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 Table

When you think about a symbol for evangelism and discipleship, what comes to mind?

Some of us might think of the cross, for it is central to the message of the gospel.

Some of us might think of the pulpit, where faithful preachers exposit the Word of God week in and week out.

Some of us might think of a Bible or Bible study, since the study of its truths is crucial to the growth of the believer.

I would argue however that the table is a symbol for sharing our faith and deepening our faith.

I believe that sharing a table with others is the most effective conduit to discipleship.

I would argue that this was Jesus’ methodology as well. While He surely taught in public via parables and sermons, sharing a meal with others was a large part of His ministry. Consider the following verse in the Gospel of Luke:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ – Luke 7:34

In the passage where this verse is found, Jesus is calling the Pharisees and religious leaders out for their lack of faith in and allegiance to Jesus. Then he proceeds to tell them what He came doing: eating and drinking.

Again, I am not trying to detract from His preaching and His miracles. These are profound and show us that Jesus was the most unique man to walk the face of the earth, the very Son of God.

Yet, sharing a table with tax collectors and sinners was a clear part of His ministry. The Lord’s Supper, the ordinance that we use in our churches to reflect upon the sacrifice of Christ together, obviously happened around a table as well.

What does this have to do with us?

How can we live like Jesus in our communities, specifically when it comes to eating and drinking?

In His book, Surprise The World (Get it. Its call to simplicity when it comes to sharing our faith is refreshing. This blog is more or less his teaching in my words and experiences), Michael Frost calls every follower of Jesus to share three meals a week with someone in their community.

When I reflect on my life in just this past week, almost every conversation about faith has come around a table, while eating good food with others.

  • At Burger King in Wichita Falls, I talked with my dad about marriage and ministry while chowing down on some Cini-Minis.
  • At Braums in Vernon, I met with a student who is about to graduate and head off to DBU. We laughed together, talked about Avengers, and read a book about how the gospel should dictate our thoughts and actions.
  • While eating Pizza Hut (I’m not sponsored, but I wish I was) with some members of my local church, we talked about the Lord’s Supper and how to build stronger community together.
  • While eating a burger at a local restaurant, I spoke with a friend about how we can better serve one another in love, and rejoiced together about the professions of faith his children were making.

The table can serve as a bridge between people who might not otherwise spend time together. There is something intimate about sharing a meal. Jesus ate with those who were seen in their society to be the worst of people, and because of this He was accused by the pharisaical religious leaders of the day of being a friend of sinners.

Share a table with someone who looks different than you. Someone who has a different background. Someone who votes different than you. Someone who doesn’t walk with Jesus.

There is so much hate in our world, much of it propagated by well-meaning church-goers who don’t have the humility to just listen.

Just a reminder: in heaven there will be Republicans and Democrats, Cowboys and Redskins fans, Texans and Oklahomans, those who vaccinate their kids and those who don’t, homeschoolers and public schoolers, prostitutes and church secretaries, murderers and church choir members, heroin addicts and weekly Sunday school attenders, Baptists and Charismatics, Americans and former members of ISIS.

Your political party, choice of education for your children, race, wealth, or even country do not give you favored status in the eyes of God.

What conversations are you having?

What type of rhetoric are you putting on Facebook?

Don’t be a man or woman of hate.

Instead, share a table.

Eating with someone is not agreeing with 100% of their lives.

Somewhere along the way we have thought that distancing ourselves from any sign of unholiness is the best witness. We would condemn Jesus super fast, just like the Pharisees, for associating with sinners, wouldn’t we?

But association is not condoning sin. We must allow the holiness given us by Christ to shine through. When we’re like everyone around us though, we have gone too far the other way (as I blog about often).

I believe with all of my heart that long before we invite people to church on a Sunday morning, we should invite them into our homes to share a meal with us. Relationships draw people into the community of faith, not Sunday morning services. How could they? We are told in Scripture that we will be known by our love, not our dynamic preaching or bass lines or hymns.

Before you invite to church, share a table.

You may not be the most hospitable person. The thought of opening up your home may terrify you. Well, then, do what I do. Go out to eat.

If you can though, have people in your own home. You don’t have to have an immaculate home. Acknowledging an imperfect, sometimes messy home can be just as refreshing to a guest as acknowledging our imperfect, sometimes messy minds and hearts and lives.

