Pass The Baton

As Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were passionate about the things of God, carried their copy of the Torah everywhere, and they were fully committed to the weekly synagogue meetings for nearly a decade now. Jesus saw them as worthy of His investment so He said to them “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” – Mark 1:16-17

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew with his copy of the Torah in tow. Matthew had new ideas and new vision, born out of his desire to grow the people of God. Jesus knew these ideas were against His preferences, and desiring to cling tightly to His leadership and authority in His Father’s kingdom, neglected to call Matthew to follow Him. – Matthew 9:9

If you know the Bible, you know that what you just read is not the actual verses.

That being said, I think our modern church reads them that way.

Discipleship, the raising up of new followers of Jesus, new leaders in the church, doesn’t happen often.

Here’s why it doesn’t happen often, at least in my sphere of ministry.

I wait for them to be ‘worthy’ of my discipleship, of my investment.

God have mercy on me for the number of times I have thought to myself, ‘yeah, they’re not ready (according to my standard). They’re not committed enough (to my preferences). They’re not faithful enough (to my preferences).

I have gone so far at times to not invest in younger men because I simply don’t want to pass the baton of my ministry to them. I want to stay in charge. It’s my ministry.

God have mercy on me when I do that. 

Thankfully, in my life, I have seen discipleship modeled. Over and over. 

At Olive Garden in 2010, Zack Randles (my youth pastor at the time) was having lunch with my family. He asked if he could disciple me. Weekly. One on one. There was nothing in me that was ‘worthy’ of that. He came to me. He called me. He didn’t wait for me to come and ask him. 

He changed my life as a result. 

At OBU in 2013, I was stirring the pot on campus. OBU was a small school, and I was a very loud and boisterous personality (surprise). I was vocal, very vocal, about the things that needed to change in the ministries on campus. Odus Compton, the Campus minister, came to me and sat down with me one on one. He lovingly confronted me in my methods, but supported me in my leadership. And over the course of the next four years he invested in me, passed the baton to me, and equipped me to lead. I made mistake after mistake after mistake. And he was right there by my side, guiding me, encouraging me, calling me out. 

With their leadership in mind, I was able to pass the baton to three younger men on campus. 

Because you know what? 

I graduated. 

The men’s ministry I was the leader of continued without me. 

Church, to be blunt, every one of us is going to ‘graduate’ this life. 

Who will carry on the ministry of the church when we’re gone? 

When I was in Phoenix in 2016, I attended a Christian Challenge event on the campus of GCC. There was a man there named Joshua Tompkins. He immediately reached out to me and became my mentor for the rest of the time I was in Phoenix. He allowed me to help him lead the CC club at GCC. I messed up and made mistakes. Again. Again. Again. Yet he continued to walk with me. 

Discipleship is scary. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward at first. But it’s oh so beautiful. 

Who are you raising up?

Who are you teaching?

Who are you inviting in? 

If you are a leader in an area of the church you attend, who are you giving ownership of that area to? Are you clinging to it? Or are you sharing it? 

Who are you passing the baton to? 

I will likely never take a youth pastor job again. I feel the Lord guiding me towards other things. Senior pastor. Teaching pastor. Discipleship pastor. Church planter. But probably not student ministry. 

That being said, one day I am going to leave this church I serve. When that happens, one of two things could take place. 

The youth group could utterly fall apart, back to square one, only to be built back up by the next youth pastor that comes in. That will happen if I don’t disciple and raise up leaders. 

That leads into the second possibility. I could leave, having already given ownership of the youth group to other leaders, adults and students alike. That way, the youth group continues to thrive. 

My desperate prayer and plea is that when I leave, the second possibility happens. But that will not happen if I wait to pass the baton until it’s my time to leave. That will not happen if  I don’t disciple students one on one in the Word of God. That will not happen if I don’t allow students and volunteers to make mistakes, just as I make many myself. 

If you’re reading this and there is not a younger man or woman in your life that you are meeting with weekly for the dual purpose of going through God’s Word and passing the ownership of leadership in the local church that you attend, I plead with you to prioritize this in your life. 

Without discipleship, our churches will close their doors. 

Without passing the baton, the next generation will not be reached with the good news of our Risen Savior. 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach 

 

 

 

Uncomfortable

There are aspects of church life that make me feel a little uncomfortable. The meet and greet times, talking about giving, waiting for somebody to pray to conclude small group, or in my case just about any time I speak to the youth. These feelings of discomfort are not bad, in fact I’d contend that feeling uncomfortable is a gift that pushes us forward into growth.

If I’m in a church where I feel comfortable at all times, I know that I’ll grow complacent.

