Who Do You Love?

I want to be involved in church, but I don’t want to be around that person.

I want to serve on this team, but not if that person is in charge.

I want to engage with God’s Word, but not if that person is preaching.

I want a community of people to grow into Christlikeness with, but not if they’re older than me or younger than me or they go to private school or go to public school or vaccinate their kids or don’t vaccinate their kids. They better be just like me if they want to be in community with me.

Have you ever felt or thought any of these things?

If we’re real honest with ourselves, the answer would certainly be yes.

I definitely have. More often than I care to admit.

Here’s the deal though.

That doesn’t sound like love to me.

It just doesn’t.

To refuse to listen to preaching, or serve, or be in a small group because there’s someone you don’t like is about one of the least loving mindsets you and I can have.

Today I want us to be reminded of one of the more misunderstood passages in the New Testament. I’m talking about the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s read part of it together.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

One of the most important steps of studying the Bible is understanding the context of what you’re reading.

Where have you heard this passage taught?

Most likely at a wedding. This is one of the classic wedding messages.

This isn’t sinful or heretical or wrong, but it does skew our view of what this passage is about.

If you open up your Bible, you’ll see by looking around the immediate context of this passage that this is not primarily about romantic love. It’s about congregational love.

This is a description of what love should look like in the church. The last time marriage was mentioned is in chapter seven. A lot has come up since then. Just previous to this chapter is a long discussion by Paul about the role of spiritual gifts and diversity in the body.

The body of Christ.

This text is not about romantic love, it’s about congregational love.

How we doing?

How are our churches doing at this?

How are you doing at this?

I recently read a quote that was pretty abrasive.

God is looking for mature men and women to carry on His work, and sometimes all he can find are little children who cannot even get along with each other. – Warren Wiersbe

Talk about some convicting stuff.

Do we exemplify mature or childish behavior?

I’ll tell you, there’s much room for improvement in my life when it comes to loving the body like Paul teaches us to here in this passage.

I’ll be honest, my heart breaks when I hear of petty disagreements, turf wars, drama, disunity, cliques, and all the like. My heart breaks when I’m culpable in such matters.

We are called to be patient and kind. To all people. We are called not to be jealous of others. We are called to not be prideful.

We are called to not be self-seeking. The church isn’t about what any of us can gain from it. It is about what we can give to it. If anyone had the right to be self-seeking, it was Jesus. The whole universe was his. But instead of taking from the people of God, he gave his life for the people of God. Are you trying to create your kingdom of sand in your church, or are you giving your life for it?

We are called to not be easily angered. Let’s be honest with ourselves. What is at the root of the issues that fire us up? Is it about the glory of God and health of his church, or is it about  our own egos or preferences?

We are called to not be a keeper of wrongs.

This does NOT mean that you are to be a welcome mat, treated poorly over and over.

This does mean that you shouldn’t hold a grudge, but instead you should forgive them. This isn’t an easy process, it doesn’t happen in an instant, but it is what you’re called to do.

Regardless of what someone in the church has done to you, it is a far cry to all you’ve done in your rebellion towards God, which was forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Reconciliation is the desired end result here.

Divisions and disunity, cliques and squabbles, pettiness and immaturity. These grieve the heart of God.

Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

Before you think that this is an idealistic view of the church, let me remind you what the church in Corinth was like. This was a messed up place. Yes, more messed up than the church you left or the church you’re in. There was incest that wasn’t being addressed, and the people were suing one another in the church. I’d say that’s some pretty grotesque and intense stuff.

Yet, Paul doesn’t give them a way out here.

He doubles down and tells them to love one another. To be the body.

I’ll be honest, few things break my heart more than seeing the people of God full of hate for each other. Sure, there are people you will get along with better than others. There will be some that you never have a deep relationship with. There will be some that are not easy to get along with.

You know what?

You’re still called to love them.

Let us all set an example for the world around us of a people who aren’t petty, who aren’t angry, who aren’t envious or self-seeking. Let us be different. Let us be loving.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Be Quiet

It was late in the Summer of 2017.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was hanging out at my apartment in Phoenix, AZ with my friend Matt and my then girlfriend, now wife, Jamie. I got a text that my dad needed to talk to me, so I stepped outside into the 112 degree heat and gave him a ring.