If you want to have a life and heart transformed by a missional mindset, start sharing a table.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Changing Our Community

Keep trying to take the drugs, alcohol, and other substances out of Vernon, but it’s still never going to change.

This is the sentiment I’ve heard from many about the place I call home. The place where I serve as a youth pastor. In the wake of a humongous drug bust, families are reeling, angry, broken-hearted, and confused. I’ve seen some become particularly jaded and cynical to the reality of change in this community.

There are times in youth ministry where I can feel the temptation to fall into the same mindset. Last Spring, I would drive home from youth group every Wednesday night thinking that nothing was ever going to change. It was like banging my head against a brick wall over and over again. I would share the love of God and the good news of His Son, but my students would appear to not really care as they simply waited through the lesson to get to the open gym at the end. Honestly, this perception was inaccurate. I would come to find out this week at camp that our students are listening more than we think. What’s even more simultaneously encouraging and challenging is that they are watching us way more than we think.

Since my wedding day (three weeks ago), I have been giving the greatness and glory of God a ton of thought. Some of this is because of my Bible study I did through the book of Jonah, and partly because of the book Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. I’ve felt the desire to pray daily for a greater glimpse of God’s glory, greatness, and grace. Each day I’ve had him answer this prayer through the stories I hear of His faithfulness, my time in His Word, or other things. I prayed this prayer as we headed off to camp.

My eyes well with tears as I think about what God did this week. He worked in every student that we brought. We had salvations, rededications, calls to ministry, calls to mission, and the building of many relationships. God is not done y’all. I get really discouraged way too often because I look all around me and I feel alone. I feel alone in what I believe the Bible says, and what I believe this life is supposed to be about. But here this week I have a great testimony of God’s faithfulness to look back on.

Here’s the deal you guys.

I can’t change Vernon.

I can teach and preach and plead and beg and disciple and pray and hope all I want, but I can’t change Vernon.

However, God can.

God can change the place I call home.

And he can do it through His church.

The heart-breaking thing for me is that His church isn’t sold on the mission. Instead we chase the world. Instead we get busy. Instead we are unfaithful to our promises.

I asked the family group I had this week to raise their hand if an older believer committed to mentor and disciple them and yet forgot about them within a month of their commitment and blamed getting busy.

Y’all. Every single one of them raised their hands.

Shame on us. Shame on us for making our lives about other things instead of the gospel. No one is too busy to disciple, it is simply a matter of passion and priority.

I was reading the other day about the book of Leviticus. And the book of Leviticus really emphasizes the gulf between us and a holy God. The author of the study I was going through said this about mankind:

“They live selfishly: seeking and hoarding more and more, shutting his or her ears to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the suffering, the lost.”

People say our community can’t change.

I am prone to believe them when I see that I’m living like the quote above.

Well, when’s the last time you shared your faith with a non-believer?

When was the last time you shared what God has done with someone in your circle?

When was the last time you committed to disciple, encourage, and support a younger believer?

When was the last time you opened up your home to share about what God has been doing in your family?

Guys, God can change our community. In fact, God is already changing our community. In fact, God doesn’t need us to help him change our community. But one of the most beautiful aspects of the gospel is that we have been gifted with the opportunity to join God in what he is doing.

Don’t let another year go by with church attendance without gospel commitment.

Share. Disciple. Pray. Give. Invest. Encourage. Support. Worship.

The sentiment of men and women like that at the beginning of this blog post is partly right. We can keep trying to take all of the drugs out of this place and this place simply won’t change. Change isn’t going to come through merely the removal of illegal substances. In actuality that doesn’t do very much.

Instead, change comes through discipleship.

Pick one person this year. I plead with you. That’s it. One person to be faithful to in walking them through their faith.

My students are watching us. My students are watching the generations above them in our community to see if they truly are disciples of Jesus. My students are watching to see if you just sit in the pew or if you get in the game.

I don’t care how old you are, God isn’t done with you yet.

I love you all. Whoever you are reading this, regardless of what town or city or country you live in, God is at work in your community. Join him.

I’ll be honest guys, the temptation to deaden my passion, quiet my voice, and fade into the back is high at times. I’m 24. I’m not all-wise, and I am prone to mistakes. The pressure to shut up and play the game of going through the motions is heavy at times. But I just can’t stop talking about how good and great God is and how we have a high calling to join Him in what He is doing. I know that I can learn to do so with more kindness at times, but I can’t stop. It’s who God has wired me to be.

