out of this sinful view of women. The abhorrent ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes and the like dissipated and my interactions with women slowly became one of mutual respect. That being said, I am way too honest with myself to pretend like I still don’t have room to grow.

What has saddened me deeply is the way that the church has seemingly added to (at times) the epidemic of disrespecting and dehumanizing women. The statements made by Paige Patterson (albeit many years ago) regarding the physicality of a teenager and the responsibility of a woman being abused made me sick. The kicker though is when in his sermon he states that two teenage boys speaking lustfully about that teenage woman were simply being Biblical. This is abhorrent and needs action. It would be one thing if Patterson repented and apologized. However, there has been no such statement from him. Rather he has claimed he did nothing wrong.

Let me be clear, this post is not anti-Paige Patterson per se. Rather, I am wanting to correct a tendency in our churches to unintentionally (trying to give the benefit of the doubt) allow the ‘boys will be boys’ mantra (which is unBiblical) to seep into what we teach men and women.

I have been in way too many men’s Bible study settings where ‘ball and chain’ type of jokes are rampant. I have been in way too many settings where apathy, cynicism, sarcasm, and vulgarity are allowed to run rampant in the midst of men in our church communities, a practice that is disdainful. We teach men that they can be lone wolves with Christ devoid of accountability and repentance. They can be vulgar, obscene, complacent. They can be workaholics obsessed with their favorite sports teams, as long as they pray before meals and before bed. Now this is at times hyperbole, but it does unsettle my spirit to realize just how much of this behavior has crept into the church.

When I was met by young women in my college community who began to speak out in search of fair treatment of women in the church, unfortunately my immediate response was to view them as liberal psychos who probably didn’t shower or shave their armpits (again, hyperbole). Yet I slowly began to wrestle with the fact that we have silenced the voices of many who have had so many good and necessary things to say to the church. We give women a women’s ministry full of scrapbooking and surface-level theology, instead of equipping them to be deep-rooted disciples of Christ.

The worst part of this whole thing to me is the fact that men have departed from the church in droves. Rather than leading in the church, they have stopped showing up. Or when they do they are complacent fence-sitters at best. Yet in this immense absence of male leadership, we failed to equip women. We were content with clinging to the dregs of Christian masculine presence rather than equipping the hundreds of thousands of women in our midst who loved God.

Now I personally believe that men are the head of the household. I believe also that men are to be the pastors in our churches. However, I believe that women are able and willing to speak, teach, and lead in our churches and it’s about time that we equipped them to do just that.

I have found myself impacted by women when it comes to my faith in great ways. Auburn Powell, another former fellow OBU Bison, has encouraged me in my appreciation for God’s Word and the study of it. Jen Wilkin has blown me away with much of her writing, namely None Like Him. I’ve even found myself encouraged in my faith by Tish Harrison Warren and her book Liturgy of the Ordinary (she’s an Anglican priest, proof that you can learn from people who you don’t agree with on all accounts). All around us, women are full of love for God and His Word. We should be equipping them. Throughout recent generations a plethora of gifted and godly women have gone out to international mission work in some ways because they haven’t found places here in the United States to use their gifting.

It is time that we take sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual jokes, and sexism seriously in the church in America. It is time that we repent of our sins and seek reconciliation with our Christian sisters.

Sisters in Christ, I apologize for the way that I have viewed you in the past. I apologize for taking so long to start listening. While we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, that is no excuse for me to not have a listening ear. I apologize that you haven’t been treated as an equal in our churches. Although I believe we have different roles, I believe that they are designed to complement each other. Walk with us brothers towards mutual leadership as we all seek to pursue Christ and the glory of God together.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Reasons Why Not To Watch

Yesterday, the second season of “13 Reasons Why” came onto Netflix. As a youth pastor, it pains me to acknowledge that many of my students will be filling their minds and hearts with its content over the coming weeks and months. I acknowledge that my conscience and conviction about the following is not something you have to agree with me on. However, after exploring the content of this show’s second season, I am pleading with teenagers and adults alike to not watch this show.

