Bored At Church

Every Sunday and Wednesday I look out in the youth room or in the sanctuary and I see a lot of stoic, tired faces. Maybe there’s small talk, but people seem at times to be in the room simply because the doors are open. When I ask one of the students to pray at youth, I’m often met with twenty seconds of silence until some brave soul raises their hand.

A lot of weeks, I don’t understand this stoicism, this exhaustion, this ‘it’s Sunday so we should be here’ mentality. What we are doing at the weekend and midweek services is the experience of encountering God together.

That should be the least boring experience known to man.

We get to commune with the God of all creation, the God who is at work in our world day after day.

*yawn*

How can we be bored at church? How can we look like we’re exhausted and are there out of obligation and duty? How can we have no excitement, no anticipation, no joy (I guess it’s down in our hearts)?

I go to sporting events, game nights, golf courses and movie premieres. At all of these places (and many more) I see followers of Jesus pumped, excited, and joyful. I see them worshipping. I see them cheering, not caring what others think around them. Heck, I see some aspects of worship before a tasty meal at a great restaurant.

So why is it that we’re bored in church?

It’s not an issue of not having the capacity to worship.

Most people would respond to such an outlook with statements about setting, vibes, culture, style, etc. The enemy of our souls has stolen the worship of multitudes of modern Christians by giving us a consumeristic viewpoint to the church.

When I look at Scripture, I see no caveat to deep worship.

God’s worthiness of our praise is not dependent upon earthly things.

The ability to worship is not an issue of style or setting or atmosphere. The ability to worship is an issue of awe.

I’m afraid too many of us have no awe of God, and so we are definitely bored at church. We don’t commune with God in prayer. We don’t look at the character and works of God as described for us in Scripture. We don’t thank God for what He’s done in our lives or in the lives of those around us. We’re distracted by earthly things and so we have no awe when we enter the worship settings in our local churches.

I’m afraid too many of us need a ‘feeling’ in our stomachs to worship.

Again, the enemy of God has done a great job of making worship about feelings. We want to feel something. When we don’t, when the music isn’t Elevation Worship or Hillsong, we fall back into a passive attendance, a bored experience.

How sly and cunning our enemy is. He takes a good thing (feelings of God’s presence) and makes them the end goal. He stifles our worship with an obsession with feeling.

We can fight back.

Here’s just a few things you can do to not be bored in church.

1. Pursue the Greatness of God

Those who get pumped at sporting events know the ins and outs of the teams they cheer for. Those who get pumped at playing video games will research and even watch other people play the same game. We worship what we pursue. Get into the Word of God. Get before God in prayer. Encounter Him in His greatness. When I’m communing with God during the week, I can’t help but give Him my all in worship on the weekend!

2. Pray Before Attending The Service

Our worship problem is often a prayerlessness problem. We don’t ask God to give us worshipping hearts and then we wonder why we’re easily distracted, bored, and turned off to the service. We don’t ask God to give us a new mentality, then we wonder why we’re so consumeristic and selfish when it comes to worship. We don’t ask God to stir our hearts, and then we wonder why we’re cold and dry. Do you pray as a family the night before church, before you leave on Sunday morning, or before you get out of the car in the parking lot? It’s no wonder we struggle to worship when we don’t actively pray for help to do so.

3. Practice a Posture of Worship

Posture can guide our hearts and minds in worship. When we raise our hands, close our eyes, get on our knees, etc., we tune ourselves into the presence of God. The Bible is chock full of examples where the people of God praise God in exuberant fashion. If you’re focused on what others think, you won’t worship. My prayer is that my daughter Gracie sees the same level of worship from me at church on Sunday as she sees at a football game on Friday night.

Let me close with this quote from Max Lucado. I enjoy him for devotional reading and he has a great chapter on this concept in his book Just Like Jesus.

Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a ‘nice’ service. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find. A few, however, seek more. A few come with childlike enthusiasm.

I want to be a man who comes to worship like a child.

I want to be a man who isn’t content with a nice, normal, typical, boring experience in the presence of God.