In conclusion, please hear me out.

I don’t know it all. I’m not perfect. I don’t do discipleship perfectly. I’m not always faithful. That’s why I need men in my life too.

All I do know is Jesus is my Lord and Savior, God is great and good, and He is changing our community, and we can join Him in that work.

I love you all.

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

Missing Out

The College Football National Championship. The Greatest Showman. This Is Us or The Crown. The latest blog post, the Dosh app, essential oils, Plexus, or some other social media business scheme. All of these things are talked about by passionate people who commonly use the phrase “don’t miss out”. We can be encouraged by friends to not miss out on the latest movie, TV show, or social media fad. If we weren’t tuned into the big sporting event, our friends tell us we missed out on an incredible game. When this happens, I believe a small part of us, or of me at least, feels that in my bones.

For instance, I don’t really care all that much about the NFL. Yet I woke up this morning to a lot of notifications on social media outlets regarding the Vikings-Saints game last night. Apparently the Vikings won the game in thrilling fashion on a last-second deep touchdown pass involving some fancy footwork and poor defensive decisions. I saw comments by people about it being the best game they’d ever seen (which is almost always an exaggeration), and a part of me felt like I missed out a little. I felt this when I didn’t watch the Alabama-Georgia game either.

I’m not immune to speaking about movies and sporting events in this way to others however. Just yesterday I was raving to a fellow member of my church about the latest This Is Us episode and how intense I was. I’ve raved about The Greatest Showman. I’ve raved about the $10 Dinner Box that Pizza Hut has that’s a regular purchase of mine.

Why however do we feel impassioned to share about these things that are ultimately so trivial and insignificant, yet we struggle to share about the one thing that if people don’t know about, they will truly miss out for all eternity? I’ve been inundated with Plexus conversations and sports conversations, but even amongst Christian friends I’ve struggled to be engaged in many gospel-centered conversations of any depth.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 89:1

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:36

The Psalmist in Psalm 89 can’t help but sing of the steadfast love of God, using his mouth to make known to others the faithfulness of God extended to all generations. This is a wonderful thing. Regardless of your favorite type of Christian music, or general worship style, you can still use any hymn, contemporary worship song, or even rap in a way to proclaim God’s love and faithfulness to others. I have in my past been too quick to shut off during a time of worship at church if the worship music style isn’t too my liking. Then I realized that I was an entitled little turd that had the complete wrong idea about worship music. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about giving God praise, not about listening to music I like. Singing songs of praise in a congregation is about telling the world about God’s love and faithfulness to us his people. Man, I got that wrong for so long in my life.

This little snippet out of the gospel of John is a reminder of what happens when a man or woman dies without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. They won’t see life after death, instead the wrath of God will remain on them for eternity. That’s what is at stake.

If a man or woman misses a sporting event, a movie, or a TV show, nothing happens. If a man or woman misses out on a new app, Plexus, or essential oils, nothing really happens there either. If a man or woman misses out on Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel, they spend their eternity separated from God. That’s huge.

We’ve got to do a better job of opening our eyes and hearts to those who are currently walking through life without Jesus.

My enthusiasm for sports has waned over the years because I’ve begun to see them in their proper place, and I’ve begun to see the millions of people in our country that worship them. It’s saddening to see people lay down their spiritual lives for the sake of athletics, parents trading in the discipleship of their kids in church for the shot at a traveling sports team that promises their kids a chance at the pros.

Sports are not bad. They are evil when they take the god role in our lives however. I’ve seen men in so many contexts, including myself, talking about sports with abandon to everyone they can, but having their lips glued shut when it comes to speaking about their Lord and Savior.

I’m fairly bad at personal evangelism. The best I do on some weeks is to simply post on this blog and share it as a way to tell people about Jesus. I’m praying that God will continue to grow me in evangelism. I’m praying that God will lead me to speak about Jesus more than I do about trivial matters. I’m praying that God will implant in my heart a deep and growing desire to see men and women in my community connect with their Savior and thus not miss out on all that God has for them. This is my continual prayer.

Join me in praying for courage and strength to share, just as Paul had in Thessalonica.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel in the midst of much conflict. – 1 Thessalonians 2:2 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach