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

 

Attacking Your Family

When we fight and condemn one another, denounce other Christians and divide from them, fostering all kinds of divisions within the church, then we do not have the mind of Christ. – Christopher Wright 

If I were to give an account for every word that I have spoken throughout my life, I would be woefully ashamed of many things I’ve said about others without their knowledge. In a world that remains in darkness, the church bodies in our communities sadly has its light for Christ dimmed due to in-fighting, gossip, slander, and the like. They have become respectable sins, those sins that are in our lives that aren’t nearly as bad as adultery and murder and thus eat away at our relationships since they aren’t confronted.

The above quote is from the book Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. In the chapter about peace, Wright bemoans the reality that many of our church communities are ravaged by condemnation and accusations being thrown to and fro. There is no peace it seems in the body of Christ.

I want to first address and confess my sins in this area. In my first years in ministry, there were many times where I spoke poorly about those who had no ability to defend themselves since they weren’t even privy to the conversations being had. I belittled spiritual leadership in authority over me, I poked fun at others’ expense, and spouted off about anyone and everyone when given even the slightest sliver of an opportunity.

All of this I did with very little remorse or even concern. In my prideful state of mind, I was simply speaking truth in the midst of those who had strayed from it. In my arrogant state of mind, I was merely calling people out due to their sin (btdubs, the Bible never calls for us to call people out for their sin via conversations without their presence).

I am grateful to God that I have seen a lot of growth in this area since I moved back to Texas. Although I am still prone to falling into sin in this area, God has brought me a long way.

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. . . . . may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:2, 5-6

How do we glorify God as a community?

We live in harmony.

We build up our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ.

My heart breaks when I see full grown adults bickering with one another and gossiping about each other. My heart breaks when I fall into this sin. We are not called to speak poorly about anyone, much less someone who also calls Jesus Christ their Lord.

The above passage is encouraging in its phrasing. The ability to live in harmony with all people, no matter what, is brought about by the God whose vary character is one of endurance and encouragement. We can encourage others and find the endurance to do so even when nobody else is, because that is the character of our God.

Here’s just a few quick ways that we can combat this insidious sin in our churches.

1. Confront Sin Privately (and be willing to be confronted)

As I said earlier, in previous seasons of ministry, I used the excuse that I was simply confronting sin when I went around gossiping and slandering. That’s not how the Bible teaches us to confront sin. We are to admonish and exhort one another privately, in the context of already established relationships. On a vastly important note, I have no right to speak into the attitudes and lifestyles of others if I give no one the opportunity to confront sin in my life without getting defensive or upset.

Instead of gossiping to others; lovingly, kindly, humbly, bring up the matter at hand in private conversation.

2. Speak Up

This is the hardest one for me to do. I don’t very often. But one way that we can correct the sins of gossip and slander in our churches is by speaking up and saying that we aren’t going to allow it. We should go about this in a manner of humility, not accusing or attacking those who are in the moment gossiping. We must simply remind one another that it divides the church against itself, and that nothing good EVER comes from gossip and slander.

As a twenty-five year old, it’s difficult for me to speak up against it in certain contexts, but we are called by God to make peace.

3. Encourage 

The final way that we can confront gossip and slander is by consistently and constantly encouraging others. In his book, Side by Side, Edward Welch encourages his readers to see the good in all people.

The goal here is to keep our eyes open for good things in others. When we see good things, we savor them and point them out. As you get to know people, you will encounter many hard things, some unattractive things, but if you also see good, you will see people more as God does, and that is a blessing. – Edward Welch 

Instead of being men and women who claim to follow Jesus yet tear down their sibling in the Lord, let us be men and women who consistently build others up. Find the good, and speak about it. When the temptation to slander comes up, encourage. When the temptation to bemoan someone’s actions comes up, speak instead about the good that you see in them.

We live in a dark world, this is true.

Instead of tearing one another down through incessant gossip and slander, we can bind together and transform into the community that people desire to be about.

My question is, are you part of the problem?

I know I have been at times.

God’s grace is greater than your sin and mine.