My dad informed me that my eighteen year old brother who had run away about a year prior had chosen to legally remove himself from our family. This was something he could do without consulting us given the laws in Texas.

Before I even got off the phone, I was already in tears. Questions were racing through my mind.

Why would God allow this?

My parents followed God’s call to open up our home to this young man, to adopt him, to make him part of our family and bestow upon him all the blessings of parents that love him dearly.

Then he practically spat in their faces and took off.

For a year I prayed and prayed and prayed and now God allowed him to leave our family. No hope of reconciliation and restoration. No hope of a family reunion down the line where broken things are restored.

Instead, my parents lost a son and I lost a brother.

I made my way back to my door, got through it, and then collapsed to the ground. I sat there crying right in my doorway. Jamie and Matt came running and I barely eked out the words “Trevor left our family”.

For what felt like an eternity, I sobbed as Matt and Jamie sat on the floor next to me, consoling me. They didn’t speak. All you could hear were my cries.

In the book of Job, we see Job get blasted with suffering in the first two chapters. By the latter half of chapter two, Job is alone in his suffering, his own wife leaving him to suffer in silence.

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Job 2:11-13 

We learned from the first chapter of Job that Job was a man of renown in the region where he lived (1:3). Word of his suffering spread, and three of his friends from the surrounding area came and sought to encourage him.

They noticed how much pain he was in, joined in his pain, mourned with him, and said nothing to him for a week.

These three will later show their foolishness to us, but here at the onset they teach us a considerable amount about how to respond to the suffering of a friend.

The main truth is this.

Keep your mouth shut.

Suffering as a Christian is a reality. It is a promise straight from the lips of our Savior. It is to be expected. That being said, what a Christian or non-Christian for that matter needs to know in the midst of their suffering is that you are for them and that you are with them.

I’m sure many of us have stories where we sought to open up about a difficulty, a tragedy in our lives, only to be told right off the bat by good-hearted, well-meaning Christians that God has a purpose for our pain.

There are a plethora of Scriptures that teach that. We saw just in our last blog that God uses good and bad for our benefit, and that we should be willing to accept both from Him (Receiving Bad From God). But, in the throes of intense suffering, the best thing that you can do is keep your mouth shut. Cry with them. Mourn with them. Sit with them. Listen to them rant, listen to them cry out about God and against him. As time progresses, then you can share the beautiful truths of Scripture. But you do the faith a disservice when you come in with cookie-cutter statements.

Matt and Jamie sat and mourned with me.

They let me get angry, get sad, wrestle with God.

They never brought up anything. They simply listened.

Imagine if I had come through the door of my apartment, collapsed on the ground, only for Matt and Jamie to say “Don’t cry, God’s got a plan”. That would have been the most detrimental thing they could have done in that moment.

Look at this verse.

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 

I’m sure we all have stories of when someone spoke too soon instead of listening to us in our pain. I have been on both sides. I have been spoken to instead of listened to, but I’ve also opened my stupid mouth in the midst of the suffering of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s not be the type of people who take away coats on cold days. Let’s not be people who, even in a church setting like Sunday School, offer up trite and flippant sayings from Scripture instead of letting people have a place to suffer and yet feel loved.

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that many have left church, or even given up on following Jesus, because you and I open our mouths instead of keeping them shut.

Christian, be quiet.

Let us show our communities that our churches are places where they can suffer, where they can be raw about their doubts and angers, their fears and anxieties, their wrestling with God. If our churches aren’t a safe place for people to wrestle with God in suffering, we will continue to see our churches die out as the next generation finds more loving people outside the church than inside it.

Again, I’m not accusing anyone of malicious ill will.

I’m rather reminding us that we all struggle, we all wrestle, we all fight, we all doubt, we all lose hope in the midst of suffering. If you have had a suffering-free life, you’re likely a kid or the luckiest person alive. So why do we not allow people to suffer? Why don’t we allow them the place and space to get to the point where they, like Job, can say “My Redeemer lives”.

Sometimes that is hard to say right off the bat.

For me, it has taken years to get to the point where I can reflect on Trevor’s story and have hope. Some days it still wanes.

Let’s suffer together.