Here are some reasons not to watch.

It is full of obscene talk about sex and pornographic material. 

When I first saw the trailers about this show coming out, I legitimately considered watching it on VidAngel (a great resource by the way). After reviewing the content however, I realized that if I was to take out the obscene talk about sex and the pornographic scenes, I would be left at times with a disjointed show that makes little sense. This show is laced with tons of obscenities, vulgar talk about sex and sexual acts, and then the occasional scene depicting such acts.

The argument that is made by many regarding this stuff is that it’s already in the schools and in the ‘real world’ so it’s okay to partake in and support in the entertainment world. I can’t disagree more. All that logic does is keep the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality that has seeped in even to countless adult men. There are countless men who claim Christ yet still speak and make a joke of this sacred marital gift like crazy. I believe that pains the heart of God.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29

I am horribly bad at this sometimes. While maybe not explicit, my conversations can be unwholesome and not beneficial. When I fill my mind and heart with this talk, it inevitably comes out.

It is not beneficial to my personal walk with Christ (we may disagree here).

Any choice we make, we should ask if it is beneficial to our walk with Christ. Especially in the gray matters of life.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

There are gray matters, the Bible doesn’t say don’t watch this show. But the Bible does say to make choices based on rather or not they are beneficial to your walk with Jesus. I can say that in my life, it is not beneficial at all (more on this later).

It has graphic depictions of sexual assault.

This show is known for this. There were two scenes of sexual assault in the first season and they brought one into this season as well. The curators of this content claim it is for the purpose of raising awareness and leading to conversation. I may slightly agree here because this topic is not well talked about in our churches, despite it happening more often than we care to admit. That being said, the graphic visuals of these moments have literally led people to vomit.

I understand that the Bible has its share of these moments as well. When you read Genesis and Judges in particular there are horrifying gruesome moments of sexual assault and torture that make the show’s moments pale in comparison. However, these have a purpose. They are vile and evil but they accentuate God’s grace and are to point to a hope when God will make all things right and new. This is something the show fails to do……

It is seemingly utterly devoid of hope (spoiler alert). 

 

 

Everything I’ve seen about the show (people’s responses to it) has pinpointed the fact that there is little hope. The main ‘villain’ gets three months probation for his brutal rapes, the other vile character commits sexual assault in the last episode and isn’t brought to justice. The main character is haunted by hallucinations of the young girl who committed suicide (depicted graphically mind you) in the previous season. The final scene includes several characters stopping what would have been a horrible school shooting, yet they are left with the gun as the police are almost on site. All of this pain and obscenity and vulgarity and horribleness is devoid of hope.

You can make the real world argument again, but I disagree. If we truly believe in Christ, then we have hope. When horrible things happen, we can remember that God is good and great and while we don’t understand evil we know that one day God will make everything right. It is our hope in the midst of tragedy that sets Christians apart.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to dwell on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy. Namely, Christ. There is nothing wrong with being aware of the darkness, but we are called to dwell on the light. For me, 15 hours of hopeless and vile tv is not the way to practice that.

It cannot be received with thanksgiving (again, we may disagree here). 

Lastly, for me, Scripture makes another point about the grey areas.

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. – 1 Timothy 4:4-5 

This world is full of good gifts. This world is full of things that can be received with thanksgiving. My conscience is not allowing me to watch this show because I don’t believe it can be received with thanksgiving based on the word of God.

In conclusion, I’m a youth pastor. I have been in real life conversations and situations that are more weighty than anything in this show, leading to tears in my eyes when I conclude my day. It is my hope in Christ that keeps me going, that gets me up to face the next day, to continue fighting for and praying for my students. I don’t need a 15 hour vulgarity-fest to be aware of the darkness of this world. I am pleading with you to think long and hard before you support this show.

If you are watching it for the way it raises awareness, that is a slacktivist approach. If you want to genuinely and truly be active in the public sphere about this, get involved at your local Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Have a conversation with a student in your midst.