I want more.

And when I want more, God is able and willing to provide more.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Diary Of A Wimpy Pastor

It was a bajillion degrees outside in Phoenix, AZ, and I was sitting in the parking lot of Lifeway (my second home) on the phone with my Dad. I was unleashing upon his eardrums a tirade of frustration, complaint, and whining. Life was unfair according to me. I was facing what to me at the time was a mountain of impassable difficulties. And I was letting my Dad know all about it. Yet my Dad’s response was to lovingly listen to me and then tell me to man up and push forward. So I called someone else. I called whoever I could, waiting for someone to give me the green light to give up and give in to my complaints. But man after man spoke strength into my life, rather than give me the license to give up. I limped through the rest of my commitments and then headed back to Texas.

This morning I was reading and came across the following verse.

If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! – Proverbs 24:10

I’m seeking to memorize that verse this week because it’s a convicting one. If I falter in a time of trouble, my strength is small.

What’s become explicitly clear to me in the last year of ministry in Vernon is that getting out of one difficult situation didn’t make my life perfect. There sure was a honeymoon stage of excitement in the vast unknown of the new adventure, but the trials came, and the difficulties arose. And whenever God calls me out of Vernon, there will be troubles and difficulties at the next place too.

What these experiences and this proverb have taught me is that I’m a wimpy pastor.

Being a wimpy pastor isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s how I respond to the wimp in me that determines if I’m walking in sinful behavior or not.

As a kid, I wanted out of difficult situations. It’s why I tried to quit football my Sophomore year of high school after one week of practice. I knew I was going to get lit up like the Fourth of July day after day and I was no longer interested. Thankfully my parents made me honor my commitment. They were people of their word.

Yet I wanted to run.

That’s a sinful response in my opinion, or at least it’s prone to be. If I’m seeking to run from all my troubles, I will never develop the strength to overcome them.

If I’m a runner and not a fighter, then I will bail from responsibilities, from interceding for my students and family. That’s not what God has called men to, or women to for that matter.

So, I acknowledge I’m wimpy.

To find the strength to overcome, I need to acknowledge something.

I need God’s strength.

You see, God DOES give us more than we can handle.

Look at Scripture!! Again, Biblical illiteracy is an epidemic these days.

Look at Abraham, Moses, Job, the Israelites in Egypt, Paul, Peter, Esther, Joshua, Gideon, David. I wish I had space to unpack every one of these stories, but I don’t. But go back and read these narratives! God gave every single one of these characters more than they could handle. Why? So that they would rely on Him. Why? So that when victory came, it would prove that only God could have brought it, only God could have won the day.

I know that I’m going to face more than my own weak little self can handle. This wimpy pastor can’t face all the evil of our day in my own strength. I must be wholly dependent upon God.

For me, I needed my Dad and others in my life to tell me to keep fighting, to keep going.

I have an adversary. I have an enemy. Satan comes to bring the fight to my doorstep. When things are going well, when God has been blessing my wife and I’s ministry here in Vernon, I know to be on guard against temptation and to buckle up and get ready for trials. I have an enemy, not that I’m scared of, but that I’m aware of.

What’s awesome to me is that the Bible tells us how to overcome him.

And they (the saints who went before us) overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. – Revelation 12:11

I’m a wimpy pastor.

I get nervous and fearful, anxious and worried. Not only do I face my own battles, I’m often acutely aware of the battles of my brothers and sisters in Christ as well.

What’s the antidote to my wimpy nature? The Bible teaches that I’m weak if I give up when trouble comes.

So how do I overcome? How do I push through?

First, I rest in the blood of the Lamb. The battle has already been won. Jesus already accomplished the victory. Satan just doesn’t know when he’s beat.

Second, I speak the words of my testimony over my life. Not some mythical or magical incantation. No, I simply remind myself of all that God has done in my life. The bajillion times that He’s been faithful. The gazillion times that He’s come through for me. When I speak the truth of God’s faithfulness to myself, I’m far less likely to give into despair and timidity.