Christian, be quiet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Searchlights

A long time ago when I was but a child, while at the beach in North Carolina, my family went on a walk. It was pretty late in the evening, and only the stars and our little flashlights lit the way for us. My sister decided to run on ahead (with permission) to make it back to the beach house where us and our extended family were staying. We continued our walk at a leisurely pace, but when we arrived back at the beach house, we couldn’t find her.

We all responded to this in different ways. Some of us shrugged it off, assured that she would come back around to the house. Others of us lost it, balling and freaking out (okay, this might have been me), thinking of the worst case scenarios. As the minutes ticked by, uncles and cousins and siblings continued making the trek out to the beach to yell her name and to try and find her.

We didn’t just turn on a Brian Reagan comedy special and go about our night. Rather, we continued praying and seeking.

We eventually called the non-emergency number for the police, who informed us that some Coast Guard helicopters were flying over our stretch of the beach, and that they would use their spotlights to try and locate her. In other circumstances, this would have been totally dope.

At long last, my Uncle Jay ended up being the MVP, locating her huddled up next to a sand dune a little bit down the shore from our house. She was safe. She had been found.

My entire extended family did what they could to differing degrees (I was pretty useless) to find my sister and bring her home. We were not content to just enjoy the rest of the evening, claiming that 8 out of 9 cousins being safe was a pretty good percentage.

Your community has lost people that need to be found. Your community has people that are shrouded in darkness, who need the hope-bringing light that Jesus offers. Let us not ever grow content to continue entertaining ourselves (with witty pastors rather than comedians) while we know that there’s someone out there that needs to come home.

Look with me at Scripture. Yes, it’s another passage out of 2 Corinthians (it’s been my jam lately).

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

There are two types of people in the world.

There are those who are being blinded from the light of the gospel by the enemy of our souls, Satan.

And there are those who have had God shine light into our hearts. What is this light? This light is the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This light is Jesus.

Now, let’s be brutally honest with ourselves for a second, those of us who have the light of Jesus in us.

Are we just chilling in our beach house?

Are we simply having a good time, being entertained, being fed, being with our faith family, soaking it all in? Or are we taking the light we have out onto the shore, searching for our lost friends and family members?

I’m often not.

I believe in the local church. 100%. I am finding myself more and more alone in this point of view with people my age, but it’s what I believe all the same. The local church is the method through which God reaches our communities.

That being said, our local churches can miss the mark when they’re only ever about those who are already in the family of Jesus.

I’m young, and I’m blunt, and that’s not always a good thing.

Because I’m young, I’ll let an older pastor say it his way.

Josh Howerton, a pastor in Rockwall that I am dying to be friends with, said that we as the church should do whatever it takes, barring sin, to reach the lost in our communities.

Whatever it takes.

That’s my heart. In my short time in ministry, just three years, I’ve seen tragedies and seen churches focused too much on themselves. I see my heart focused too much on itself. All too often.

My heart wants comfort. My heart wants the status quo. My heart wants easy. My heart wants to watch Brian Reagan in the beach house while eating seventeen bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

But the truth is, we would not have found my sister if we simply turned on all the lights in our beach house and said come find us.

We would not have found my sister if we simply kept ourselves distracted by entertainment on the TVs or by arguing and bickering about who had claim to what food in the fridge or what room in the house.

We would not have found my sister if we told ourselves that we shouldn’t go, because it’s uncomfortable or scary or we just have never done things like that before.

No, we found my sister by lighting that shoreline up.

We did whatever it took to find her.

We did whatever it took to bring her home.

As the people of God, we have been given a gift. The light of God through Jesus that has pierced our hearts. God removed the veil that the enemy had put over our eyes.

Let us flood our communities with searchlights.

It’s time to bring the lost home.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

The Face Of Comfort

God has strengthened and comforted me lately. In the midst of tragedy and dark days, He has carried me like a father carries His son. He has shown me that when I am dependent upon Him, deliverance will come, in one way or another (The God Of All Comfort).

God is a comforter.

It’s not just something He does, it’s part of the essence of who He is.

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus – 2 Corinthians 7:6

God comforts the downcast.

God comforts me.

This comfort is not something that leads me into complacency. In fact, the comfort of God on my life is the very thing that drives me forward as a follower of Jesus. Or, according to 2 Corinthians, it should be.

Let’s look at the basis for this assertion real quick.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God comforts me and you in our affliction. That’s beautiful.

