Currahee

The summer after my freshmen year of college, my dad and I watched the Band of Brothers HBO mini-series. It was a sort of coming of age moment for me, and to watch it alongside my dad was a great experience. This blog is not the space to address thoughts on entertainment, war, etc. I will say however that if you choose to watch this, skip the start of Episode 9.

Anyways, the first episode is entitled “Currahee” and it documents the training of Easy Company, which the mini-series will follow throughout the entirety of WW2. In this episode we see two leaders. One is a horrible example and the other is worthy of emulation. The entire series is big on leadership, but this opening episode teaches us a lot on what makes a good leader.

You see, our churches are full of broken and imperfect leaders. Broken and imperfect men and women. Broken and flawed leaders who hurt people in their congregation. There is obviously a wide range of leadership deficiencies resulting in a wide range of damage done.

Just today a humongous network of priests in Pennsylvania I believe got busted in a sexual sin cover-up that had over 1000 victims involved. That is an extreme example of the way that those in spiritual leadership have abused their power and shown their flaws.

Again, that is an extreme example. But misogyny, deception, abrasiveness, anger, pride, and the like could describe way too many ministers and leaders in our churches. I’ve sadly heard many stories from those I love who have been burned by the church, particularly those who are in positions of authority in the church.

Even people raised in churches have been let down, bruised, and abused by those who claimed to be Christ’s shepherds. – Jonathan Leeman 

To be in leadership in a church is to be serving a flock under the Lordship of Christ. Yet many men and women, including yours truly at times, make it about their own kingdoms of sand. That is why I deeply desire men and women to be praying for me daily. I know that left to my own selfish and sinful devices, I will harm those in my congregation and make ministry about my name instead of His.

Anyway, all that to say, let’s look at Band of Brothers and Scripture to teach us about what anyone in ministry should look like (whether that is vocational ministry, volunteer ministry, teaching a Sunday school class or organizing a meal for those in your church who can’t get out).

Herbert Sobel

Captain Sobel is best described as a turd. He is power-hungry, leads with fear, antagonizes his troops, deceives them, manipulates them, and altogether makes them hate him. Now while there is a component of his leadership style that actually lended itself to good results (they all banded together in their mutual hatred of him), he ultimately was removed from his position of leadership over Easy Company. In part because he was ill-equipped to lead in combat drills and in part because he did not have the respect of his men.

I find it intriguing that Scripture has its fair share of Sobels. Scripture has plenty of examples of poor leadership. Now I would for sure caution us against approaching Scripture as primarily a leadership manual or handbook, treating it as if producing godly leaders is its purpose. That being said, there are sections of Scripture that can teach us quite a great deal on the subject.

For instance look with me at 3 John.

I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 9-10

Diotrephes. Dio-stinking-trephes. John was writing to a house church, encouraging them in their hospitality towards those who were carrying the good news of Jesus. Yet we have this man in a role of leadership, who loves to be first, loves the praise. He not only loves being the center of attention, he also kicks out of the church any who are choosing to be hospitable because it goes against his opinion on the matter. What a turd.

Major Winters 

Here we see a man of courage, humility, quiet strength, meekness, and integrity. Throughout the entire mini-series, he leads with dedication first and foremost to his men. He braves the scene of battle with them, and is incredibly frustrated when he is not able to be with them. He is full of integrity, and although he has the right to be abrasive and lead with as much meanness as Sobel, he decides to lead instead with meekness and quiet strength.

Again, the Bible is not about leadership primarily.

Nor is Paul a perfect leader.

However, in the small book of Philemon he exhibits an aspect of leadership that I pray I and every pastor I know would model.

Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you – since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus – Philemon 8-9

Paul was an apostle. This made him a big deal in the early church. Again I don’t think he was perfect, and Scripture makes it pretty clear to me that he was far from it. But this apostleship gave him incredible authority. Authority that meant what he spoke to a church should be followed because he had seen the risen Christ. But here in this letter, he chooses to appeal to them out of his love, not his authority.

Man, that’s a good example of leadership.

Loving those under your leadership, not simply commanding them. I am grateful to be in a season where I am under such loving leadership. It gives those who are under this type of leader the opportunity to thrive outside of fear.

My prayer is that every follower of Jesus would be more like Christ. Yes, Dick Winters was an amazing man. But even he is simply a shadow of Christ.

My prayer is that every follower of Jesus would lead in whatever area they find themselves in with humility and love.

I always appreciate feedback and discussion. You can follow my blog below.