Again, you may not agree with me here. If that is the case, I am all for having a conversation with you about it. I simply ask you to make it a respect-laced conversation and not one of villianization. I have attempted in this blog to say what is my conviction regarding this material without villianizing those who may choose to disagree with me. I respectfully ask you to treat me with the same respect.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Me, Myself, and I

“If we can just get through May.”

I’ve heard this refrain from many friends and peers recently, and I’ve even thought it and said it myself. May is a busy season. A time of endless graduation related responsibilities and end of the year awards banquets. It is full of solidifying family vacations for the summer. Many who were faithfully following resolutions for 2018 have seen themselves depart from their grandiose plans as they move from Hello Fresh planned meals to driving through Braums or Taco Casa. For the college student, finals weigh heavily on the mind. The pace of the end of the school year is relentless and hard to keep up with.

Friendships and relationships that were strong and tight but three months ago are now more distant as a result of the busyness of life, whether that is co-workers, friends, or family.

While there are definitely seasons of life that are busier than others and thus will naturally effect our relationships, I don’t believe that as followers of Christ we are to nonchalantly go along with this flow and not strive for community all the same.

While reading this evening, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is a beautiful reminder of the necessity of community. As followers of Christ, we cannot do this alone. We need people to help us up (confession and repentance), keep us warm (encouragement and support), and prevent us from being broken (spiritual warfare). If we are not encouraging, praying for, and confessing to a select group of men or women in our church community, then we are missing out on so much of what it means to follow Christ. We were designed for community. Adam was in a perfect state and yet it was not good for him to be alone. In the midst of Genesis 3′ horrible turn of events, we see that God was in the practice of walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Eden was communal.

Yet way too often that cord of three strands is just me, myself, and I.

As the end of the school year has come, I have felt this need for community, for brotherhood, but have experienced the lack of it. This is just as much my fault as anybody’s as I have not taken all the active steps necessary to cultivate relationships that bring grace to those involved and glory to God.

I am neither a husband or a father (or wife or mother). There are daily responsibilities that are not on my shoulders that many of you reading this carry. I know there is an innocence and naivety there. That being said, I believe that God’s desire is to see His church genuinely and truly care for one another with love. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s tough.

I am aware as well that we don’t live in an era where the Acts 2:46 version of church is possible (meeting every evening). That being said, I also don’t believe we live in an era where this idea of actually being the church to each other can’t be fought for.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century because I loathe the family isolation that our culture is all about. You do you and I’ll do me. THAT’S NOT THE CHRISTIAN WAY. If I take the Lord’s Supper with you, that’s me saying that my family’s habits, struggles, and joys are your business. You have the right, even the calling, to call me out when I’m leading my family in sin, just as you should be rejoicing when we rejoice and mourning when we mourn. The Bible paints a picture of community that I rarely see in this day and age.

Forgive me for ranting, I’m passionate about that topic. It is my desire to lead my family (40 days till I’m married. That’s terrifying and exciting.) in a way that puts Christian community over the status quo of what you’re supposed to do in the US of A. Again, there are things that are required. I’m not saying ditch all the end of the year events. I am saying that God made you for community and when you’re throwing that aside for unceasing pragmatic programming, I think you’re missing out on so much.

Heaven will be idyllic. There will be no more nights of fast-food, no more relentless responsibilities. Too often we think once we’re there than we’ll embrace community. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We are to be a people formed by God to bring heaven down to earth. We are to be a people formed by God in such a way that our weekly habits and rhythms stand out. I’ve caught myself looking no different than the world when it comes to my isolation and the way that I spend my weeks. Being a Christian is about being different.

I say every word out of love and every word to myself more than anyone.

As a follower of Christ, slow down.

Speak with a friend. Confess, encourage, pray together.

Go for a walk.

I don’t want to wait ’till the end of May to walk in community, cause then the finish line will just keep getting extended (let us not forget as well that rest was woven into the fabric of creation, and when we don’t allow ourselves rest we are breaking a command of God).