But there’s a call in this. We are comforted in affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction

In my 2 Corinthians journal (if you don’t have any of the ESV Scripture Journals, you’re missing out), I wrote to the side “God’s comfort of me should lead me to comfort others.” Now I’m probably not winning any awards for deep and poetic rhetoric, but that’s the unavoidable truth of this passage. It’s what has been in the back of my mind all week.

I live in a city that is full of people who are in need of comfort and strength, both inside and outside our churches.

The same is true for where you live.

If I’m receiving comfort of God while refusing to extend that same comfort to those around me, I’m missing the point.

When you look at 2 Corinthians 7:6, it’s cool to see that Titus got to be the face of comfort in the lives of Paul and Timothy. God comforted them via Titus.

God is the source of comfort, but you and I can be the face of it.

So, what types of people can we comfort?

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Trials 

I pull out my phone, start to type out a message, but then quickly put it away. This happens again and again. Circumstances are weighing heavy on my heart, but taking the plunge to ask for prayer is decidedly difficult, even with trusted friends in my faith community.

We live in a church culture that sometimes makes it difficult to simply say “I’m in need.” As followers of Jesus who have been comforted by God however, we should strive to make our faith community one where people can be real honest about the battles they are facing. One of the enemy’s greatest tricks is convincing our brothers and sisters in Christ that the church is where you should pretend to have it all together.

I have a friend who texts me every once in a while with a simple “How can I be praying for you and your family?”. That simple text reminds me that there are men and women praying for me and my family. The more we can do that for others, the better.

What can you do to extend comfort and strength to those in your church who need it?

And remember, Paul and Timothy felt at the point of death itself (1:8), so it’s not weakness to admit you need help too.

Those Inside The Family of God Who Are In Sin

This is probably the group of people where I struggle with this the most. I see things in black and white, not much grey. But there are innumerable people in our churches who need strength and comfort in the midst of battling sorrow for their sin.

For the unrepentant habitual lifestyle of sin, there are hard words that need to be spoken.

But for the struggling mother, father, husband, wife, worker, friend, or neighbor who acknowledges their sin and desires to change, what they need is not a reprimand, but a word of comfort and strength.

so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. – 2 Corinthians 2:7

Paul is here addressing someone in the church at Corinth who had sinned, causing pain to many. Although I don’t know all the details of this situation (I love that there’s always more to study in the Bible), I find it interesting that Paul commands them to comfort him.

Our churches are full of sinners.

Sinners who see their sin but don’t see grace need to be strengthened and comforted.

Those Outside The Family of God Who Need Hope 

Lastly, we should be comforters of those outside our walls that need hope to keep moving forward. Our world offers innumerable distractions and false gods to occupy the hopeless mind, but ultimately what every person needs is Jesus.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing – 2 Corinthians 2:15

What a weird term.

I am the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing (without hope).

So the extremely weird question we gotta ask is do people smell Christ when they’re around us?

I’ve sat in so many budget meetings and committee meetings and staff meetings in my short life, and while there is a place for them, arguments about money and preferences and plans fall short when it comes to spreading hope.

Side note: this verse doesn’t say that your pastor or your church or your men’s ministry is the aroma of Christ for your lost neighbors.

Nope.

It’s supposed to be you!

In the wake of so many tragic situations in my city, I can’t help but ask myself regularly how I can continue imperfectly bringing hope to a world that needs it.

God can comfort and strengthen you.

He does that so that you can comfort and strengthen others.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

You Are Holy, Not Just Heaven Bound

One day, I’m gonna die.

When I die, because I have placed my faith in Jesus, I will spend the rest of eternity in communion with Him and all the saints in a place called heaven. It will be a place where there are no more tears, pain, sin, or death. It will be a place where all will have been made right. It will be a place where we have perfect communion with God. I believe it will be here on earth, that ‘heaven’ will be God restoring creation to the perfection of the pre-fall period, not blowing it all up and starting again (ultimately though, who knows).

All that to say, heaven sounds pretty great.

Unfortunately, many of us (yours truly too) live as if the blood of Jesus ONLY seals our eternal locale.

The Bible however teaches us that the blood of Jesus makes us holy.

If we evaluate our memories, our experiences, our childhoods, many of us would conclude that we were talked to way more often about where we are going (heaven or hell) than what we have become.