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

 

Randalling Faith

This Is Us continues to be one of my favorite shows. Randall, one of the main characters, struggles with anxiety, perfectionism, over-thinking, obsessive worry, and moments of freaking out. He is a smart dude, and a genuinely compassionate man. His consistent vice throughout the series however continues to be this life-consuming worry and over-thinking. To the point that in one episode, his wife asks him if he’s ‘randalling’. She turns his name into a verb to mean over-thinking and anxiously stressing out. It’s a humorous moment for sure. I have caught myself randalling in more than one area of my life throughout the years, but one consistent point of over-thinking is often my faith.

In his book, Perfect Sinners, Matt Fuller paints a picture of a young woman who does the same thing:

“Wendy” is obsessed with how well she’s living the Christian life. She assesses her obedience daily. She is always looking to repent of anything that doesn’t please the Lord. She daily confesses all she’s done wrong and seeks to express her love for God by obeying him. This is great! The downside is that she’s anxious and introspective. She seems happier reciting a confession than singing a hymn of praise. 

This is obviously an over the top caricature, but it is relatable. Maybe you’re like this woman. Maybe you are constantly looking at your life, evaluating your faith, evaluating your thoughts and words and actions to make sure they are honoring God. Introspection is your norm.

If this is the case, I feel you.

Since I was an early teen, much of my alone time has been spent thinking about my life, thinking about my faith. Wondering if I was doing enough, pleasing God with my life. In the early teen years, it was questioning if my faith was strong enough to make me right with God (more on that later). In college, it was wondering if I was worthy or deserving of the positions of leadership I had been granted in spiritual circles, despite my ongoing struggles with sin.

For those who struggle with randalling their faith, I totally believe it comes from sincere hearts. Hearts of men and women who have seen countless professing Christians who don’t seem to look at the fruit of their faith in any way and want to instead make sure their life is worthy of the gospel.

Here’s where randalling our faith is ridiculously stupid.

We make our faith in Jesus about US.

We turn our eyes off of Christ, the object of our faith, and instead navel-gaze and introspectively stare at ourselves, questioning the level of our faith. Been there, done that. Too many times to count.

Look at this wonderful passage with me.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:1-2

What’s ironic is this is one of the passages that would normally precede much of my navel-gazing. In my desire to lay aside weight and sin, I would write, pray, and rack my brain trying to see if there was stuff to confess, change, or get rid of. Stupid Nathan, missing the point of this passage.

Yes, we are to put sin to death in our lives (Colossians 3:5-8), but that is not to consume our minds and vision to the point of missing the grace of Jesus. Just like you can be so focused on grace that you don’t put sin to death in your life, you can be so focused on putting sin to death that you forget grace that covers over your sin.

This passage pleads with us to run with endurance, looking to Jesus, who founded and will perfect our faith. He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, and Colossians 3 will remind us that we too are seated with Him there.

Here are a few quick ways to take our eyes off of ourselves, how to stop randalling our faith:

  1. Community. I’ll be honest, most of my randalling happened when I was alone in my room or not in a deep, intimate community of fellow Christians who I could share my difficulties, worries, and over-thinking tendencies with. For this type of Christ-follower to be caricatured in a book on our identity is proof that you’re not alone in this type of behavior. Don’t isolate yourself with your thoughts, share them in a gospel-centered community in order to be reminding of Jesus and the good news of the gospel.
  2. Sing. Way too many worship services were quasi-wasted by me in high school and college because I couldn’t sing the promises of God while simultaneously worrying if I’d earned the promises of God. In Psalm 51:15, we see David opening up his mouth in praise, not soon after being confronted by Nathan regarding his adultery and murder. SING. Even if you’re not a good singer, give God praise for the grace he has lavished upon you.
  3. Reflect. There is a healthy way to reflect if you’re like Wendy. Reflect on Christ. What he has done, the victory of the cross that frees you to confess and carry on. Don’t focus on sin that via confession is not held against you any longer.

Don’t be a Randall when it comes to your faith. Don’t freak out. Live in freedom. Don’t live in anxiety, live with joy in grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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On My Shelf: December 28, 2017

Over my Christmas break, I had the pleasure of finishing a book that has filled my heart and mind with dreams for what I want the youth I’m charged with shepherding to experience. Throughout the time I’ve been reading it, it has challenged, affirmed, and even equipped me for the year ahead in ministry to youth.

The book is Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It is edited by Cameron Cole & Jon Nielson, and it has ten other contributors. The book is a call to gospel-centered youth ministries, instead of entertainment-centered youth ministries.

This passion for gospel-centeredness has been on my heart and in my life for quite some time, but this book kicked it up a notch for me. I grew up in a youth ministry that had great godly men with hearts for the gospel ride the wave of entertainment and giveaway based ministries. I watched in sadness in college as many of my peers who grew up in such ministries drifted away from the church, because they were ill-equipped to stand for Jesus and were not consistently taught the beauty of Christ and the wonders of the gospel.