Let’s be people who leave gossip and slander behind.

The Reason For The Season

Yesterday, my good friend Marco and I went to the High School for lunch. In a forty minute lunch period, there were two fights. The saddest part of this is that both were widely encouraged by the other students. There was cheering, screaming, applauding, and the obligatory phone recordings of the festivities.

That more or less affected my entire day. I was supremely saddened by the fact that there is so much violence in our world, so much hatred. It seeps down into the upcoming generations.

After being present at these events, Marco and I had a conversation about sin and it’s global nature. He made a statement that I will forever steal.

Our sin is the reason for the season. 

When we approach the Christmas season, we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. To an extent this is true, and I’m not intending to split hairs. But we must acknowledge that the reason Jesus had to come in the first place is because of our sin which separates us from God. None of us come away clean, innocent, or pure in the eyes of God.

Although it’s generally not read in any Advent moments, the following passage is worth remembering:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one to come. – Romans 5:12-14

There you have it. According to Scripture, the real reason for this Christmas season is the sin that is prevalent in me.

Our sin is the reason for the season.

Adam’s sin has been imputed to all of mankind. Each of us is born into sin. There are many different worldviews present today that teach that mankind is inherently good. The Christian worldview is not one of them. According to Scripture, all have been born into sin. Instead of being inherently good, we are inherently sinful.

We don’t offer courses at our church to teach people to sin against God. Toddlers don’t go through “Deception 101” and “Advanced Selfishness”. It’s wired into them. They are innately broken.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

David sang about his innate sinfulness. He knew that he was birthed in sin.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

When I put my life up against this statement of Jesus, I realize just how sinful I am. I don’t love the Lord my God with all that is in me. So if we’re being real, we are way more sinful than we think that we are.

Yes, this is bad news.

That’s also why the good news of the gospel, the good news of Christmas, is good.

You see, the passage out of Romans 5 does not end there on the global nature of sin. It bursts into the glorious light of the gospel.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind. The sin of Adam spread to all of mankind. This is the background of the Christmas story. The shadow of the cross of Christ is on the cradle. The birth of Jesus is ultimately about His eventual death, His sacrifice for our sins.

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see two beautiful things happen.

Our sins are put on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ is put on us. Just as all of us are born into sin because of the sin of Adam, so we in Christ are righteous before God the Father because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Y’all, this is beautiful news.

I’ll be honest. Even when I write out this passage from Romans 5, my logical sensibilities are challenged by that final verse. The righteousness of Christ is a free gift. I cannot earn it. Neither can you.

We make our standing before God dependent upon our own actions and abilities, our personal holiness and righteousness. Yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear time and time again that there’s literally nothing I can do to earn what God did for me in sending His Son to die for me. Even my most noble attempts at righteousness are nowhere close to the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

The world we live in is broken, ravaged by sin. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is family violence and screaming matches in cafeterias. There doesn’t seem to be much peace anywhere. It is in this space that the message of the gospel can be transformative and tremendously impactful. The light of the gospel shines brightest in darkness.

This Christmas season, reflect. This Christmas season, in the midst of Sunday School parties and family, gifts and egg nog and decorating the house, reflect upon the message of the gospel.

Our sin is the reason for the season. But God the Father sent His Son Jesus to take our place. 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

The Lonely Southern Baptist

When I got to OBU, I honestly had a pretty strong disdain for all things theological and doctrinal. To me, my faith was about loving Jesus and others and nothing else mattered. Over the course of my years of study at OBU, I came to realize that theology and doctrine, when studied rightly, lead to loving God and loving others better. With this newfound fervor I began to study, but I started to find myself in an increasingly lonely position.

I grew up in a strongly conservative Southern Baptist church. My beliefs about sexuality, Scripture, sacraments, service, and soteriology are thus all firmly conservative and Southern Baptist. This was a heritage I entered into OBU with, something I was proud of. I was proud to have been raised in a conservative Christian home. My peers and friends around me at ‘The Walk’ at OBU when we started our collegiate journey stood by me in said beliefs.