Now, heaven is obviously a great thing for us to look forward to. I definitely look forward to the perfection that is promised in Scripture. I look forward to seeing Christ face to face, seeing those I love who are also in perfect communion with God (they aren’t waiting for me, mind you, they’re in a perfect utopia, remember?).

But, the Christian life is not just about the endgame (oh, wow, just typing that makes me excited for the Avengers movie that is about to come out. Just thirteen more days)!

The Christian life is about who we are, not just where we’re going.

The Christian life is about holiness, not just heaven.

If following Jesus was only about going to heaven when we die, then we wouldn’t need to care about living lives of holiness today.

Oops, I just described how I too often live.

I just described how many of us who claim Jesus live.

If following Jesus is just about dying and going to heaven, then honoring Him with our actions, thoughts, words, and habits in the here and now isn’t that important.

In some churches, we have been taught more than this. We have in fact been taught about holiness, and how being set apart should show itself in every area I described above. But even in those settings and circumstances, we can hear it the wrong way. 

Since I was sixteen years old, my dad has encouraged me with the following mantra: “Be God’s Man.” He has texted it to me, told me face to face, e-mailed it, and modeled it.

Here’s how I have misheard it at times.

In moments where the gospel is far from my view, I start to make it a standard to live up to, instead of my identity to walk in.

In those moments I strive with all my vigor and power to become the man of God that Jesus is calling me to be through the encouragement of men like my father. When I fail to live up to my self-imposed standard, I feel woefully inadequate.

But, man alive, listen up!

Because of my faith in Jesus, I AM God’s man! I am a child of God! It’s not something I have to earn or live up to, it’s something I already AM! That’s where the power for holy living is found! The grace of God! My dad’s encouragement is for me to walk out who I AM, not earn the title!

My point is, many of us hear about calls to holiness in church. If you attend the church I work at, you’ve likely heard it from me. We can hear these calls to holy living and misunderstand. We can hear these calls to holy living and spend our energy and effort trying to earn the title of holiness. Yet, Scripture makes it clear that we already are holy in the sight of God! We are already saints! Already set apart! Already righteous!

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

The title of holy is not something you have to earn, it’s who you ARE.

Let’s quickly run through just two implications of this.

If I’ve been made holy in the sight of God, it is my Savior who should be praised, not my sin. 

Let me be clear, repentance and confession are powerful. Acknowledging my sins to my wife, friends, and family in Christ is important. There is freedom found in doing this. But if my sin becomes the point of emphasis in an effort to be “authentic” and “transparent”, I am glorifying the very thing that put Jesus on that cross.

My youth group knows that I sin. I tell them.

My family and friends know. They see it.

Those I disciple know that I sin.

But my youth group, family, friends, and those I disciple all know as well that I have a Savior in Christ Jesus who set me free from anything they see and anything I confess. I glorify my Savior, not my sin. Let us not be so concerned about not being judgmental to others that we start to parade our sin and not our Savior.

If I’ve been made holy in the sight of God, so are all others who follow Him

Our churches are full of men and women who are prone to act like immature toddlers (same as I). Gossip, slander, backbiting, attention seeking, anger, rudeness, selfishness. There is this in abundance. But, if we are all holy, shouldn’t we thus see the best in those around us? Where would gossip and slander go if we acknowledged that Becky and Brandon were holy? Where would the selfishness and attention-seeking go if we realized we were all equal in the sight of God?

I believe that these classic church sins would disappear if we saw each other as fellow recipients of the holiness of Christ.

You, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, are holy.

Stop trying to earn it. 

Stop waiting to live with and for Christ once you die.

Accept who you are.

Let it change everything about you.

Nothing so floods our hearts with the experience of God’s grace as making sure it overflows from our hearts. – Bryan Chapell 

In His Name,
Nathan Roach

 

 

 

We’re Losing Them

We’re losing the next generation of students.

Yet, we’re not losing them in the way we might think.

We’re not losing them to evil, malicious, atheist professors in college.

We’re not losing them to the temptations of this broken world we find ourselves in today.

We’re not losing them to some craze where they indulge in the world once they get their college independence.

No, we’re losing them much earlier than that.

We’re losing them while they are students in our churches, even as early as elementary school.