Lastly, I stop loving my life.

Not that I begin to manufacture depression or discouragement, by no means. Rather, I realize that life on this earth is not the end game. If I give my literal life for the students of Vernon (extremely unlikely), then so be it. Satan can’t really do anything to me if I don’t mind dying for the cause of Christ.

I’m prone to being a wimpy pastor.

But I don’t stay that way.

You may be like me. You may be a wimp at times. If so, I pray that these passages and truths are encouraging to you just as they have been to me. Let’s grow in our courage together. If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends! I’m also open to discussion if you would like to comment below. Thanks for reading my ramblings.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Grace To Say No

The enemy of our souls has crafted a debilitating and devastating one-two punch with which he wages war against us. The combination of temptation followed by shame in the aftermath of failure can leave us reeling and broken. I can think of countless times where I’ve been there.

We let our guard down, allowing our ears to be itched by the enemy with the enticing ‘promises’ of present pleasure and enjoyment. When our minds aren’t bathed in Scripture and prayer they becomes increasingly susceptible to these sly and alluring lies to give in to the desires of our flesh and act in sinfulness. The deed is done, as the lustful thoughts enter the mind, the angry word lashes out at the friend, the white lie is uttered from the mouth. Yet the enemy isn’t done with us quite yet.roadblock

After giving into sin, the enemy attacks us with shame, guilt, and condemnation. He leaves us grasping for grace, doubting its power to truly redeem and purify us of our most recent fault. We come crawling to the cross for redemption, but we wrestle in our minds and deepest hearts about whether or not there is actual grace for the 1001st fault.

Yet even with a Biblical and right understanding of the power that grace has to forgive us of our deepest faults, we can still get caught in a discouraging cycle of a habitual sin if we don’t realize that grace has power before we sin as well.

The cycle goes something like this. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. We may have seasons of strong victory over our habitual sin, but if we don’t understand grace’s one-two punch, we are destined to remain in such a cycle of despair and discouragement. Been there. Done that. Bought that t-shirt. I don’t want to be stuck in a cycle of sin again. So how do we overcome, and stand firm in temptation?

We understand the full power of grace at work in our lives. We understand that grace is not only there for us when we fail, it is there for us before we even come close.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-14

Wow. Read that passage again. Really meditate on it and strive to comprehend it. The grace of God teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. It teaches us to live lives of self-control, uprightness, and godliness. This doesn’t come from a self-help book (been there, done that), it doesn’t come from simply willing yourself to be better. The power to change and get free of habitual sin lies in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, combat the one-two punch of the enemy. Don’t get dragged down into a never-ending cycle of temptation and condemnation. Counter with not just the grace that we are given when we sin (because we will continue to make mistakes), but the power that grace gives you and I to say no to that which our flesh wants to say yes to.

How do we receive this power? By faith in what Christ has done, and hope in what that means for eternity.

This passage is beautifully explicit about what Christ has done for you and I who worship Him as Lord. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify us. You and I have been redeemed from the stain of sin, we have been purified from the infection of our flesh. Christ did this. Not because of anything we could do, but because of His great mercy and love (Titus 3:5).

Let that saturate your mind and heart. Let that seep through the broken cracks of your sinfulness and let it come as a breath of fresh air. In Christ, we have grace that is greater than all our sin.

Implementing the power of grace to say ‘no’ to our temptations does not come by way of formula or steps. It comes by way of meditating on the gospel and proclaiming aloud that “that’s not me”. When temptation comes your way, proclaim the wonders and goodness of God’s grace. When temptation beckons, combat it with prayer and the recitation of Scripture. Maybe you memorize this passage and use it to wage war on the enemy. Whatever method you may use to combat sin and experience grace, let Christ be central.

Oh how foolish and naive I am when I attempt to combat sin through my own strength. Oh how fortunate and blessed I am that I don’t have to.

The power to overcome sin is the Lord’s.

Meditate on His grace.

Walk in freedom.

Wage war.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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