Then the ‘deconstruction’ began. Countless people I knew, who I sat by in class, began this process of deconstructing their faith, a process that in my belief is the result of the tremendous lack of family discipleship. Many members of my generation grew up in homes where church was mandatory, but the gospel was not lived out at home. This is a tremendous travesty, akin to that of Judges 2:10 – “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel.” The book of Judges is full of disheartening and disgusting acts done by the people of God, and this is the backdrop. A generation arose that did not know the Lord or what He had done. This means implicitly that the parents of this generation did not show their kids who God was and didn’t tell their kids about what God had done.

In response to growing up in homes where there was a lack of genuine gospel conversation or Christlike character despite religious practices, many of my peers were driven to process their faith for themselves via the deconstruction of it. Soteriology, Scripture, service, sexuality, and the sacraments. All of these facets of theology were on the table now, ready to be studied and made new in the lives of my peers.

As this deconstruction revolution went up like a powder keg all around me, I found myself ostracized, villianized, and condemned by those who had stood by me as conservatives only four years before.

I remember the day. My Senior year we had Rosaria Butterfield come and speak in chapel at OBU. A group of students who had put sexuality on the cutting block and reassembled their beliefs about it were adamantly opposed to her presence. They stood up and silently left the auditorium in defense of said beliefs. This was the day where I felt the loneliness really start to kick in.

I am all for the right to protest. Yet in the aftermath of this protest, I felt myself smack dab in the middle of a divide with no place to call my own ‘theological home’.

On one side was the ‘deconstructionists’, a group that had pushed deeper into what they were taught and told to believe (an admirable endeavor) and had come out on the other side with opposing views to what I believed about sexuality, service, soteriology, and Scripture. Those who came before me at OBU were militantly and rudely attacking the college on social media in what was honestly a cowardly way of action. Instead of face-to-face conversations, there were social media clap-backs that were not at all showing the love of Jesus that this ‘camp’ was so desirous of. I felt (please know that I’m aware that feelings can be wrong) like I was looked down upon by this group for being one of two things. For holding tightly to my conservative Southern Baptist beliefs I was either 1) foolish and naive or 2) unloving and devoid of compassion. I was either a man who had not thought long and hard about what I believed, or if I had, I was a man who had no love or compassion for the broken and battered in our world.

On the other side were those who I felt like adhered to my beliefs about theology and doctrine. That being said, I felt myself alone in these circles due to my desire and emphasis on holiness. The ‘conservatives’ were now wearing shirts that said “I love Jesus but I cuss a little”. Cards Against Humanity, obscene talk about sex, and an outcry against our legalistic ancestors were the talk of the town. I could never find myself able to fully embrace this camp of ‘authenticity’ and ‘brokenness’ because I can’t escape the call of 1 Peter 1:16 to be holy as God is holy. This camp decried me as being either old-fashioned or legalistic for my belief about this. I became a weirdo in the denominational family that I called home.

When I left OBU I felt quite alone. I had a group of friends that stood with me in this middle ground, but we were few and far between. Two experiences at two different churches solidified me in this lonely middle ground.

On one hand, in Portland I was at a church event where we attended a Portland Timbers soccer game. I left discouraged and frustrated as members of this church chanted “We are the Timbers, we are the best. We are the Timbers, so F*&% all the rest. F&%$ them all! F#$% them all! F%#$ them all! Being authentic believers meant being no different than the world.

On the other hand, I served at a church in Phoenix where jokes were consistently made about SBC life (which in fact funded said church), and how we should not be so concerned with theology and doctrine (which led to an unhealthy meddling of Pentecostal, Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic beliefs). “Let the theologians argue about theology, we are going to love like Jesus”.

In a world of acceptance and charity, I found myself ostracized by those who had deconstructed their faith and outed by those in my own denominational camp because my desire for holiness and Scripture-driven sermons was not in agreement with the cussing Christians.

Where was I to go?

The answer is still not clear.