Be different. Be in community.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Scary Close To Leaving The Church

Donald Miller exploded onto the landscape of my life when I was in late high school. His book Blue Like Jazz came with a considerable amount of buzz and hype. Each book since then has generated even more excitement in the lives of peers. While I love his heart for storytelling and his fight against a mundane approach to life, I think that his view on one certain aspect of the Christian walk is eye-opening (yet wrong in my opinion).

Donald Miller wrote (albeit it several years ago, but there hasn’t been a retraction) that he did not find regular church attendance necessary, going so far as to allude to the church as a university that he had graduated from. He wrote that he looked upon the traditional church with fondness, but that he no longer needed it. His avenue to the Lord was personal and intimate and he was able to find community outside of the local church.

While few people have the reach in our current day and age as Donald Miller, I have heard this line of thinking hundreds of times from peers and other voices in the Christian community (i.e. – John Eldredge and the wild, rough around the edges view of manhood and faith).

I originally set out to write this blog as a critique against Miller. Instead I have felt God moving in my heart recently to consider why so many people are leaving the local church behind (while still respectfully disagreeing with those who choose to do just that).

To the Donald Millers of the world I believe that an apology is needed. Those who have left the church behind have been wounded by the church, or they have seen it as empty religiosity and unnecessary for their personal walk with the Lord. To me, looking at the Pastoral Epistles is the route necessary to see where we have gone wrong.

In his commentary, Thomas D. Lea has described the Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) as “helpful, insightful, and pulsing with spiritual warmth.” The book of Acts no doubt walks narratively through the practices of the early church, but these letters to Timothy and Titus shed light on what the church and church leaders should be like.

1. The church should be a family of faith full of mutual respect and love.I 

I could rant about the need for intergenerational discipleship all day. But for the sake of time, let me just point us to 1 Timothy 5:1-2. When it comes to our interactions, conversations, and relationships, how are we doing as far as respect and purity is concerned? The church should be a family. Not a program. Not a machine. Not a business. It should be a family where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of age or honestly regardless of behavior. Someone in our churches deserves respect and pure love not because of their actions but because they are purchased by the blood of Christ just like us.

2. Church leaders should be full of humility due to grace. 

That leads to this understanding. We see this in 1 Timothy 1:16, as Paul even late in his ministry continued to recognize his own personal need for grace, how grace was not something that he left behind. Our elders and deacons and Sunday school leaders and volunteers are most effective and most God-honoring when they understand that they are desperately reliant upon the grace of God each and every day of their lives. I am afraid many leave the church due to pastors and overseers who walk not in gratefulness for grace but rather as professionals, know-it-alls, dictators, or manipulators.

3. The church should prepare its people for the reality of life as a Christian.

2 Timothy 2:3 reminds us that the Christian walk is a battle. It is not easy to follow Christ. When our churches do not allow church to be a place where people can open up about the difficulties that they have been experiencing for living for Jesus, our when our churches preach a false gospel that is the American Dream dressed in a choir robe, people who are experiencing the realities of suffering feel out of place in the masquerade of the church. Let us be communities of faith where suffering is a reality we prepare for and walk through together.

4. Church leaders are to preach the Word with patience and instruction. 

Believe it or not, many in my generation abandon the church for a similar reason as number three. They go to church and see pie-in-the-sky optimism combined with gimmicks, facades, programs and the like. What they don’t see unfortunately in many local churches is the preaching of the Word. Solid, Biblical, sound teaching of God’s Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 encourages the pastor to do just that. Many are leaving the church because they are getting carnival games and parlor tricks instead of the theological preaching that is necessary for the health of their souls.

So to Donald Miller and company, I apologize that our churches in the United States have failed in some ways to look like the church painted for us in the Pastoral Epistles. If you’re scary close to leaving the organized local church yourself, I urge you to not. With a right understanding of what it means to be part of a local church, you can find yourself being built up in your faith. I promise. No church is perfect because it is full of imperfect people. But it’s full of imperfect people that Christ died for.