Yet there are many of us (me included in college) who pick the church we’re going to attend based solely off of our preferences and those things that will make us comfortable. These preferences include the style of dress that is most prevalent, the style of worship, the style of teaching, the style of small groups, the style of leadership, and the general vibes of the church.

These are not explicitly wrong, but I think we’ve got church completely backwards when we make it all about us. There is most definitely wiggle room in this for wanting to be in a community that propels us forward into spiritual growth and there are situations where the church we attend may not be doing this for us. That being said, to pick a church because of how it makes us feel is something I can’t quite grasp.

In a blog from 2017, I wrote extensively about how I believe that if there’s something we wish was different in our church, we should seek to be the change in that department instead of bailing. (https://nathanpatrickroach.blog/2017/02/07/love-the-church/)

There’s no explicit verse in the Bible that says “be committed to a congregation, even when it’s uncomfortable.” There is one passage out of Hebrews that speaks about commitment to a faith community however:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

There is way more to this passage than simply a call to committing to a church, but it does emphasize this calling.

I know many whose commitment to church is loose, who go to church occasionally for the worship service but aren’t in a deep small group anywhere. I know many who have put off church altogether choosing instead to simply love Jesus alone. I know many who are anti-church membership for the sake of not wanting to submit to something. I know many who are not engaged in a church community because they claim to have a community of faith made up of family and friends.

Thankfully, I know many who are committed to their church community, laughing together, weeping together, going through hills and valleys together. This is a beautiful picture for me to see in others. The purpose of the church (besides glorifying and praising God through every facet of its programming) is to stir one another up into good words and love. The church is to encourage the follower of Christ to go all-in with the Lord through devotion to Him and service to others.

This is where being uncomfortable comes in.

It is in each of these moments of being uncomfortable that my potential for spiritual growth is the greatest. When I sing songs that are not in my comfort zone, I’m reminded that worship isn’t about me, but is about God. When the style of preaching (as long as it isn’t heretical) is not up my alley, I’m again reminded that preaching is simply re-announcing God’s Word and isn’t about my stylistic preferences. If the pastor is faithful to God’s Word, then the conviction that accompanies God’s Word via the Spirit of God is for sure uncomfortable but very necessary in my spiritual growth. When my brother in Christ believes differently than me about a certain topic that is breached in a small group, then I’m led to wrestle with my faith and beliefs as a result of this discomfort. When my brother in Christ calls me out for sin in my life, this is a blessing albeit an uncomfortable one. When my small group serves the community in a way that is foreign to me, my eyes become opened to the needs of areas of my community that I may not be aware of otherwise.

Since we’re in a culture that bought the lie of life’s about me, we have brought this into our thinking about church. We make church about being comfortable and entertained (despite the fact of almost every New Testament statement about discipleship and faith tells us that it’s about laying our lives down and suffering), and this leads to lots of church hopping.

Find a church that is close to your neighborhood and go all in. Regardless of stylistic preferences. If it’s heresy, that’s one thing. Yet church vibes, preaching style, worship style, etc. are not explicitly valid enough reasons to leave a church. Become willing to be uncomfortable.

Discomfort leads to growth. Every time.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Weaning

At some point we have to grow up.

I can’t believe I just typed those words to be honest. If you had talked to me a couple years ago I would have said I never want to grow up, I never want to lay my childishness down and replace it with with maturity and wisdom. The Lord however has been teaching me recently that at some point we are designed to grow up. 430H

This blog post isn’t about goofiness (I’m currently employed as a youth pastor and so I have a little bit of freedom to continue being just a little bit goofy). I hope I never lose my goofiness. It is instead about the call on the life of a Christian to lay behind immaturity and childish ways and grow into real mature men and women who love the Lord.

The Lord wants to grow us into the fullness of Christian maturity. Sometimes that’s painful, and sometimes that’s unexpected.

There’s a word that I refound recently, one that is not used often in our conversations.

Wean.

This is the definition of wean: accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond

God weans us often. He removes from our lives or from our passions those things that we have become excessively fond of or dependent upon other than Him. This is not unloving or abrasive, nor is it a mathematical formula where God immediately takes us from that which we’ve idolized.

For instance, there are times where I’m dependent upon Jamie, or excessively fond of her. She’s very clearly still in my life and hopefully always will be. However, God has often shown me that she cannot be that source of dependence for me. She does not have the power to save or rescue. Only Jesus has that power.

When our lives get out of focus, when our minds or hearts become way too focused on the things of earth, God will bring us through a process of weaning in order to draw our attention and affection back to the only One who can truly satisfy and save.