Right now, I function as the family discipleship pastor at my church in Vernon. My primary role is in youth ministry, but my role includes children and young families.

Here’s what I truly believe. If we as the church were perfectly doing what we’re called to do, my job wouldn’t exist. It just wouldn’t.

Now, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there is no aspect of the Christian life that I do perfectly. But if we were to get there as a church family in the area of discipleship, we wouldn’t need me.

Before I get to my reasons as to why we’re losing the next generation while they are sitting in our churches as kids and teens, let me start with the great things I’ve seen in my specific context.

We have children’s ministry leaders right now who have served faithfully, often unthanked, for decades. They have given of their time and effort.

Last Summer, our church’s generosity was astounding. Via a luncheon and auction, we raised enough money to send every single student to camp free of charge.

We have youth ministry leaders who give not only their Wednesday nights, but their Sunday mornings to our youth group. I can’t do what I do in ministry without people like them.

But let’s get to where there’s still work for all of us to do.

Here’s why we as the church in America are losing them.

We segregate them from the rest of the church

Most churches have the following:

Youth Sunday School and Children’s Church. Youth group and children’s programming on Wednesdays, distinct from the rest of the church. Homegroups for youth only on Sunday nights. All of these generally take place apart from the rest of the church.

Here’s what this not so subtly communicates to our students and children.

You’re not part of us.

Now, I know that’s nobody’s intent by any means. But it’s what happens subconsciously.

It’s what happened to me for a season.

When I went to college at OBU, I struggled for all four years to get involved in a local church. It’s one of my biggest regrets. I was a member at one, sure. But I never went all in. Instead, I’d sneak in and sneak out of the service, never really getting involved.

I believe many of our children and students who end up leaving a local church in college do so because they didn’t feel part of a local church as a child or teen.

In Scripture, I’ve never seen children and young adults separate from the body. Instead, I see mothers investing in sons, children being brought to Jesus, and teenagers being called out and used by Jesus. The only reason children’s and youth ministries exist is because we made church aboutfun and entertainment, comfort and preferences.

We condemn them more than we invest in them

Ouch. This one hurts me. Even as the family pastor here in Vernon, I fall into this one. I don’t believe I’m alone in that.

When I peruse social media, I see Christians condemning and demeaning the next generation. Regularly. Are there things about the next generation’s behavior that isn’t in line with Christ? Absolutely. Can the same be said for any and all of us? Absolutely, times a thousand.

I find myself treating kids and students as problems to be fixed or maintained rather than young men and women to be discipled. I’m thankful for a wife who calls me out when needed in this way.

Our kids and students know what you say about them and what you think about them. They see you complaining about this generation in comparison to the good ol’ days, and they see you refusing to invest in them.

They leave their church family because that’s not how families are supposed to act.

We teach them fluff and stuff

Felt boards and dating tips. That’s probably that which comes to mind the quickest when you think about children and student ministry respectively.

Too often, our churches are teaching our kids and teens the most frivolous and flippant things. Too often, our churches are not giving the next generation the meat of the Bible. This too is a new method. The catechisms of the early church were rigorously taught to young Christians.

The next generation is leaving the church because the fluff and stuff doesn’t mean anything to them. They aren’t prepared to know the story of the Bible. They aren’t prepared to love God and love others.

We promise too much

In an effort to avoid teaching fluff and stuff, we can unfortunately go the other direction and promise them too much.

Here’s what I mean.

We promise students changed lives and a changed world.

At first glance, this seems just fine, right?

But here’s how we teach these things incorrectly.

We teach them that they can see their lives transformed in a moment, and we teach them that they, not Jesus, can change the world.

Sanctification, becoming like Christ, is an arduously long process. It’s never quick. Yes, our standing before God is changed in an instant when we accept the sacrifice of Christ. Our temptations and sin struggles persist, however. Students go to college or grow up and give up on faith because they were told they could overcome all the sin in their life in just a few moments.

You won’t change the world.

I won’t change the world.

Jesus changed the world, and only He continues to change the world.

This is what I teach the students at our church. God uses ordinary people in ordinary jobs in ordinary places through ordinary churches to make disciples.

Students are leaving the church in college or when they grow up because they were told they were world-changers, and yet they really aren’t.

If the next generation isn’t discipled, our churches will close their doors.

We aren’t losing the next generation in college.