We profoundly need each other. We are immersed in the Christian life together. There is no merely private faith – everything we are and do as individuals affects the church community. – Tish Harrison Warren

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Stormtroopers On Sunday

I opened up my Bible this morning, spending a little time in God’s Word and prayer before I started my day. Honestly it felt dry and monotonous. I was not struck by some amazing nugget of Biblical truth, I didn’t hear the voice of God crash into my bedroom, and I wasn’t moved to tears by the music I was listening to as I got ready to start my day.

When mornings like this happen, I am caught off guard by how prone I am to feeling like something is wrong since it was an uneventful morning in God’s Word. It causes me to question why in the world I would feel disappointed after a morning in intimacy with the Lord.

It all comes back in my opinion to the sensationalism that is blowing up in the Southern Baptist world.

I have seen firsthand a church that did a series through the sermon on the mount entitled “That’s What He Said”. I was aghast only to discover that they had just concluded a series through the life of David entitled “Game of Thrones” with the very graphics used to advertise the show being used to advertise the sermon series. Separate the fact that GOT is horrendously pornographic (just check out VidAngel filters for how much this is shown in seemingly every episode), and this is still an attempt to make the Scriptures exciting for people.

I have seen a church that had a Star Wars themed Christmas series, complete with dancing stormtroopers on stage on Christmas Day. I have seen a churches with announcements that say literally nothing about Jesus, God, Scripture, or discipleship when advertising for Sunday morning activities. I have seen a church that sought to draw people in with a big Super Bowl Sunday service complete with crotch-grabs and obscene jokes.

Again, I totally understand that we should make our church programming appealing to those who don’t have a walk with Christ, but I think there’s a completely different way to do that.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 

It is not via our advertisements or our hip cultural connections that people are going to find lasting faith. They will find it in churches that live out their commitment to God, each other, and the community they find themselves in. We are woefully bad at this in some ways, and due to this, churches are having to sensationalize their activities every week in order to make up for the fact that the church isn’t committed to holiness or service.

Right now I’ve been taking the youth group I shepherd through the book of 1 Thessalonians, verse by verse. One thing that has become clear to me in my studies and that I’ve desired to communicate to my students is that the Thessalonian church was known everywhere throughout that region for their faith, hope, and love. They were known not for their hip cultural references, but for their faith. They were known not for having the fanciest church service in town that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but for their hope. They were known not for amazing emotional services, but instead for their love.

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 

The church was known for its commitment to the gospel message and for turning from idols. Man that gets my heart racing.

There is a better way. My heart hurts when I come to this realization that because we as the church aren’t being the church that we instead have to sensationalize everything because we think that’s the only way people will come.

Here’s what is dangerous about this. People come to our churches and experience sensationalized services, but then their devotional experiences are dry. They doubt their faith and then as adults even leave their faith because in our entertainment-saturated world they can’t find a church community that does just that. If they remain in church, they have church backwards. They go to be served and entertained instead of to serve. You know what is generally missing in this case, confession and repentance. There is not room for these historic Christian practices because there’s nothing less entertaining then admitting our sin to our small group, etc.

We’ve got to be pushing for something deeper than the sensationalism that characterizes the Southern Baptist church.

I see a generation rising up now that is abandoning the historic beliefs of the Christian faith. Instead they are wanting to do Christianity without any of the dying to yourself, church without the commitment, relationship with God without the call to holiness. The sensationalism of their youth has led them to want to be ‘authentic’ Christians who play around with sin instead of killing it. We need changes in the Southern Baptist church.

I am passionate about this because I’ve seen its affects in me. There is nothing sinful about being hip and relevant, I just caution us against it and question its ability to make lasting disciples of Jesus.

Thank you for hearing my ramblings.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Warped And Sinful Words

When it comes to sin in the minds of modern Christians, sins of aggression (hate, malice, murder) and sex (lust, adultery, sexual assault) are the ones that we tend to see with the biggest amount of physical and earthly consequences, especially in the church.