That being said, I am grateful for God’s grace given to me in two ways. One, I’ve been grafted into a community of youth pastors in my region who seem to be in the same position I’ve found myself in with this middle ground. Second, I’m incredibly honored and grateful that I have been asked to join the conversation at Misfits Theology. Go give that blog a follow!

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Love, Vocation, Geography

We tend to put the Spirit in a box where its primary purpose is to help us in love, vocation, and geography. What I mean by this is that the majority of my conversations in which the Holy Spirit comes up revolve around who someone is going to marry, what job they will have, and where they will live. These are all things that growing up I felt a lot of pressure to make a “Spirit-led” decision in. This led me also to relegate the Holy Spirit to a position in my life where his primary purpose was to speak to me in those areas alone.

God the Holy Spirit does lead us, but the primary meaning of the leading of the Holy Spirit is not to lead us to marry this person or that person or to lead us to Cincinnati or Chicago. The primary place to which the Spirit leads us is to holiness and obedience. – R.C. Sproul 

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Sproul, and this quote is no exception. Nestled in a booklet about Christian conscience is this quote that speaks volumes.

The Holy Spirit’s primary leading in our life should be towards holiness and obedience. Take for instance the classic Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5. This chapter pits two lists of characteristics against each other, the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We are all likely familiar with the so-named ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the characteristics that we as believers should have and exemplify (we all fall short, but it’s what we should be striving towards). In this chapter we come to Galatians 5:25, one of my favorite verses for its encouragement and conviction. This coupled with Galatians 5:16 gives us the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

These verses do not say ‘walk by the Spirit and you will know explicitly who you are to marry, where you are to live, and what you should do with your life”. These are aspects of our lives that God does speak into no doubt, but let us not relegate the Spirit of God to just these areas.

In efforts to potentially take some weight off younger and older believers alike, let’s take a quick look at what I personally believe (and I may be wrong, and you may not agree with me) regarding love, vocation, and geography.

LOVE 

I personally do not believe that the idea of ‘the one’ is accurate. We romanticize this ideology and that’s not necessarily good. I believe that we are called by Scripture to marry someone who is of the opposite gender and who has saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Outside of those two parameters, I believe that God is more concerned with us showing Christlike love to our spouse than he is us finding the perfect man or woman for us (newsflash, no perfect men or women exist). In my relationship with Jamie, I never got a lightning flash dreamlike moment where God audibly spoke to me and said she’s the one. Instead I found myself incredibly attracted to her outward appearance, her character, and her love for the Lord. Our goals and aspirations lined up, we enjoy being around each other, and so we have committed to loving each other for life. Seeking godly counsel and prayer do go a long way, but I don’t necessarily believe that there’s a rule of thumb where you get an audible confirmation from God about the person you want to marry.

VOCATION 

As previously stated, there are times where God explicitly calls people to do specific things with their lives (I have had God’s call on my life to be in vocational ministry. This was not an audible speech moment, rather a feeling in my gut that was affirmed and confirmed through prayer and godly counsel). More often than not though, I believe that we are to use the natural gifts we’ve been given by God in a way that brings honor and glory to His name. So if you’re a gifted scientist, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted orator, do that for Christ. If you’re a gifted teacher, do that for Christ. In the midst of my sister having a specific calling from God on her life to one day do overseas missions, I remember playing XBOX as a teenager racking my brain and trying to discern God’s will so as not to garner his anger by stepping outside it. When boiled down, I believe that God’s will for us vocationally is to love God and love neighbor through something that we are gifted at, and the rest is just geography.

GEOGRAPHY

This sounds repetitive, but it’s true. There are times where God calls men and women to specific locations. Most of the time however I believe that God is more concerned with how we live than where we live. When making decisions regarding where you live, you should again pray and seek counsel. But don’t sit around waiting for an audible voice. The question should remain the same regardless of whether you’re talking about love, vocation, or geography: “will this bring glory to Christ?”

My decision to leave Phoenix and move to Vernon was never confirmed by signs and wonders. It was a decision made between me and Jamie, with the counsel of friends and families, in that we felt like we could serve the Lord faithfully here and bring glory to His name. Today marks six months and it stands as one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

I hope that this brings a breath of fresh air to many of us who become anal about the will of God. I welcome discussion and disagreement, just be cordial please.

