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

 

 

No Country

As followers of Christ, we are just passing through. As followers of Christ, we are sojourners and exiles on earth. We are in a sense men and women of the future, purchased by the blood of Christ for a present kingdom which will come to full fruition in the future.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:11

I never felt out of place growing up. Sometimes I felt a little different due to my belief in Jesus, but I never felt like I was a sojourner or exile here on earth. This still felt like my country, my place, my home.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home slowly began to show signs of weakness and unsoundness my latter years at OBU. This was because my world expanded with trips to Salt Lake City and Portland. All of a sudden the United States didn’t feel quite as homey for me. The hostility to Christianity here in the states is still not even in the same league as other parts of the world, but it was definitely growing and my little world was getting rocked as I got to see it and experience it via these NAMB trips.

This wall of confidence in this world being my place, my comfort zone, and my home came crashing down around me in Phoenix. In a city that was 93% full of people who don’t submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, I felt the spiritual darkness, the spiritual warfare, like never before. It slowly began picking away at my defenses, my incorrect beliefs of this being my place. Over the course of many months this kept happening, until one day I lay defenseless in my bed listening to a song come under my door from the other room.

My roommate was listening to John Mark McMillan’s song No Country. In the song, McMillan will describe his feelings of being an exile and sojourner on earth. This lead to the lyrics that were reverberating throughout our apartment, “I’ve got no place to call my country, no place to call my country, no place to call my country anymore.”

My heart and soul put up all their defenses. I hated what I was hearing. I didn’t want to believe the words of the song, I didn’t want to believe that truth of Scripture. Sure, it’s not popular to be a Christian in the USA, but this, this was my place. This was my home. This was where I felt comfortable and at peace.

I fought this sojourner identity with all of my strength. I made sure I kept myself distracted, I made sure that I didn’t pay too much attention on Twitter at how ungodliness and wickedness and injustice fill our earth. I made sure I went and saw Dunkirk and ignored the gnawing realities that surrounded my heart. When Jamie arrived for the summer, I ignored them some more. This was my home. This was my place to start a family with Jamie and to live happily ever after. The culmination of all my joys and deeds would be me making a home here on earth.

In the moments of being alone in the car or at my apartment, the nature of my place here on earth came cascading in with every minute of silence. So I’d turn on the TV and fight. On and on this dance went, and then I got my ticket out. I got back to Texas.

I had somehow convinced myself that being back in Texas would quell the attack, and that I would again feel at home here on earth. Four months of seeing family, friends, Jamie, working in a place I’m familiar with, and having my own home on a quiet little street in Vernon, Texas.

Then it came again. In the quiet. And when you live alone, there are plenty of those quiet moments.

It came again. Feelings of not quite being home. Feelings of being out of place.

Now I’m starting to get it. This isn’t home. This isn’t my country. This world is not my place. The culmination of all my joy is somewhere else.

If you’re struggling with this too, surrender. There are amazing promises of God in the Scriptures that tell us who we are in Christ. Don’t miss this one. In Christ, we are exiles. In Christ, we are sojourners. In Christ, this is not our home.

This scared the snot out of me before, but now it doesn’t. Now it invigorates me. Or at least it’s starting to. Because each time I don’t feel at home here is a glorious reminder that I was made for more. Each time I feel weird, restless, like a wanderer, it’s because God is reminding me that I was made for heaven. I was made for communion with God not earthly trinkets.

This should not drive us to hide in our houses and wait for the end. Rather, this should motivate us out into mission. The verse I shared earlier in the blog is about as explicit you can get about our nature. We are sojourners and exiles, yes.

Because of this, we should deny our fleshly desires, the desires that tell us to partake of this world in ways that don’t honor God. The following verse teaches us more.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 2:12 

We should live in such a way that the people around us glorify God because of us.

I’ll close with these two quotes.

As Christians, we can trust in God’s guidance even while we are in exile here on earth. – Daniel Akin

We can walk in the faithful footsteps of those who have gone before us, knowing that God will sustain us – like them – all the way home. – Eric Landry 

So go ahead, accept that this place isn’t your home. It never will be.

You’re a sojourner.

You’re an exile.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, points of disagreement, questions, and the like. You can follow my blog below!