We all have heard and read the stories of pastors who have fallen into egregious sexual sin and have been removed from their flock as a result. We have heard stories of men in pastoral roles who led with hatred and malice in their hearts, becoming dictators who trampled on their staff and congregations.

I am not inclined to disagree with this sentiment.

That being said, I want to put another sin in the ring.

There are few sins that are as detrimental to the life of a church than the sin of divisiveness.

There are few sins that are as prevalent in the life of our churches than divisiveness.

Gossip, slander, drama. They are too often saturating the life of the local church. Phone calls, texts, private conversations. All full of disagreements that instead of being addressed in a healthy way are spread through the grapevine. All of these conversations destroy the health of a church.

Look with me at a couple verses out of Titus 3.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11

Earlier this week I came across this passage in my devotional time with the Lord and it has stuck with me since. That is heavy stuff, a heavy indictment against this specific sin. These verses come on the heels of a passage in Titus 3 that is all about how as followers of Christ we have been saved by God to do good works and to live lives that are worthy of God.

In verse 8 we read, I want you to stress these things (the gospel message), so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

As those who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, we are saved to do good. What’s the antithesis of that in this passage? Foolish controversies and quarrels (v. 9), and divisiveness.

The book of Titus is such a good book to study as it speaks into the life of a church, and how it is supposed to function. Titus chapter one is mainly about the qualifications of a pastor or elder. Titus chapter two has a lot to say about intergenerational discipleship. Then it concludes with this chapter about good deeds and the dangers of divisiveness. My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would take the format of this book to heart. There is much more to it than this, but here’s a simplistic takeaway:

Titus 1 – If you have appointed or hired pastors or elders in your church. Trust them. Pray for them. Support them. They have not been placed in your church to be used, abused, or be treated like puppets. God has placed them in your midst to shepherd the church.

Titus 2 – Disciple, disciple, disciple. Some churches do this well, others not so much. But the call is clear. The older men are to disciple the younger men in the church, while being willing to learn from the younger men. The older women are to disciple the younger women in the church, while also being willing to learn from the younger women.

Titus 3 – Don’t be divisive. You have been saved for good works. You have been saved to evangelize, disciple, and support the leadership of your local church. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that your pastoral staff does. This does mean that you should talk to them about it rather than engage in gossip or slander.

It pains me to acknowledge that this sin of divisiveness has been present in my life to an extreme degree in my past. Instead of seeking counsel, speaking to my pastoral leaders, or supporting them in their actions, I instead gossiped, slandered, and honestly caused division.

Please do not make the same mistake. Look with me again at how Paul responds to this type of behavior in followers of Christ. We are to warn those who are being divisive. We are to call them out privately for living in a way that is not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture then goes on to use some severe terminology about them. They are warped, sinful, and self-condemned.

That’s harsh but true. It was in my life. I was warped in my beliefs. Church was about me. Pastors were a commodity for me to use, not a shepherd to trust. I was sinful. The fact of the matter is that Christians are called to be unified in the church. Shame on us when we’re not. Lastly, divisive people and gossips are ultimately just condemning themselves each time they talk. Scripture makes clear that every word we speak we will have to give an account for (Matthew 12:36).

I pray that I would avoid the sin of divisiveness.

I pray that you would too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Surprise The World

I have been around some incredible evangelists in my life. I served with a guy named Joel in Salt Lake City who could make a seemingly innocuous conversation with a clerk at a gas station into a presentation of gospel truths. I have served with a young woman named Molly who was able to relate to seemingly all people from any walk of life and get them to understand the message of the gospel. I have been around men and women who are able to sit on a plane, a bus, or an Uber and have gospel-centered conversations with strangers. It’s impressive and cool, but sometimes discouraging.

In his book, Surprise The World, Michael Frost shares how many people in our churches feel discouraged by the evangelists in our midst because God hasn’t wired all people to be like the Billy Grahams of our age. Frost goes on to say in the book that God has a two-fold design for evangelism. God has called all to be evangelistic, but only some to fulfill the role of evangelists.