The main thing (although I’ve devoted little words to it really) I want to share is that you shouldn’t limit the Spirit to these decisions. The Spirit of God is in your life to lead you in obedience and holiness.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Night Sky

A few weekends after I graduated OBU back in May of 2016, my family took a trip to Caprock Canyon State Park. One night we were there, we had the chance to view the stars through these incredible telescopes. I am awed easily by the magnitude of space, so waiting in line for a while to look through these telescopes was worth the wait. We got to see star clusters, constellations, the Milky Way, and one of the planets (although I cannot remember which one). That particular state park prided itself in having some of the darkest night skies in Texas. So when all the lights were off at this stargazing shindig, every star in the sky was shining in an incredible way.

There were occasionally however some nincompoops who continued turning on their iPhone flashlights, blinding us unintentionally, and making it immensely hard to see the glory and majesty of the night sky. After getting yelled at by some less-patient fellow stargazers, the lights were turned off and the night sky was seen in its fullness yet again.

The night sky is glorious and majestic. No doubt about that.

But when there are other lights, we become blinded, unfocused, and unable to see the stars.

God is in a league of His own in the glory and majesty department. Absolutely no doubt about that.

Yet when I allow myself to become blinded or distracted by lesser things, I am unable to see Him in all of his glory and might.

The beginning of a new year always prompts me to explore ways that I can become more like Jesus, how I can grow closer to Jesus. The reality for me is that I am prone to get blinded and distracted by countless other things in life that prevent me from seeing all of Him.

The biggest move I’ve made in getting distraction-free was putting my phone up in December, leaving it in the kitchen overnight instead of scrolling endlessly through social media in bed. I had written about this idea a couple times over the course of a year before I actually followed through on what I felt was best for me. I’m weak and lack self-control, and know that I spend hours of uninhibited time on social media if I don’t remove that temptation. That is not an everyone has to do this mandate, but I encourage you to maybe consider it.

Anywho, I got rid of that distraction but I know there are still so many lesser lights that I am prone to get distracted by. Here’s some of my big ones right now:

  1. Darkness. My heart is to see God and the good news of the gospel saturate and permeate the community that I find myself in. Out of this desire however comes eyes that are maybe a little too aware of the darkness, evil, and sin that are a part of a post Genesis 3 world. What I mean by this is that I can be zeroed in on the here and now, the evil and brokenness of our world, to the point where I fail to see beyond it to the glory, majesty, and power of our King. Yes, the world is a broken place. It’s all over the news. However, God is greater. I believe that. Everything that is broken will one day be made right. Until that time, we should put out the light of the darkness around us (weird illustration) and focus on the glory and majesty and power of God. He is able to bring restoration, redemption, and resurrection to all that we see.
  2. Work. I’m a spaghetti brain. Unlike most men who have the segmented waffle brains, I have an incessantly and constantly moving brain that is often thinking about 458 things at once. That being said, I do a pretty bad job of leaving work at the office. I think part of this is the nature of ministry, how it does permeate your daily rhythms, but that is no excuse to not put it aside and rest. So for me, I’m learning how to establish rhythms of life where I put work and ministry aside and just rest and relax and enjoy the good graces of God. The light of work blinds me from the majesty of God. No more.
  3. Self-Reliance. Man, oh man. I gave up on the power of New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago, but this is certainly something I want to grow in in 2018. I am too often dealing with prayerlessness. I journal prayers throughout the day, but as far as sitting alone with the Lord in prayer, I’m still not good at. This is pride, arrogance, and sinful. I am too self-reliant, thinking that I have all I need to get through my day without the power of God’s Spirit within me. Because I don’t go to Him, I miss out on seeing Him move. Because I miss out on seeing Him move, I miss out on seeing His glory and majesty.