When I think about things in this light, it becomes abundantly clear that this weaning process is one of the most loving things that God can do for me and for you. He would not love us well if He let us live our lives with things out of focus, with our hearts being deceived by idols that cannot fulfill or free us.

Look at this dope J.I. Packer quote:

Still he seeks the fellowship of his people, and sends them both sorrows and joys in order to detach their love from other things and attach it to himself.

God doesn’t need our fellowship. He is not lonely without us. But in his love, he seeks out fellowship with his people. Fellowship with God comes through attachment, devotion, and reliance upon Him. When we are functionally worshiping idols in our daily lives, we can’t enter into intimate fellowship with Him.

To remind us of the fact that our idols don’t satisfy or save, God will send sorrows in the form of the idols we worship crashing down.

This can be an excruciatingly painful process that only a crazy person would enjoy. The experience itself is not enjoyable in any light from a physical or emotional standpoint, but the sorrows of idols being destroyed can be a joyful and amazing experience spiritually.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2-4

Trials can be joy if being like Christ is our aim.

Please do not misinterpret anything I have written. I am not asserting or even implying that tragedy is because of misplaced loves. The loss of a child, a relative, a job, or a dream is not always because that object was an idol in the life of the mourner. Not at all. Yet even these most difficult of trials can have a silver lining when Christ is our aim.

Being weaned isn’t naturally enjoyable.

However, we can be encouraged that the process is for God’s glory and our good.

God uses trials to wean us away from childish things. – Warren Wiersbe

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

– I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog below

Fruit Of The Spirit

I try and show kindness and patience to the random guy checking my tire pressure at Discount Tire, but I pop off at my sister after four seconds of slight annoyance. I try and show gentleness and joy towards the cashier at Fry’s, but then I get upset with Jamie when I feel slighted. I try and show faithfulness and goodness towards my boss at work, but then I slander my brother in Christ. fruit-of-the-spirit

Here at Wellspring, the college and young adult ministry has been walking through the book of Galatians. As I’ve studied and taught, God has made it clear where I need work, and that is in my interactions with biological family and my family in Christ. I would argue that most of us have an easier and simpler time walking out the fruit of the Spirit with the stranger or non-believer than we do those who we’re intimately involved with in everyday life.

Yet as I’ve looked at the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ passage in Galatians, it’s come to my attention that evidences of the fruit of the Spirit are most clearly demonstrated and seen in our relationships with our biological and faith families.It’s easy to see the non-believer and strive to emulate these Christ-like characteristics in our interactions with them. It is much harder however to live these out in the context of our faith community and our relationships with roommates, siblings, and parents.

Let’s look at the passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:22-26

This list of God-glorifying characteristics is nestled inside many words that Paul has about the importance of supporting each other as the body of Christ. In verse thirteen of chapter five, Paul tells us to serve one another humbly in love. All throughout chapter six, Paul tells us lots about living in faith community: restore the unrepentant brother or sister who is walking in sin (v. 1), carry each other’s burdens (v. 2), do good to all, but especially those in the family of believers (v. 10).

So yes, while I definitely affirm that exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit to the stranger, the person in need, and the unbeliever is vastly important, I think the greater testament to or litmus test for our heart condition is how we walk out the fruit of the Spirit towards those that we are closest to.

Am I loving, joyful, patient, kind, self-controlled, and good towards my siblings, roommates, and those I’m in deepest community with via the body of Christ?

If you are anything like me, you don’t do this perfectly. If you are anything like me, you have areas you can grow in. So the question becomes, how do we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit?

 

Prayerfulness. The passage tells us to keep in step with the Spirit, to live by the Spirit. I can do neither of these things outside of prayerfulness.

Treasure Christ, cultivate a deep prayer life. Out of these practices, you will begin to see your heart become more in tune with how you can be living out the character of Christ in the relationships that are the closest to you.

I’ve tried to change my behavior simply by saying ‘hey I’m going to strive to be more loving this week’. While this may work for a moment, it rarely leads to any lasting change. Instead if I treasure Christ, and see in the Scriptures the love that Jesus walked out in all of His relationships, through prayer my heart becomes more aligned with His and I begin to see Christ’s love flowing out of me. The same can be said of any of the other fruit of the Spirit. When we study and see these characteristics personified in Christ, and when we pray that God would align our hearts with His, out of this comes cultivated character and lasting change.

My hope is that I would strive to better pray each day for my heart and actions to be aligned with the heart and character of Christ. Especially in how I treat the family of faith.

Blessings.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback and you can follow my blog via the menu.