In my life, I’ve felt the pressure to be more evangelistic than I am prone to be. I led trips to Portland and Phoenix, spending a total of around 20 months in urban church-planting environments. Yet if I’m honest, I never felt like an evangelist. I did not find myself comfortable in that setting, equipped to function in such a role. I had many nights in those cities plagued with the questions of why I hadn’t done more. When in Phoenix, I lived with a friend named Marcus who made it a point to have conversations with neighbors, while I floundered in such conversations. I knew the Scriptures, loved teaching them, but actually opening up and talking about the gospel with strangers was exceedingly difficult.

Was my faith not strong enough? Why was I so bad at evangelism? These types of questions haunted me.

In his book, Frost looks to Colossians 4:2-6 as a picture of the twofold ministry of evangelism:

“For evangelists, Paul asks for opportunities to proclaim the gospel clearly (verses 3-4). But he doesn’t suggest the Colossians pray as much for themselves. Rather, evangelistic believers are to pray for the evangelists’ ministry, to be wise in their conduct toward outsiders, and to look for opportunities to answer outsiders’ questions when they arise (verses 2, 5-6).”

So in the mind of Frost, God uses those called to an evangelism role in the church to be vocal, traveling ministers of the gospel. The rest are to be wise in their conduct and ready to answer the questions of those around them who are not walking with Christ. That is where Frost comes up with the name of the book: Surprise the World. The actions of first-century Christ-followers was genuinely surprising to all who encountered them. It was their actions, rhythms, and habits that led into conversations.

Some of us are gifted orators and apologists, whom God can use to have on the spot conversations with non-believers about the good news of His Son.

The majority of us however, are to surprise the world around us with the rhythms, habits, and actions that we take. When this happens, we can vocalize why we do what we do. Here’s where we as Christians get it wrong. If we’re honest, few of our habits are affected by our belief in the gospel.

Frost puts it like this:

“If we’re trying to live questionable lives, then cutting the lawn, saying hi to the neighbors, washing our car, walking the dog, and driving to the office every day is hardly an intriguing lifestyle.”

Living the American dream with a bi-weekly church attendance and occasional Bible reading is not living in such a way that surprises the world. We’re no different than our neighbors who believe in morality if that’s the case.

That being said, in the ‘radical Christian’ age that we live in, where crazy acts of sensationalized missions brought about by guilt seem to be the rave, we need to step back and remember that ordinary acts of kindness, love, and Christlikeness is likely more appealing to the non-believer than our profile pictures from Africa or Asia. God alone deserves glory and honor and praise, and I believe that many of us are using and abusing the message of Christianity to make a name for ourselves, to be ‘world-changers’, and to leave a legacy. That is living for your own glory and it is a travesty in our current church climate. My life on earth is NOT about my desire to be remembered. It should be about Christ and God’s ultimate glorification in me.

Here are some examples from lives of those around me that are the middle ground between living a life of suburban bliss that doesn’t awaken neighbors to their need for the gospel and a life of radicalized missions that makes life about our own glory:

My father’s friend Michael who in the face of impending death due to cancer was able to live a life of joy, hope, and trust despite what was an unfair diagnosis and circumstance that ultimately led to his passing.

My friend who lives with a faith in God that is greater and stronger than any earthly circumstance that she has had to walk through in her life, including poverty, and how she has opened up her home to foster and yet remains trusting the promises of God in this season as well.

My friend Donovan who has nine children. He lives with a joy that is tremendous and he lives with a commitment to Christ and family. His devotions with children as opposed to aimless media consumption each night shows in the lives of his children and it is definitely surprising in this day and age.

My friend Sarah who manages the local Boys and Girls Club. It is a humongous task that she undertakes, dealing with the pains of seeing kids struggle with sin and being in the midst of suffering and yet at the end of the day she is able to say that Jesus is still on the throne and in control.

These are just a handful of friends who have surprised the world with the way that they live for Christ here in Vernon, Texas.

You may not be a gifted evangelist. That’s okay. Because you have been called to be evangelistic. Surprise the world with the love you have for Christ.

In His Name,

Nate Roach