I don’t know what your lesser lights are, but my prayer is that you will put them aside, or at least dim them so that you can see the greatness and majesty of God. Lastly, don’t be a light that distracts or detracts from God’s glory yourself. In our arrogance, we can become people who draw attention to ourselves, instead of letting people see through us to the glory and majesty of the God we serve.

I’ll close with this.

 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may the whole earth be filled with his glory!

Amen and Amen! – Psalm 72:18-19

He does wondrous things. He is glorious. Look at Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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As For Me And My House

Movies like God’s Not Dead and A Matter Of Faith popularize in Christian circles the  belief that it is in college that a Christian young person has their faith questioned, sometimes by militant and angry atheist professors. While I’m not intending to chide these Christian films or those who believe the “going to college = faith being tested” mantra, I hope that I can remind us that the testing of a child’s faith is happening long before they leave for college.

I grew up in a day when Christian home decorations were all the rage (they may still actually be all the rage). Everywhere I looked I saw verses and hymn lyrics and crosses in people’s kitchens, living rooms, and family rooms. Sometimes even the bathroom. The maybe over-popularized verse on family, Joshua 24:15, was all over the place: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

These were families who had a heart and desire to see their children grow up in Christian homes, filled with gospel conversations or at least gospel decorations.

Here’s where I’m fearful for my students, this next generation of kids. I see parents and families who are gospel-centered in their public sphere, their social media, but they’re just good moral people in their family and private life. I see this in me, so it gets me nervous about my future kids as well. While finishing an old book from 1985 (if you know me, you know finishing a book was a tremendous feat), I came across a quote that floored me due to it’s accuracy and it’s conviction.

Our homes, the homes of church members, are often no different from the homes of non-Christians. We worship pleasure, convenience, the country club, money, success, power, and prestige, just as the world does. We don’t pray in our homes any more than our moral neighbor next door. We attend church twice a month to appease the Lord, and yet we become upset if the service goes beyond twelve o’clock. We go to great pains to teach our children math, science, business, football, baseball, tennis, golf, and soccer, or perhaps ballet, music, art, and theater. But how much time or effort is spent in the training of our children in godliness? – John Sartelle 

Read that again. It stunned me. Written 8 years before I was born, but even more applicable today than it was back then.

You see, children in Christian homes are not getting their faith tested in college, they aren’t getting pulled away from Jesus in college. They are getting their faith tested and are getting pulled away from Jesus in elementary school, in Christian homes.

I have seen peers grow up in homes where sports was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where good grades was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where being liked, admired, and well-received in the community was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen younger peers right now grow up in homes where their accolades and even their struggles are put on display on Facebook so the parents can gain a following (pet peeve numero uno).

It breaks my heart to write this and it breaks my heart to see it. Countless members of my generation have abandoned their steadfast commitment to the Lord not because they were challenged by an atheist professor in college, but rather because they looked back and saw that in their homes their parents modeled that discipleship, missional living, and Christlikeness were all half-hearted additions to a life of comfort, pressure to be perfect, and athletics.

People of God, let this not be so. Let us not be men and women who raise children to take the gospel as an addition to life, instead of the onus of life itself.

I have a healthy fear of parenting, and while I pray it’s a part of my future, it makes me nervous to take on the responsibility of shepherding a home and raising kids who love the Lord.

Brother or sister in Christ, you cannot control the outcome of your child’s life. You cannot control whether or not a child continues to walk faithfully with the Lord into adulthood, or not. That is not on you, so don’t carry that weight.

I do pray however that you carry the weight of being a mother or father who makes your home about the gospel. For the sake of your kids. It’s not enough to be for Christ in the public sphere, even if that’s working in a church like I do. You must be for Christ at home. Make Jesus more important than good grades. Make Jesus more important than being admired by everyone around. Make Jesus more important than sports. Make Jesus more important than any other pressure in your child’s life.

Let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life outside of your home. Way more importantly however, let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life inside your home.

Repentance goes a long way. When you’re imperfect (which we all are, daily), repent. Apologizing to children is a huge win for the gospel.

Start small. It’s going to be weird and awkward. Praying with my fiancee Jamie is kinda weird still sometimes. But it’s worth it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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