This book will lovingly confront the entertainment-based youth ministry industry that in some ways is still roaring along today. It paints a picture instead of youth ministries that are wholly focused on the good news of the gospel and the centrality of Christ in every facet from worship music and small groups, to discipleship and short-term mission trips, to developing adult and student leaders to retreats and events. Each chapter picks a different aspect of the generic youth ministry and teaches you the Biblical foundation for why it should be gospel-centered and then provides you with applications and ways to implement this gospel-centered approach into your own ministry over time.

My two favorite chapters were:

  1. Gathering God’s People: Generational Integration in Youth Ministry
  2. The Impact of Expounding God’s Word: Expositional Teaching in Youth Ministry

The chapter on generational integration was the most convicting for me. We do a pretty terrible job of making youth feel like they’re not a real part of the church. The chapter encouraged churches to allow students to be a part of the ‘big church’ programs through announcements, being greeters, being ushers, or the like. It put forward the belief that countless students leave church in college because they never really felt like part of the church to begin with.

The chapter on expositional preaching was the most affirming. It has always been my heart and desire to teach through books of the Bible. It laid out the fact that Biblical illiteracy leads to a lot of sin, and that the best thing we can do for our students is to show them the Bible’s overarching story and how to study God’s Word for themselves. I do not remember ever walking through a book of the Bible in my youth days. As a result, my understanding of my faith was a hodgepodge of devotional appetizers with no doctrinal depth and I was clueless as to the grand narrative of Scripture.

Overall, I agreed with just about everything this book laid out. I was convicted in many ways, and my passion for gospel-centered ministry was stoked.

If you are a student, a parent of a student, a youth minister, or just someone who wants to see the next generation drawn to Jesus, pick up this book and give it a read.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Worrying About Our Place In The Dirt

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.wallup.net

That line has stuck with me since the first time I saw the movie Interstellar. In the sci-fi epic, Matthew McConaughey’s character is talking with his father about the state of humanity after monstrous dust storms and irresponsible land usage has destroyed the fabric of the world. McConaughey is acknowledging a sad fact that all the people are doing is worrying about what they’re going to eat, if the crops will come in.

Ever since I watched this movie for the first time and heard that line for the first time, the more I’ve wondered just how true that is in my own life. There was a day where I used to think about big things, my place in it all, and now it seems like all I can do is worry about my place in the dirt.

Don’t hear me talking about some sort of Lion King-esque belief that we will find our legacies in the stars. Not at all. The second part however is more what I’m focused on. All I seem to do on any given day is worry about earthly matters.

I’ve had a full-time job for like a month and a half and I can already tell how I can go days at a time without truly stopping to reflect on eternal matters.

Bills. Laundry. Cleaning my house. Preaching on Wednesday. Teaching on Sundays. Parents. Volunteers. E-mail. Seminary application. Girlfriend. The newest episode of This Is Us. Day after day every moment of down time seems to be consumed with the next thing on my schedule. I have done a heinous job of thinking about what truly matters in my day to day life.

This reality combined with this quote from this great movie leads me to think about Colossians 3.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3 

Am I thinking about eternal things, or am I consumed with worry about my place here in the dirt?

There is a gospel reality that we don’t take to heart as often as we should. Christ is seated in glory, at the right hand of the Father, and we are raised to life with Him. We have been left on earth after our salvation in order to tell others about Him. That’s it. To bring Him glory by sharing his story. It is insane to me how often my heart and mind get sidetracked by other matters.

I’m not saying our every word should be evangelistic or that we should never enjoy the good gifts of God here on earth. I am saying that we have been given a singular purpose, to make His glory known through telling the gospel story to all who do not yet know Him. That’s it. That’s why you and I are here. To use the illustration from the movie, to ‘wonder about our place in the stars’ is to think about our higher calling, our higher purpose.

You were not put on this earth to get married and have a family.

You were not put on this earth to have a successful career, even if that career is vocational ministry (talking to you Nate).

You were not put on this earth to make a lot of fond memories.

You were put on this earth to glorify God through bringing other people to know Him.

Please, enjoy your family, get married, have a job that you love, make a ton of memories. But don’t let those things overshadow your real reason for life.

It’s funny to me how the very things that sidetrack me from my gospel purpose are the very same things that cause the most anxiety and worry in my mind and heart. Again, I’m not saying that good gifts of God in our lives are wrong. They’re not. But let’s be careful not to spend every waking moment worrying about our place in the dirt. There’s so much more to life.

I don’t know what recalibrating your mind and heart looks like to you. For me it means putting everything up and just sitting outside, often looking up into the night sky. I have to remind myself that my stressors, anxieties, worries, and fears are ultimately going to be hilariously small and insignificant in a million years.

Stop worrying about your place among the dirt.

Live for something more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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