We’re losing them now.

Let’s do something about it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Jesus Isn’t On Your Team

We like to make the claim that Jesus is on our team.

For some of us, He’s a conservative, good ol’ boy American white man who bled red, white, and blue in the Garden of Gethsemane and wants nothing more than to see the United States prosper through Republican ideals.

For some of us, He’s a liberal, social justice warrior who wants nothing to do with organized religion and if He was here would vote purely Democratic on all ballots and bills.

Jesus is on one of these teams we believe.

And we know for a fact that He wouldn’t be on the other team.

Let’s take politics out of it for a second.

For some of us, Jesus is against movies, cards, and playing dice. He is all about commands, three-piece suits on Sunday mornings, and obedience, obedience, obedience. His yoke is heavy and we better earn our standing before Him.

For some of us, Jesus is all about grace. Go ahead and indulge at times, there is forgiveness and freedom. Come as you are. Be broken. Be authentic. Don’t be like the fake hypocrites who fill organized churches.

We know for a fact that Jesus is on one of these teams.

And we know for a fact that He wouldn’t be on the other team.

Here’s the thing. I have grown tired and pained by the rhetoric that fills our conversations these days. I’ve read and heard member after member of Christ’s body publicly call Democratic politicians idiots, monkeys, and fools. I’ve read and heard member after member of Christ’s body publicly call Republican politicians bigots, racists, and fools.

I’ve read and heard people attack organized churches for being full of hypocritical people. I’ve read and heard people attack those who aren’t committed to church by calling them licentious fools.

I’ve heard it and I’ve said it. .

Here’s what I read in Scripture though.

Countless times and in countless ways, God operates in ways that we cannot fathom, in ways that don’t fit into our preconceived notions about what He would be about.

God isn’t American.

God isn’t Republican or Democratic.

God calls His people into obedience but also extends grace.

He doesn’t fit into my box.

Let me show you one such way.

What we’ve popularized in our American churches is that God fights for the US of A. We proudly wave our flags in our churches and make the audacious claim that God is entitled to give our nation victory. I’ve written in length in other posts that this way of thinking is incorrect.

God fights for His people, the church, not the nation of the United States of America. Not only that, there are actually countless times throughout Scripture that He doesn’t fight for His people.

I’ve been reading through 2 Kings to start the year. Today I came to chapter five. In 2 Kings 5 we read a story of God using Elijah to heal a man named Naaman. Pretty cool. But let’s look at who Naaman was.

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. – 2 Kings 5:1

Wait.

What?

Naaman was a man who led the army of one of Israel’s enemies, and the Scriptures say that the Lord used him to give victory to the enemies of Israel. Wow. That doesn’t fit into our box. Or at least it doesn’t fit into mine.

As we read the rest of the story, we will see God heal this enemy of His people. For a purpose.

Naaman ends up boldly proclaiming that there is no God in all the world except for the God of Israel (v. 15); and that he will make no sacrifices to any other false deity, but rather to God and God alone (v. 17).

Let’s modernize this.

Do you believe that God can save and heal and work through the enemies of God’s people?

Time and time again God’s grace extends to those we would never fathom could receive it. Time and time again in Scripture we see that God is greater and higher than our petty fights. Time and time again in Scripture we see that God fights for His purposes on behalf of His glory and for our good.

In Joshua 5, Joshua asks if God fights for His people or against them and God responds by saying, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come (v. 14).”

The Scriptures show us that God doesn’t play on our teams.

Yet our traditions have tricked us into believing He does.

Jesus didn’t wear a three-piece suit.

Jesus showed his love for the Father by obeying the Father.

Jesus’ heart was grieved by the wickedness of man.

Jesus fought for the rights of ALL people.

Jesus wasn’t a Republican or a Democrat.

Jesus wasn’t an American.

So, in 2019, as followers of Jesus, let’s strive to follow His lead (through His Word) as we love, confront sin, call to holiness, and lay our misinformed traditions down.

I look forward to the day where I worship around the throne of King Jesus, a middle-eastern man, with Iraqi and Iranian (maybe some from ISIS itself), German and Japanese believers. I look forward to the day when I worship around the throne of King Jesus with Democrats and Republicans alike, and I pray my actions and words until then give glory to the Lord and grace to those who hear them.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach